2007 - 2022

On SamCam, Mugabe and Rob Roy

fires-north-scotland-irelandMER_FRS_20110502_753_orBy Mike Small

It’s not exactly a shock to discover that the pathetic Alistair Carmichael was behind the botched French Ambassador leak against Nicola Sturgeon during the general election. It had his big gummy bear thumbprints all over it. But in the context of the scraping deference required as MPs are sworn in – and the nauseous reporting of such – it ends a bad week on a sour note. There is something depressing about the very fact of Carmichael who couldn’t even manage an old-fashioned Zinoviev smear properly.

The depressing thing is this: these people run our country. With Cameron talking about having  the “British people at his back” as he swaggers into Europe 

The slightly weird ‘othering’ of Scots MPS as if they were aliens from another planet is rife, and dull, but sometimes funny. As Westminster media commentators get all hot and bothered about the SNP’s arrival in Westminster, Samantha Cameron’s stepfather – William Astor, the 4th Viscount Astor – seems to have stepped off the set of Downton Abbey in an outburst of epic proportions he exclaimed that  landowners would be like ‘foreigners in their own country’ (sic) and that: “The worry is that it will not actually be for the benefit of the local community but will hand power straight to the bureaucracy in Edinburgh. Under the SNP, governance has already been centralised there.”

That’s right. John Swinney will personally own EVERYTHING under current plans. It’s such a dopey view of the world from these lush mendicant thieves it’s astonishing we have put up with it for so long.

Writing in the execrable Spectator magazine in a piece hilariously subtitled ‘The rise in Scottish nationalism may have implications for landowners and immigrants alike’ Lord Astor says:

“Are we estate owners now to be nationalised or made to feel so unwelcome that we have to sell up in a Mugabe-style land grab? It would be a pity, but we are accused of owning too much. Are we really going to have to defend owning so many acres of hill when 500 acres of hill may be only worth the same or even less than one acre of good farmland in the lowlands of Scotland?

Is it because we don’t sound Scottish? We should not all have to sound like Rob Roy. If the SNP wants us all to speak with a certain type of Scottish accent, what does that say to the many hundreds of thousands in the immigrant community who have lived in Scotland for a long time but still speak with the accent of their birth? Are they not Scottish?

We worry that the SNP have concentrated power in the few. They brook no dissent. While I don’t agree with most of what the outgoing Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy has to say, one has to admire the way he stood up and said it during the referendum and general election campaign — against the barracking organised by SNP supporters who turned up at all of his meetings and tried to shout him down. Hardly democracy in action.

We on Jura feel we have played our part in the community and invested in the future. One neighbour of mine is building an 18-hole golf course that will provide much needed jobs on the island.”

These anachronisms of the old dead and dying Britain used to be threatening, even a few years ago, now they just seem sad and other-worldy. The main response people have to this is: “Do these people exist?!”

Yesterday James Hunter gave the keynote address to the Community Land Scotland Annual Conference in Inverness. Reading it – and realising that we have a Community Empowerment Bill coming through the Scottish Parliament and a Land Reform Bill being published in the next few weeks – you realise that we are in dramatically changing times, and people like William Astor will be soon swept aside. But it’s important to stay future-focused. This from James Hunter’s speech (on the Draft Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement.) sums it up very well:

‘This [draft] statement,’ I quote, ‘ proposes a vision and a set of principles to guide the development of public policy on the nature and character of land rights in Scotland.’ I leave aside, for present purposes, the vision. And of the consultation paper’s seven principles, I’ll touch on only one.

The first and – I believe – the most important. It reads: ‘The ownership and use of land in Scotland should be in the public interest and contribute to the collective benefit of the people of Scotland.’ By way of underlining that, a borrowing from Donald Dewar. When, in 1998, he introduced the Scotland Bill – the devolution Bill – he read out its first sentence: ‘There shall be a Scottish Parliament.’ Donald paused then for a moment, and said, ‘I like that.’

‘The ownership and use of land in Scotland should be in the public interest and contribute to the collective benefit of the people of Scotland.’ I like that.Because it makes the point that ownership of land is in no way absolute. What owners do, or don’t do, with their land, that statement says, is not, and can’t be, wholly up to them. It’s contingent on the agreement, the consent, of the society, the community of which they’re part.”

Read the full text here.

The Tarbert estate is officially run by a company registered in the Bahamas.



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Comments (24)

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  1. John says:

    Ah, but is Mr. Astor the actual owner of that patch in Jura? I seem to remember reading somewhere that the registered owner was off-shore. True?

