Island Dream Home Nightmare

Photo by matthew Feeney on Unsplash

When you visit a house that you hope to live in, you begin to imagine a future there. You’ll maybe even fall in love with it, convincing yourself that you’ve found ‘home’ and wilfully blinding yourself to its faults and flaws. My wife and I did that for sure, given that the house in question was a semi-derelict 1960s bungalow – a concrete-panelled kit house that had outlived its life expectancy by decades and was now structurally un-sound, with floor joists and window-frames rotting, black mould on the walls, no insulation, and an obsolete heating system.  But love, as well as being blind, is often tempered by financial circumstance. The house was within our reach at offers over £90k, so we scraped our savings, borrowed money from friends and family (no mortgage available), committed ourselves to years of renovation work and, in an overheating property market, put in a bid of £130k. 

For most of our married life, my wife and I have lived in ‘tied cottages’ – a tenancy agreement dependant on my employment by the owner of the land. If I lose or leave my job, we lose our home. On a rural wage we could never afford to buy the cottage we’re currently tenanted in, but when we put in our bid for the semi-derelict bungalow, we hoped to gain, at last, the security of ownership. 

The house was up for sale on a Hebridean island, one that we’ve been trying to move back to for a number of years. It’s not where we’re from, but we met on the island, married on an adjacent island, and I’ve lived and worked on both for extended periods. It’s the part of the world where we’d like to belong. Our offer was more than 40% above the asking price and we figured it would be enough to secure our ‘forever home’. It wasn’t.

Last month I attended a gathering of academics, ecologists, and land reform activists. The gathering was organised by post-graduate researchers Gemma Smith and Ryan Dziadowiec and held at the Shieling Project in Glen Strathfarrar, to the west of Inverness. There was a mix of talks, a walk to an old shieling site, communal feasting, and a fire to gather round in the evenings. Over the course of the weekend, we were offered a variety of perspectives on land use and ownership, with some fascinating insights into early resistance to the Clearances, as well as discussions that focused on more contemporary issues. Talks were led by academics and by crofters, and by those who are both. 

‘Anger is an energy’ sang Jonny Rotten, back in 1986. When you’re sitting in a room with fifty or so people, all of whom are informed about, and engaged with, the issue of land reform, and when that issue is discussed by speakers with a depth of knowledge and with a passion for their subject, you can feel the energy rising. The facts are stark enough: Scotland is the only country in Western Europe where anyone can rock up and buy a ten-thousand-acre estate, no questions asked; and where two thirds of the estates that are sold never reach the open market, exchanging hands privately like some grubby, illicit deal. Currently there’s a goldrush, or land-rush, that has doubled the value of those estates in the last couple of years, and it seems that everyone wants a piece of the action – at this year’s Academy Awards in the US, actors were handed luxury swag-bags that included titles to plots of Scottish land. 

Round the fire in the evening at the Shieling Project, I spoke to a young woman who wants to stay and work on the island where she was born, but can only do so because she still lives with her parents. All her school friends have left or are leaving because there’s nowhere to rent and none of them can afford to buy. Someone else mentioned a recent letter in the Ullapool local press written by a man complaining that he couldn’t find staff to clean his holiday homes. It turns out he owned over twenty properties in the area. We wondered where he thought his cleaners might live.

From semi-derelict bungalows to 10,000-acre estates, from token gift plots to Air B&B portfolios, demand exceeds supply and the prices rise and rise. This is the way of Capitalism; this is the way of a property market unbound by regulation. 

Perspective is useful. In the Highlands and Islands, it’s only a few short centuries since the ideal of the clan chief – born from notions of sacred sovereignty and stewardship of the clan’s dùthaich – began to degenerate to a more plutocratic model. In the 17th and 18th centuries, during that protracted period of land theft that we now call the Clearances, clan chiefs shifted from being ‘first amongst equals’ to become lairds and proprietors of the land under law. 

Late at the fire’s hearth at the Sheiling Project, hearing yet another personal tale of injustice and the abuse of power entrenched in our estate-ownership system, I found myself blurting out a thought that has bubbled up many times over the years: ‘The bastards should be handing the land back to the communities it was stolen from, with apologies for 300 years of mis-use.’

