From the Province of the Cat 13: The Language of the Birds

Why do we tolerate Scotland's local authoritarianism?

How much longer will we tolerate Scotland’s local authoritarianism?


“The past is unbearable, the present is degenerate, so our only hope lies in the future.” 

So wrote Bertolt Brecht some 70 years ago. He had Europe after World War Two in mind but it is tragically a maxim which holds true for any artist at any time. Brecht’s immediate dilemma was that he was fleeing an intolerant democracy which had stopped him working – the US – and going to a newly formed Communist state which was offering him everything he desired – East Germany. This was a journey to the land of opportunity, only in reverse.

This business of moving between two realities is the common experience of all artists. Nothing is fixed. Everything is lived, remembered, forgotten. What seems important now is only the received litanies of the past which refuse us entry into tomorrow. Those who have looked beyond the perennial now are shunned as being mad, difficult or disruptive. The gods of mediocrity wear expensive clothes, hold down responsible jobs and employ reasonable language to perpetrate outrageous crimes against the imagination of the people. They will talk about “living in the real world” or “everyone understands that their must be savings” when in fact the world they administer and manage is as artificial as cyberspace and the savings they insist the majority make are to fund the excesses of the few.

So it was last month when all the local authorities in Scotland set and passed their budgets for the coming year. When we talk about local government in Scotland we are actually employing the language of the birds but unfortunately, in the Highlands at least, we have no Olivier Messiaen to turn it into music. The Highland Council have made it almost impossible for children to study music at school. The Moray Council have just cut their entire arts budget which includes closing seven libraries and doing away with their very successful arts outreach programme. These two authorities along with Argyle and Bute and the Western Isles have “saved” some £20 million this year with cuts for next year expected to be double that. There are 32 local authorities in Scotland employing around 278,000 people. Of the budget of £30 billion Holyrood receives from Westminster approximately one third of it goes to fund local government. The question is this: is this really democracy?

The leader of Moray Council took great delight in telling Radio Highland that the council had consulted extensively with the people of Moray and that at every surgery he attended people had said to him that employment, education and housing were far more important than the arts. I suspect such things would only be said if he, the councillor, had asked them, the people, such a question which, I also suspect, he did not. What I actually suspect is that Moray Council did not consult with anybody very much and even if they had they are not structurally or culturally programmed to respond to any recommendations they do not like. What the leader of Moray Council did not say was “I will fight these un-necessary cuts with every fibre of my being!” No-one in local government last month uttered anything so defiant. The amount of cash saved by Moray Council in cutting their arts budget amounts to approximately .02% of their annual spend. This passivity is reflected in Holyrood as much as it is in Westminster. This is what the politicians call consensus. What ordinary people know it to be is betrayal.

We are being asked by the Scottish Government to debate the future of Scotland yet that debate is taking place in a climate where the future is being diminished every fiscal year, every salaried month, every budgeted week, every pay-day loan resorted to as and when the state inflicts its financial extortion on the least able to pay or resist. One would think, listening to politicians and political commentators, that “the deficit” is as natural a part of the human experience as evolution. It is not and when interest rates rise and borrowing becomes more expensive and quantitive easing is seen as the economics of the Mad Hatter and the banks fail again we will very soon learn to understand the true nature of thieving and deceit because it will not be perpetrated by sub-working class criminals, as posited by the Daily Mail and Tory MP’s, but by government itself.

The passivity displayed by our local authorities is of the aggressive kind. What we have in Scotland at the moment is local authoritarianism. Last week the Highland Council, with funding from the Scottish Government which allowed it to hire a team of expensive consultants, held a “charrette” week in Thurso and Wick whereby local people were asked to participate in a series of “ideas workshops” which will, so it was claimed by the consultants, contribute to the creation of a “community plan” which the council will use to map out the future for these two struggling northern communities. This is the fruition of the Planning (Scotland Act, 2009) and the Community Engagement programme which is part of the legislation. All fine and good. Yet the “charrette” can only make recommendations to the Highland Council’s planning department to inform them in their work of drawing up a community plan for Thurso and Wick which, if the behaviour of the Highland Council since its inception is anything to go by, it will ignore. In the past, as far as Thurso is concerned, the community plan has been abandoned by Highland Council as soon as a big business such as Tesco or a nuclear spin-off company from Dounreay required a site or when some developer wants to create an industrial estate. Whether these enterprises are situated on a green field site or close by a housing estate would, one would think, be the concern of the community plan. Recently half of Ormlie had to be evacuated when an engineering plant across the road caught fire on a Saturday afternoon and highly toxic fumes and black smoke wafted over the houses.

