Landed Power versus Scottish Democracy

When we received the Scotland in Union data dump in December 2017, revealing the financial backers of the ongoing and active body desperately defending the Union, we were astonished to see it was made up overwhelmingly of old money, and specifically landed aristocracy. We called it “a huge cache of information about networks and money being channeled into politics by big business and the landed rich.”

At the time we wrote that “The Scotland in Union data dump isn’t just about that single organisation, it’s about political support from the super-rich and landed classes to the parties and movements that sustain their power. This is the Anglo-Scottish aristocracy and their nexus of friends and stenographers laid on a table for dissection. It details donations to the Labour, Conservative and Liberal parties and to Better Together and to Scotland in Union. It details who met with who and who lunched who, their media contacts and their personal details. It outlines the donations, communications, meetings and points of contact for hedge-fund managers, ex-military, retired businessmen and the filthy rich. But most of all it’s like Debrett’s on speed-dial.”

Our lawyers at the time advised us that we couldn’t release this information to the public and warned us that we would be facing “highly litigious people” with very deep pockets.

Such is power.

I was remembering this while considering the plight of Andy Wightman who has been served with a summons by Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC. It is a defamation action in which the pursuer is claiming £750,000 damages. The action relates to two blogs he wrote In September 2015 and February 2016.

An elected MSP is being threatened by a powerful group. This is a direct threat to Scottish democracy.

In February 2017 Wightman wrote:

“In the event that an MSP becomes personally insolvent (through, for example, losing a £750,000 defamation case) and sequestration is awarded to the debtor, the MSP is disqualified from being a member of the Scottish Parliament under Sections 15 and 17 of the Scotland Act 1998 read with Section 427 of the Insolvency Act 1986. During a period of 6 months following sequestration, an MSP may not participate in proceedings of the Parliament. This disqualification ends in the event that that award of sequestration is recalled or reduced. If the award remains after 6 months (ie the MSP still owes the sum awarded but cannot pay and remains insolvent) then the MSP loses their seat and a vacancy arises.”

An 8 day trial has been scheduled for 15-18 October and 22-25 October 2019.

Andy Wightman has been the stand-out campaigner for land reform for the past twenty-five years, alongside others like Lesley Riddoch and Alastair McIntosh, but he has been very active in a great many other campaigns and causes including on: tenants rights; defending common lands and assets; the Crown Estate; cycling, and on the decentralisation of power. Notably he has led the campaign and forged the legislation against the blight of Air BnB and short-terms lets that is destroying communities in our cities.

Land and Power

The importance of land reform can be seen in the power manifesting itself through Scotland in Union and through this defamation case.

It’s completely wrong to see land reform as a rural or highland issue.

Although high profile cases such as community buy-outs such as Eigg, Knoydart and Assynt are prominent, the issues is really about power and democracy. As Wightman wrote in Scotland: Land and Power (Luath Press, 1999): “To frame the debate as a Highland issue reinforces the stereotypical view generated by the media and allows politicians to contain the issue in a part of the country where it can be safely handled.”

Wightman is what the Scottish Parliament was set up for, and what an independent nations parliament should aspire to: elected representatives with a healthy dose of disrespect – MSPs who are fearless, tireless and committed in challenging power.

Andy Wightman is fond of quoting Tom Johnston, the historian and former Secretary of State for Scotland, who described Scotland’s noble landowners in 1909 in his book, Our Scots Noble Families like this:

Show the people that our Old Nobility is not noble, that its lands are stolen lands – stolen either by force or fraud; show people that the title-deeds are rapine, murder, massacre, cheating, or court harlotry; dissolve the halo of divinity that surrounds the hereditary title; let the people clearly understand that our present House of Lords is composed largely of descendants of successful pirates and rogues; do these things and you shatter the Romance that keeps the nation numb and spellbound while privilege picks its pocket.”

You don’t have we to be a Green or an independence supporter to back Andy, you only have to be concerned about the abuse of power being displayed here.

We need urgently to support him today. Go here here now to pledge your support.

Comments (11)

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  1. squigglypen says:

    Now how do we get our country back from these evil little tics that are dug into our land and under our skin….
    support Andy is a start…
    Watch Trooping the colour? That’s what we are up against.

  2. Hamish Kirk says:

    I am reluctant to give money that will end up in the wallets of advocates in Edinburgh. Why should we, the common folk, fiance the lifestyle of rich Edinburgh lawyers ?

    1. Because,as the article lays out, an elected MSP will be forced from office by a company that didnt like the truth being exposed?

    2. Dave Millar says:

      That’s certainly one way of looking at it. An alternate view is that a man is being persecuted by entrenched interests.

    3. David Allan says:

      Words spoken by a man with no understanding of principle.
      If you don’t want to donate then buy Andy’s book and support him in another way.

    4. Wul says:

      Hamish, in the UK, most of the money you spend on anything will end up in the pockets of Edinburgh or London’s wealthy.

      Mr Wightman and others like him are trying to change that.

      Land value accounts for 51% of the UK’s wealth. That is an obscene situation. Something that belongs to us all is being traded, hoarded, speculated upon, used as tax avoidance by a fraction of 1% of the population.

      What could you or your family achieve with a few acres of land and some free building plots?

  3. Willie says:

    Interesting how it is a Community Interest Company, a special type of company classification, that has special taxation – accounting advantages because of being in theory a good works – charity type – foundation company who is funding a hugely expensive legal action of defamation to potentially force an elected MSP from office.

    High time the authorities started looking at some of these community interest companies and some of the registered charities.

    Often tied to an associated profit making company, very often with a similar but near identical name, as appears the case hear, there has been concerns raised about how these company structures actually operate.

    One thing that is for sure is that the ownership of land in Scotland is tied up in a myriad of company structures located around the globe in a complexity that ordinary folks do not understand.

    And it continues as Scottish Enterprise prepare to sell off for buttons a huge swathe of the southern banks of Loch Lomond to a private company structure whose purposes include ……real estate development.

    More land for offshore holdings can one surmise?

    And then you wonder why Wightman is under attack

  4. Niall McKillop says:

    But Wildcat Haven are not Anglo-Scottish aristocracy, lairds, old money or historically landed business people. They are just a bunch of incompetent charlatans who don’t like being criticised . I’ve already donated to Andy’s fund, but I don’t like to see those running Wildcat Haven being conflated with the landowning lot for no other reason than that it suits your article – that’s out of order.

    1. I think things will become clearer later in the year

    2. Iain says:

      That’s right. The folk who set up Wildcat Haven might – might – be able to help conservation of the wild cat if they acquired knowledge, skills, and some information about Scotland, and volunteered to apply them in their spare time under the direction of Scottish Wildcat Action, were they found to be suitable. But that’s not the modus operandi they have. They represent themselves as pioneers, and seek publicity. Thus they publicised a plan to introduce the lynx into Kielder, on the English side of the Border, which failed following protests from locals. Latching onto the work of the official body for re-introducing the eagle to Wales – a team of researchers at Cardiff University under the auspices of Eagle Reintroduction Wales – the Wildcat Haven folk organised the media for publicity shots, presenting themselves as the organisation to support on the project.
      Why? Well, there are a lot of soft-hearted animal lovers who are ready to donate to conservation efforts, but not all of them are well informed about which body is which, nor the difference between an official, public body and one set up by enterprising individuals …

  5. Deborah Egan says:

    It seems the same perrenial responses return to beat down and silence criticism and dissent of corruption in the same way the militia were sent to crush The Women of Ross ( albeit these contemporary weapons are legal jurisprudence). Yet here we are again. 170 years on.

    Andy Wightman thanks for standing up for a fairer society.

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