The same thought bubbled up in 2000, when John Macleod of Macleod, clan chief and proprietor of Dunvegan Castle, offered for sale a large chunk of the Black Cuillin on Skye. He expressed hope that it would be bought for the nation, but added a price tag of ten million quid. At the time, I remember thinking that Sorley MacLean, only four years dead, would be birling in his grave. I thought of the poem he wrote, An Cuilithionn, ‘The Cuillin’, which mourns ‘the greedy injustice of the men of the castles’, and I imagined his voice rising from the grave, the angry energy of it, rising like pibroch to disturb the dreams of John Macleod of Macleod.

More recently, when the Duke of Buccleuch sold to the local Langholm community a few thousand acres of the least productive of the more than two hundred thousand acres of land that he owns, for nearly four million quid, his greed brought a sourness to my mouth. Is this really the only way to overhaul the most archaic system of land-ownership in Western Europe? Must we pay off, acre by acre, some of the wealthiest people in the country, using taxpayers’ money and the benevolent contributions of those who donate to crowd-fund appeals? 

One day, maybe, we’ll hear of a land-owner gifting the land back to the people. It would be a radical act to return that which was stolen, to redress an historic injustice. Go on, I find myself urging the ‘good lairds’ and the ‘green lairds’, those who consider themselves to be no more than stewards of the land. Go on, give it back. Don’t ask the Scottish Land Fund to pay out millions of pounds to cover today’s over-inflated prices. Give it back. It isn’t really yours.

It turns out that the semi-derelict bungalow that my wife and I hoped might become our home sold for over £200k – more than twice the asking price. The people who bought it don’t live on the island; they visit in summer, flying in from afar. Now they own all the properties on the peninsula where it sits. The bungalow will likely end up fully derelict, bought to ensure that no-one else can live there. When you’re very rich, it’s a small price to pay for privacy and control. Friends on the island tell me that, just like the man who owns more than twenty homes around Ullapool, the new owners can’t find anyone to manage the changeovers of their other holiday rentals on the peninsula.

Elsewhere on the island, a young couple are the only residents in a hamlet of over a dozen houses, the rest are holiday homes; while recently, on the adjacent island, an old friend who was born there, and who has returned with his wife and family to run a business, bid on a house for sale and was promptly outbid by people who live very far away.    

This isn’t personal; it’s just the way of the property market, and who would dare to challenge that?

This month, the Isle of Eigg celebrates 25 years of community ownership. It wasn’t the first community buy-out, but it has been one of the most high-profile and inspiring, in part because of the circumstances leading up to its sale: the toxic ownership of Keith Schellenberg, the weird sideshow of Maruma, the German ‘artist’ with dubious credentials who briefly took possession of the island; and then there was the public campaign to raise funds for the buy-out, which itself highlighted the debate about land-ownership in Scotland. Since 1997, the islanders have provided a dynamic example of how small, remote communities can come together and figure out best practice for housing, power generation, job creation, land stewardship. The island is now thriving, its population growing. 

Last year a small cottage was up for sale on Eigg. It was priced at offers over £65k, but the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust stipulated that they wouldn’t simply be accepting the highest bid. Instead, they would seek a buyer who wanted to live full-time on the island, to make home there and be an ‘active contributory member of the community.’ 

Self-determination isn’t always easy, but it does empower and encourage people to make decisions in the interest of their community; and it turns out that, thus empowered, and in simple, sensible ways, there are those who dare to challenge the property market. Imagine if all our island and rural communities were modelled on Eigg; imagine if our urban communities were!

In her autobiography, All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes, Maya Angelou writes beautifully about the ‘ache for home’ and how it lives in all of us, describing home as ‘the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.’ My wife and I are very lucky, we’ve a roof over our heads and we’ve some savings; we’ll eventually find that ‘safe place’. But for so many people now, who ache for home, often in the place where they are from, or in the community they’ve become a part of, it is simply no longer possible. This is the property market – untrammelled Capitalism just doing its thing – and it’s destroying communities throughout Scotland.

Photo by matthew Feeney on Unsplash

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Comments (51)

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  1. Wul says:

    What a grim (and enraging) picture of our current land and housing mess.