The “charrette” has come and gone from Caithness and the council officials and consultants on show were unmistakably sincere in their efforts and much good sense by committed and genuine people was spoken, noted and entered, one would hope, into the report. After that the authoritarianism of government will do its grinding work. Many say that Scotland with 32 local authorities has too much “local” government. I would take the opposite view: I believe Scotland has very little real local government at all. It is not just from Edinburgh and London that the stifling tentacles of centralism emanate. Inverness, Elgin and Stornoway are just as capable of exerting control over their domains as the national administrative centres.

To avoid authoritarianism we must invest in localism, in a system of representation where it does not take a traveling “charrette” to garner local wisdom, which contributes to the deconstruction of power in order to wrestle control away from centres to peripheries, whether they are islands, headlands or villages. Our human energy investment into the re-drafting of the political charter for Scotland must be concentrated on creating an expanded network of local political power structures which are directly responsible to the people who create them. We cannot afford in a new Scotland to just adopt the tired old political structures of the past with their legacies of domination because if we do it will be a disaster waiting to happen and, like the coming rise in interest rates, it will happen.

The recent controversy over the Raasay sporting rites where the Scottish Government for the sake of saving a few hundred pounds rode rough shod over the interest of the island community is a case in point. The continued toleration and legitimisation of huge landed estates throughout the Highlands and Islands by the Scottish Government and the Highland Council is another negative signifier. As a result the depopulation of the Highlands and Islands by its economically active indigenous young population to be supplanted by retirement, tourism, recreation and dubious industrialisation such as wind and fish farms will go on a-pace. This is what happens when people have no real power and confuse the state with society which is what the state insists upon. It is people who create society and in the Highlands we will become our own internal diaspora if we destabilise the future of our children by wasting the potential of the country.

In Alastair Macleod’s novel “No Great Mischief” there is a scene of touching beauty when Calum Ruadh MacDonald, who in 1779 has crossed the Atlantic from the peninsula of Moidart in the West Highlands to Nova Scotia, gets off the ship after many weeks at sea and sets foot on the pier at Pictou. He breaks down and weeps. He weeps for two days and no-one knows what to do with him, so they just let him be to get it out of his system. When he left Scotland Calum Ruadh was a married man. When he arrives in Canada he is both a widower and a grandfather. When he left Moidart he was a member of a community with a tightly knit culture shaped around a common language. In Nova Scotia he is a foreigner with a foreign tongue and from one end of the vast continent to the other he knows no-one. So he weeps. He acknowledges his weakness, his fate, his destiny, his history and he aches for the land and people he will never see again. He weeps for all of this, for his family who have survived and for his wife who has not. But mainly he weeps for himself because at that moment on the pier at Pictou he is the loneliest man in the world. Sometimes, when I look along the streets of Thurso, the place of my birth, I feel like Calum Ruadh.

Herbert Marcuse has pointed out in “Eros and Civilisation” that “Psychological categories have become political categories” but it is a doleful consciousness which does not get up off the pier of exile, stop weeping and walk out to create a better world. The “unbearable” past has to be learned from, the “degenerate” present transcended and the “hope” of the future secured. Scotland is a country in transition. What we cannot afford is to unthinkingly adopt the repressive structures of the past and expect that somehow, miraculously, they will deliver us our freedom. They will not.

We may employ the language of the birds when we talk about the political hierarchies which force us into submission but we need to translate that language so that we can learn from it and for that to happen Scotland needs her artists to become more engaged with the political transition that is taking place. The ground of the “perennial now” is moving forward in time. What the birds speak of is this movement and the necessary solidarity of survival. They also sing about the joy of life. I like to imagine Bertolt Brecht whistled that tune to himself as he headed from the hearing of the House of Un-American Activities to the airport in October 1947.