  2. Alan says:

    I think you missed one of the funniest lines in Astor’s Spectator rant:

    ‘Benefit to all’ must mean all, not just special interest groups.

    And does Lord High Mucky Muck think he isn’t part of a special interest group? You know, the one that involves 450 people owning half the land in Scotland. Ah, yes but he throws a few scraps to the local peasants occasionally so his blessed presence is a ‘benefit to all’.

  3. Kenzie says:

    Is Mr Astor one of the “Paps” of Jura?

  4. Alan says:

    Some details on these tax-dodgers here: David Cameron’s IN-LAWS have links with a string of tax havens.

    It was until recently owned by a company based in the Bahamas called Ginge Manor Estate Ltd. Ginge Manor, in Oxfordshire, is the Astor family home where Mr Cameron married Samantha in 1996. Ownership of the Tarbert Estate was transferred in November [2014] to Altar ­Properties Limited based in Caribbean tax haven the British Virgin Islands.

  5. Tom says:

    “One neighbour of mine is building an 18-hole golf course that will provide much needed jobs on the island”. Great. Low grade menial jobs for untrained islanders whilst the cultivation will be of grass, sand, heather and gorse for wee white balls to fly around in preference to something useful.

  6. bringiton says:

    It has been noticeable recently that a number of land owners have suddenly developed an interest in projects which will benefit the community.
    Wonder why?

  7. Broadbield says:

    It’s important to understand how these large estates came into being: they were largely based on gifts from the King and then later expanded by appropriating “common” land. The present owners are merely the beneficiaries of this royal largesse and later thievery. All the gory details can be read in Andy Wightman’s excellent expose “The Poor had no Lawyers.”

    The case for reform is unarguable, and has nothing to do with envy, greed, Marxism or any of the many insults flung at reformers and is about fairness, equity and revitalising communities.

  8. john young says:

    Broadbield,Wightmans book should be a must read by all concerned.

  9. MBC says:

    I think Carmichael may be guilty of more than just a leak. And then lying that he didn’t do it.

    He may be behind the construction of an actual false memo.

    Because when the memo purporting to be an account of Bermann’s meeting with Sturgeon is analysed, the style of writing is in two halves.

    The first paragraph takes a neutral tone and is factually correct. Just what you would expect a professional civil servant to write. The final paragraph takes a gossipy tone and introduces damaging speculation, re ‘what mischief Salmond might get up to at Westminster’ and makes the damaging statement that Sturgeon secretly would prefer a Cameron government.

    It looks very much like a genuine document has been doctored. By someone. Someone with an interest in leaking it.

    And that’s a far more explosive matter.

    1. Broadbield says:

      If your speculation about different styles has any foundation then an expert on textual analysis could determine whether two different people wrote the memo. (it was probably Francis Bacon)

      1. MBC says:

        Hayman’s investigation investigated a leak.

        It didn’t investigate how a false memo came to be written.

        Coffinier confirmed that the conversation he had with the unnamed civil servant was in English. He also confirmed that the conversation contained nothing of the mention of Salmond or Cameron. He even produced his notes of the call.

        There can be no ‘lost in translation’. The civil servant has invented this or else somebody has doctored a document. Either way, this should be investigated.

        1. Broadbield says:

          Definitely. There is surely more to come.

  10. Penny says:

    Land reform is far more important to urban residents than is commonly understood. If nothing else, the ability of developers to ‘warehouse’ urban land (an example is the decade long failure to use or develop St Andrews Square in Edinburgh) robs the council of income from business rates (vacant properties pay no tax) while ensuring shortages that ripple throughout the landscape of the city bidding up the value of the land available for sale. Cartel-like accommodations are reached between developers; the result, roughly 70% of the cost of a central belt property is attributed to the inflated value of the underlying land. This is inevitably attribution used to justify prices for housing that bears no relation to the quality of the build as ever more low quality buildings are proposed as ‘luxury’ flats.

    Carmichael lied to win his seat; he should resign at once.

  11. Dan Huil says:

    The new religion of the landed gentry: Asta-foreignerism?