© George Gunn 2013

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  1. picpac67 says:

    True words. There’s more knowledge and wisdom at ground level than in the council offices and parliaments. But bureaucracies are notoriously self-sustaining and resistant to change. The functionaries at every level have their rewards – a career ladder, modest wealth, reasonable security, and for some the excitement of power. For this they are prepared to serve the system. Questioning it, or seeking to change it, means loss of privileges. Ultimately, it’s a moral question – and we have been taught, especially since the Mad Cow days, that it’s ok to be selfish. It will all end in tears.

  2. True in every respect.
    I was part of the charrette process and was encouraged by the lack of cynicism and scepticism shown by almost everyone who came long–despite being ‘consulted out’ over the years they treated the charrette process as a valid way of working for change. Like you, George, I hope that optimism won’t be betrayed.

  3. MacNaughton says:

    Great post, G.Gunn.

    The arts and real democracy were born together in ancient Greece, they go hand in hand. The relegation of the arts and the constant cutting of arts budgets – particularly on grassroots arts – is a itself a kind of attack on democracy.

    In any case, we cannot afford pesimissm or tears. I didn’t know the Brecht quote, but I mind something Saul Bellow said, which has never rung as true in Scotland as it does today: “the past will always escape us, the future is unknown to us, only the present is real: seize the day”…

    1. Ray Bell says:

      Even that wasn’t full democracy: in Ancient Athens neither slaves nor women nor foreigners had the vote.

      1. MacNaughton says:

        Yes, agreed…

      2. Ray Bell says:

        All three of these groups were well represented in Athenian society. As a city state, its borders were tiny, so places which could be seen quite clearly on the horizon were “foreign” (even if they spoke Greek), and as a port, traders and merchants were a big part of the population. You could live there for years without the chance of citizenship or a vote.
        Women and slaves were both such integral parts of the population they barely need mentioning. But no vote and little freedom for either.

        But still… Athenian democracy was light years ahead of anything else and even quite a few things today.

  4. Ray Bell says:

    Even that wasn’t full democracy: in Ancient Athens neither slaves nor women nor resident foreigners had the vote.

  5. Ray Bell says:

    An excellent article. I find local government frustrating- small minded, nepotistic and short sighted. Just look at the way it caves into supermarkets for example.

    Did no one realise the arts come under education and employment? Not just leisure.

    However I think the arts need to find a third source of funding away from the state and big business. What is it?

    Lastly, your comments about rural Scotland resonate with me. Why is there no proper land reform? Why must the Scottish countryside just become a leisure park for retirees and eccentric hobby farmers and craft shop owners?

    The land owning villains though not only include the usual lairds and nouveaux riches but also the military and conservation charities who have little respect for local people or culture.

  6. Ray Bell says:

    Just one more thing, as Lt Columbo says…

    Did Brecht make the right choice? He moved from a country awash with money for the arts, usually from Hollywood, but selective in its choices and usually backing US style capitalism… to a country where the arts were well supported by the state, but just as you said what it wanted. And he went from a country where the state apparatus was watching artists to one where everyone watched everyone else. Brecht was given a privileged post due to his previous fame… while numerous aspirant artists had to contend with the Stasi and Stalinism on the way up.

    One state was racially segregated, a plutocracy with an overfunded intelligence service, the other a totalitarian police state, run by an oligarchy.

  7. MacNaughton says:

    Ray, Athenian democracy treated women in a way like most Muslim countries do today. In Sparta, on the other hand, women were allowed to own property and had a much enhanced status. As for slaves, well no Athenian would work for anybody else as a waged employee on principle; and slaves were the norm then everywhere, right up to just a centruy and a half ago as you know.

    In any case, my point is that the arts as we know them today flourished at the same time as democracy did, albeit an incomplete democracy. That was no mere coincidence. There can be no true democracy without people being allowed to express themselves artistically, or seeing themselves thus represented. The argument that the arts are there as an “entertainment” is to misunderstand the arts, to belittle them, and to completely ignore 5000 years of civilization. If you undermine the arts, you undermine democracy.

    What did we lose with Thatcher and that creed of hers which we still live under today? Amongst other things, the reference of classical Greece and Rome – the notion of civil society – which were fundamental to the moden understanding developed by Smith and Hume and others during the Scottish Englightenment.

    The debate on what Scotland should look like post 2014 is in a sense, a debate between those of us who believe in civil society – which includes the arts – and those who reduce human beings to the booking pastime of a provincial greengrocer’s daughter.

    The bizarre thing is that there are any thinking Labout voters who still haven’t spotted that yet.

    The battle for the arts is the battle for civil society. The battle for civil society is the battle for Scottish independence, as least from my point of view.

  8. MacNaughton says:

    By the way, with the labour laws in place today in the UK, deunionization and the reduction and withdrawal of state benefits, you could argue that we have a kind of slave labour force today.

    1. Ray Bell says:

      A huge section of the economy involves shops who do not pay for their goods, do not pay most of their staff (but do pay for fancy TV adverts) and don’t pay tax.

      Some of these are worthy, some are not but some are certainly not run for the needy.

      At their worst they combine tax avoidance with unpaid labour.

      They’ve got to be one of the big holes in the economy… and some of them give back far less than they get.

  9. Ray Bell says:

    Agree with just about all the contents of this reply, but maybe one quibble. The Scottish Enlightenment was pretty apolitical compared to its continental counterparts like France… remember this was the age of transportation…. also it wasn’t particularly Scottish. You could count Burns as part of ot but he doesn’t fit in well. Ossian was a reaction against it (and also not completely forged s some have claimed)

  10. MacNaughton says:

    Ray, thanks for the quibble, it’s a pleasure.

    The Enlightenment was as Scottish as it was French or German,. Hume, Smith, Ferguson and others like them emphasised the social nature of man, compared with, say, Hobbes’ notion of the state of nature as being a war of man against man (life in such a state being “short, nasty and brutish”).

    Smith is known for “The Wealth of Nations”, but nobody talks about his “Theory of Moral Sentiments”, and that is where he talks about the “fellow-feeling” which makes man a social animal above all; the ability to empathise. Hume called it “sympathy”.

    As for Ferguson, he is credited with being one of the fathers of Sociology.

    True, Hume and Smith were conservative, but Smith was one of the first to oppose the slave trade. And there are plenty of Scottish radical thinkers from the same era too – Thomas Muir of Huntershill to go no further, and Burns himself. But when Burns says “a man’s a man for aa that”, he is actually echoing the moral theory of Adam Smith, and more broadly, the Scottish Enlightenment. Rarely is this pointed out.

    The point is that one of the main differences between the values which the independence movement would seem to aspire to, and those which Westminster offers, lies precisely in the Scottish Enlightenment conception of humans as social animals; that we are not just atomised agents seeking self-gain – though we are that too – but part of a web of social relations, and are capable and indeed are bound to think on our fellow human beings.

    Anyway, all of this is a bit off topic, apologies.

  11. George Gunn says:

    dear MacNaughton, it is far from off topic To discuss our countys future in terms of the people within it and their ideas is exactly the way to the future Scotland needs big ideas right now. More oft his stuff results in freedom.

  12. Ray Bell says:

    Art and culture are twenty times older than money. The most primitive tribes still have highly developed oral literature, along with their own music and art. It’s something which probably predates the domestication of dogs, maybe even the discovery of fire. Almost certainly before our ancestors left Africa. It is probably part of our evolution as a species.

    With this in mind how can we put a price on something which improves our quality of life, connects communities, educates and makes people feel better. Perhaps part of the problem is that arts initiatives are rarely rooted in the communities, and involve pretentious or dull work which does not engage ordinary people, llet alone inspire them.

  13. George Gunn says:

    dear Ray, aye sometimes community art does this. But I have been involved in the opposite with my company Grey Coast The generative force for all art comes out of the ground. I have been lucky enough to weave a few manifestations around this Freedom for people is never what most people say.