  12. Allan Thomson says:

    Very interesting comment by MBC. I clearly recall the Saturday morning of Memogate. Many were quickly out of their traps to add indignant flames to the fire. One of those deserves special attention today. Unlike most, Willie Rennie was/is? a close colleague of Carmichaels. Rennie had a high media profile that Saturday pouring petrol on what he hoped would be the First Ministers fire. The failed Milliband was another. There is little room for manoeuvre however in Mr Rennies case given the closeness of his relationship with the now (even more) discredited Carmichael. Either Mr Rennie was taken for a complete and utter chump by a close Lib Dem colleague as he waxed lyrical in front of the cameras, or he was party to the deceit. Neither option is great for Willie. Many will find the first option unsurprising! Should the latter be the case and Mr Rennie was party to the deceit through his close association with Carmichael, the fun is just beginning.
    The refusal (so far) of the Lib Dems to open disciplinary proceedings or any inquiry into this debacle is surely unsustainable. Rennies part in the affair surely must be questioned. The best possible outcome for him is that he emerges confirmed as an easily manipulated unquestioning fool in a drama so transparent and acrid that Paul Kavanaghs wee dug must have smelled it from the east end of my now favourite city. It seems unlikely that Mr Rennie can be relishing the prospect of FMQ’s on Thursday.
    On the question of Land Reform – keep up the good work Mike. Thankyou

    1. MBC says:

      I tend to the view that Rennie was taken in. If you are going to doctor a genuine civil service document the fewer people who know about it the better.

      If my guess is right, then the unnamed civil servant is blameless, and wrote an accurate report subsequently doctored by somebody else. My guess that that somebody else is none other than Carmichael. Only he and Mundell would have had access to these documents. They’ve fished one out, then altered it. Only they would have that degree of clearance. Then the spad has released it. The spad might never even have known it was even doctored when he leaked it.

      1. Allan Thomson says:

        Thanks. The thread of logic running through your theory makes it very plausible. The trail simply must be followed to a conclusion. Life changing for Carmichael and only the degree remains unclear.

  13. Graeme says:

    I live on Jura. Astor is not a great beneficiary to the Island. I for one will not shed a tear if he is made more accountable and made to repair and maintain the buildings that he has allowed to crumble and decay, left unoccupied for years, whilst the youth on the island have nowhere to live. Personally, I find his article offensive. My wife is English, a firm Yes in the referendum and does not have a Rob Roy accent. On Jura we have Dutch, English, German and Irish amongst the 200 souls who make a living here. Many accents, no crime and a great community. As for the golf course………not many locals being employed yet – time will tell on that one.

  14. kailyard rules says:

    Maybe someone will tear him a new one, and henceforth he’ll be known as Willie Arsetore.

  15. thomaspotter2014 says:

    Methinks they’re rushing the EU exit because it’s looking increasingly likely that Scotland is gonna blow up in their faces-i.e.-tell them to fcuk right off and declare UDI.

    Maybe Cameron thinks that he can just yank us all out of Europe to suit his backbenchers,and that’ll sort out those ghastly jock upstarts.

    Well ain’t he in for a surprise.

    Let’s pull out of this sham.

    Cos that’s all this is -a SHAM!

  16. Alastair says:

    Letter from Westminster

    12/11/2010 , by Shetland Times, in Features
    The right to freedom of speech is a fundamental one but it does bring a responsibility with it to tell the truth. The right to smear an opponent is not one we should be defending.
    Alistair Carmichael MP

  17. Alan says:

    Derek Bateman asks questions about Mundell’s role in memogate here: A Small Merci.

    You see where I’m going…is it credible that Mundell was kept in ignorance of the memo and the leak and can therefore be absolved of all culpability?

  18. As an Eilean says:

    I used to live and work intermittently on Jura a generation ago.

    At that time Jura was essentially carved up into half a dozen or so estates.

    Three of these estates were owned by “big guns” – Astor, Lithgow and Vesty. None did anything to help the local community grow, develop and flourish.

    Instead they restricted access; they blocked development; refused to give up land for essential housing; declined to sell derelict property or even repair them and lease them out to locals or essential workers.

    I have one particular memory of being asked to do some work at the Astor house in Tarbert. As always when working I went to the front door only to be told I had to go to the back door to be admitted. Having done the work I was immediately shown the (back) door when in any other house on Jura I would have been offered a strupag.

    It doesn’t sound as if much has changed.

    But not all the Jura landlords were as bad as that. The Reilly-Smiths of Jura House did a good job supporting the local hotel. And the Fletcher brothers in the north of the island also did positive things.

  19. Lochside says:

    Lord B.Astor …where did he get the line about’ We should not all have to sound like Rob Roy’?
    An old ‘Hancock’s half hour script’?

    Fossils like him should be humanely recycled and put to community use…like manure spreading.
    Cameron’s Faither in Law is another parasitical toff that we will soon be consigning to the dustbin of history. Let’s do away with ‘Land lords’… and let Scotland flourish, no more forelock tugging or patronage please.

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