  14. Yet another great prophetic post from George Gunn. There is a rare depth in this writing; a deep culture that is very international and very local. Phrases jump out like “This business of moving between two realities is the common experience of all artists” – a recognition of the shamanic function of being a walker between the worlds (the material and the spiritual), which as Eliade points out, is the means by which new life is fed back into the community.

    I was also very taken by the phrase: “But mainly he weeps for himself because at that moment on the pier at Pictou he is the loneliest man in the world. Sometimes, when I look along the streets of Thurso, the place of my birth, I feel like Calum Ruadh.” I spent much of today with a man from Skye – a piper in the line of the McCrimmons – who was feeling just that loneliness of the long distance tradition bearer. He was pondering the future where so much has been destroyed. As Audre Lorde has it in “Dream of a Common Language” – “My heart is moved by all I cannot change. So much has been destroyed.” But then she goes on to raise her prophetic declamation to prophetic vision. She continues, “I have to call my lot/ with those who age after age/ perversely/ with no extraordinary power/ reconstitute the world.”

    That reconstitution of the world is the deep work to which we are all called – all with eyes to see and ears to hear as old man Jesus would have put it. It is the task and tune of the piper in every one of us; what the original MacCrimmon took from the Hill.

    Every time I go back to Leurbost on Lewis and meet with some of the guys of my vintage (late 50s) they’ll lament the passing of yet another of the old men with whom we grew up in the village. “There’ll never be the likes again” somebody will say, and they’re right – unless we become them. Unless we seek out the wells that give like, and clean them up – including cleaning up our own act – and as George quotes Brecht in this piece, look to the future. We must be the ones that reconstitute the world. As Jung said, we must be the make-weights that see through the crass materialism and open blocked pathways of the Spirit.

    I spent quite a bit of today, following the visit of my Skye friend, reading Derick Thomson’s Creachadh na Clarsaich – Plundering the Harp – his 1982 collection of poetry, and bless Macdonald publishing for having given it life. What struck me most, finding the courage to see and say it, is the way in which he sees the Isle of Lewis as nothing less than the Goddess herself. This is implicit in his poem “When Calvin Came” (p. 172). It becomes clearer in his two linked poems An Tobar – The Well (pp. 48 ff and 140ff). The clincher (and there will be others, by I am a fake scholar, I just catch what comes to me), that I stumbled on this afternoon, is the poem Lewis (p. 147): “Nature has built on you its minaret,/ the waves kneel at the altar of your cliffs,/ the seagull celebrates the mass,/ the prayer is prostrated in the foam on the shore.” And Thomson’s prescription in Steel? (p. 99), where he draws the image of a scythe worn down to the soft steel beyond the tempered edge, and concludes, “You have nothing left but soft iron/ unless your intellect has a steel edge that will cut clean.”

    Such is the quality of steel and intellect that Scotland, and the world, are calling for today. We must drop our cringe that this is spiritual work. To pretend otherwise is part of the lie that has smothered the spirit. We must grasp the fact that we are not just individuals, but a peoples, and a peoples of community constellated by the spirit of place.

    I despaired to see one of our politicians – I won’t name him to leave space for redemption – quoted in the West Highland Free Press last week to the effect that Lewis, in the wake of Peter May’s murder novels, should become a focus for crime tourism, and he has written to whatever the Tourist Board these days calls itself advising them to act accordingly. At the same time, two Lewis lads are on trial for the first murder in decades. That is the depth of the nihilism that we reach when we deny the spiritual nature – the artistic interiority – of the Scotland of which we are a part. O hang your head in shame, o politician, for when the people are without vision they perish! That, too, is the cultural choice that faces us. As some old geezer said long ago: “I set before you life and death: choose live.”

    Last word from George Gunn in his post above that I’ve just noticed: “The generative force for all art comes out of the ground.” That’s what I call the force of prophetic witness in our times.

    1. Woops … Dream of a Common Language is by Adrienne Rich, not Audre Lorde … but here’s the Freudian rub … I probably crossed wires cos of George’s mention of Marcuse’s Eros & Civilisation, and Audre Lorde’s essay, in Sister Outsider, is very relevant to this discussion – the essay called “Uses of the Erotic” (find it on Google). She argues that the erotic is the bridge that activates the political; but she is not using the term in its narrow sexual sense. Rather, she means by the erotic “the passions of love in all its meanings” (my quotations tonight are mostly from memory, so maybe not quite accurate). She says that this is what bridges the body and the political. And crucially, she distinguishes between the pornographic and the true erotic. The pornographic, she says, is sensation without the feeling capacity of the heart engaged, while the true erotic is sensation with the heart engaged. When I see a Scottish politician arguing for making Lewis a crime capital I see pornographic thinking; just as mindless consumerism is pornographic. That is what is killing the world. That is what religious thinkers should be working on, instead of getting upright and uptight (and a tad hypocritical?) about who’s allowed to sleep with who.

    2. Cheers Alastair, for a wonderful reply to a truly thought-provoking piece.
      As a Weegie who now lives in an ex-industrial Ayrshire town, rural life has always felt alien to me, and the Highlands and Islands stranger still. For me, the influences which resonate most are urban-based. That’s why I admire what Kelman has done, and relish the fact that no-one can ever un-do it: what happened happened; what is happening IS happening.
      ‘Here’, ‘up there’, ‘down-by’ or wherever else generated, testimony remains true, if recorded/reflected accurately and honestly. That is, surely, the task of artists and/or journalists – their roles may, at times, appear to be interchangeable. (Sometimes, it seem that t’other camp do a better job, depending on the task in hand.)
      As a ‘fiction’ writer, right now, in Scotland, thinking about the referendum, Independence, freedom, the creative possibilities now becoming more tangible, I’m more drawn to the experience of African Americans, and how MSM in the US are surely – if very very slowly – reacting to the reality that Western Capitalism’s ugliest, most lucrative ‘venture’ has borne a strange fruit. (e.g. HBO’s ‘The Wire’)
      Considering the propaganda war we’re now in the thick of – and how obvious it’s becoming – artists in all genres would do well to revisit the influences and motivation, then measure the extent to which this ‘politics’ business can still be ‘avoided’.
      Bottom-line, I suspect, is that none of us – ‘artists’ or not – can afford to avoid it for much longer.
      More power to ye.

      1. Thank you ianbrotherhood – especially as these types of post always leave one (or at least, they leave me) feeling like having exposed one’s crazy side – albeit distinguishing between the crazy (as in crazy paving – Cohen’s “cracks that let the light through”, but potentially the worms as well) and madness. Glasgow’s RD Laing remains very relevant. He defined madness in the Divided Self as interfacing with the world through a false self rather than the authentic self, and the problem with such inauthenticity is that it drains psychological energy away from the true self, resulting in psychosis in extreme situations.

        The psychic (in the sense of pertaining to the psyche) tensions that the true artist is under – the shaman who walks between the worlds – the bardic figure in our own tradition (and in “Steel”? the late and great Derick Thomson pays specific tribute to the Tuatha de Dannan as the progenitors of the occupants of the Hill) will drive us mad, and not delightfully crazily inebriated, if we do not ground ourselves in authenticity; and this is where, going back to the Alasdair Gray cultural debate of some weeks ago, it is vital that we can live with cultural/spiritual authenticity.

        The loneliness that George Gunn describes – I call it the loneliness of the long distance tradition bearer (and by that I mean bearing qualities more than quantities of actual lore – a connectedness of approach more than specific content) – has driven mad, usually through alcohol, too many a Scottish artist who has been frustrated in rising to MacDiarmid’s calling that “a Scottish poet maun assume/ the burden o’ his people’s doom.” Govan is full of such madness-riven artists, and Govan is not unique in that respect. Tomorrow I will be going to see one – a poet – who has taken from the city to living in a bender out in the woods where he can more freely howl the anguish of his chthonic tenderness as he experiments, for the first time, with going to AA in recourse to his drinking. With a colleague from GalGael I’m taking him a copy of Herb Nabigon’s little book on native American approaches to alcoholism – called The Hollow Tree. This Glasgow wild guy, too, was born on a native reservation, and spent most of his childhood in institutions. We are talking here of real people in real places, real flesh and blood people driven mad with blocked flows of love, which is why I feel so strongly about the issue.

        I’m sorry … this is a bit of first thing Saturday morning ramble, but these things are constantly on my mind. I’m also mindful that in the Bardic tradition, as John Macinnes I think it was points out somewhere, the bard had “diplomatic immunity” to move between warring tribes. The bard was deeply political but also above politics. We need to remember that one where there are not just the colonisers moving amongst us, but also the bards in the broad sense of that shamanic term from other parts of the UK and the world, who are here to work with the people and not to lord it over them. I say that in case of any misunderstanding and am thinking particularly of some of the artists from elsewhere who work in a connected manner here in Govan.

        Lastly, I am not a fan of Damien Hirst, but I caught a newspaper interview with him the other day, in which he said that “art is anything done well”. One of our GalGael boatbuilders argued that point with me – saying he would call that craft – but I am persuaded by Hirst’s point, and in terms of your mention of journalists alongside artists, I do think that good journalism – journalism that is deep as well as informed – is an art as well as a craft.

  15. McNic says:

    Politics aside this is a touching piece that has brought many memories and sadnesses of travels along the coasts of Scotland.
    When you see rotting hulls discarded and no new boats other than yachts landing at local piers, there is a need for radical change.
    The examples set by the Scandinavians must be worth considering where communities develop their own industries based on their unique situations and thrive.
    We are undeniably blessed with our landscapes and just as blessed with our resources and there should be no reason why a Government of 5 million citizens cannot allow for Community Government where there is any remoteness from a population centre.
    I would like to say that what is good for the goose, isn’t always good for the gander, as living in the Central belt, the type of local control needed along the coasts and remote in-land areas would not work for the Central belt. So in the end it’s up to us to mould ourselves the opportunity to grow our coastal lifeblood communities by our only avenue of change, we need a Yes vote for any hope of developing a future with any care.

  16. For as long as I can remember, anyone daring to suggest that Scotland could be independent has been swatted-away as ‘mad’, ‘crazy’ etc. No accident that these pejoratives are used – they’re effective. No-one wants to be the nail that has to be hammered down. And yet, in the form of the McCrone report (which I thought I knew about but only read for the first time last night) we have solid proof that we were conned.
    Repeating the same action, expecting a different result?
    This time round, we won’t be dismissed, shooed-away as mere annoyances.
    R D Laing’s work was similarly belittled and buried.
    There’s plenty more in your post I have to think about esp how the deliberate stifling of people’s creativity drives them insane.
    Thanks again for good positive stuff – more fuel…or maybe it’s ammunition?

  17. Ray Bell says:

    Regarding A MacLeod, I think he’s an underrated writer, one of the best foreign born Scottish hyphen whatever writers n the emigre experience. Read his Lost Salt Gift of Blood and was very impressed. He must be One of the best Canadian short story writers.

    I suppose it’s worth remembering that most of us, crofter or riveter, programmer or barista, immigrant or emigrant etc originate in the rural only a short time ago. The industrial revolution isn’t that long ago, and many people of African and Asian descent lived outwith cities only a few generations ago (living memory in some cases). A few hundred years ago, only a handful of cities exceeded a million. Big cities are recent and I’m still not conviced we’ve fully adapted to them.

  18. tosh says:

    I found myself agreeing with and liking this article, the arts really though should thrive with or without funding, if it is valid and has real appeal, not artificial prescribed ‘art’. It is all about prioritisation, Borders’ schools encourage and fund music tuition and practice. In Inverness there is almost none of that support. I agree about the notion of local-authoritarian, and one-town centric councils, Borders council, a Tory/Libdem coalition, mirroring the dire Westminster lot are at heart opposed to the re-opening of the essential Border railways, closed in the 1960s and though financially backing a limited re-opening, should have made a stand and insisted on a few extra miles as far as Hawick – the most populous Borders town, most deprived and cut off – if it is to do any real social good and not just serve new dormitory private housing ventures, to shuttle middle-class and petit-bourgeous Edinburgh ‘workers’ to and from the capital. The Southern Borders are instead driven further to economic and social association and integration with North-East and North-West England instead.

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