    We are going backwards in time, when the best chance of a rural job is doing the cleaning, laundry and turning down the beds in the laird’s holiday property. Only this time it’s his 20 Air B’n’B cottages, rather than the castle, which offer the opportunity for employment in “service”.

    200 years on from replacing people with sheep, the damage still lives with us.

  2. Alastair McIntosh says:

    Here’s what I just tweeted to this article. You can feel the vice-grip of the ordinarily rich on the relatively poor as you read it.

    A cracking piece by the artist, gardener & thinker @DougieStrang on the toxic impact of second “homes” (include buy-to-let). I suspect too many of our politicians & influencers, all parties, are complicit; so nothing happens, and it fails Scotland.

  3. Hector says:

    The welsh had the solution

    1. Pat says:

      I was just thinking about them. I am not sure if it had much of an effect.

    2. David+B says:

      They’ve just passed legislation allowing local authorities to increase council tax on 2nd homes by 300%. Holyrood would have the power to do that too but hasn’t.

  4. Blair says:

    Independent Scotland will need a very serious land reform with planning controls. Tax on the amount of land owned with a floor so large non farming land is expensive to own. Such land should them become common land.

    1. David+B says:

      Why wait til independence? We have control over land reform and planning now. Mercedes Villalba is tabling a Land Justice bill this autumn that would limit the amount one person can own. There should also be a public interest test in large land sales, and no public subsidies for absentee landowners nor those involved in tax avoidance.

  5. Graeme McCormick says:

    When will we stop subsidising landowners by partially funding the purchase of land by community groups or funding the restoration of land which land owners have failed to steward?

    All land reform has avoided the main issue . The only way to force whole scale changes in ownership is to use land as our principal source of public funding and charge AGR on it.

    Both Public and private land owners will very quickly dispose of what they can’t afford. The price of land will drop dramatically.

    Availability of land is the key to decent homes, well-being and a sustainable future.

    AGFRR addresses all these issues. It’s simple and can be introduced under existing devolution powers.

    It’s not good enough that SG ministers won’t introduce it or even explain why they won’t.

    1. Blair Breton says:

      Interest idea for basically a land tax. For me the idea is close the income gaps. Make it much more expensive for folders on say greater than 5 acres non farming land. We need a tax that replaces council tax but does not change costs for most residents. Large land owners would face larger rises progressively and think about forestry which might be wanted and covers much land. Put simply I find it repugnant rich men can buy enormous parts of Scottish land and may not live here and pay taxes here. Offshore ownership of land should also be shut down if you own land. If you own land live here.

      1. 220616 says:

        I still think that taking all land into common ownership, renting it back to its current and future holders for private use (including as ‘wilderness’), and distributing the revenue raised equitably, on a per capita basis, among local communities to pay for the provision of local public services (including social housing and associated infrastructure) would be simpler and more effective way to crack the nut.

    2. jennifer says:

      I don’t understand how AGFRR would prevent second homeowners from buying homes? If they are wealthy, could they not just afford to pay it?

      1. 220617 says:

        It wouldn’t stop people from buying second homes, but they would have to pay rent for the use of the ground on which those second homes (as well as their first homes) were built, which could then be used to build the social housing and deliver the public services that were required locally.

        This isn’t a scheme for preventing ‘the wrong people’ from coming to live in our backyards; it’s a way of raising revenue to sustain and grow (and diversify) our local communities.

      2. Graeme McCormick says:

        They could but the price of land will drop substantially so there will be plenty of land for social housing or to self build too. The reason we have a crisis in certain areas for housing is that many tenants bought their council houses under right-to-buy. On their death they passed to their families or sold as second homes. These houses rarely come on the market. Interestingly some council imposed a prohibition on the sale of these house to other than people using the house as their main or only home. To my knowledge no council enforced the condition. It would be perfectly possible to impose title conditions on new build. These would be better quality house than a lot of second homes.

    3. Mark Paul says:

      Totally agree. Holyrood need to wake up. Talk to us at least. Their silence is deafening. How can the SNP hope to rally support for an Independent Scotland if they ignore the most critical issue of our time. It is enraging!

  6. sharon g pottinger says:

    This is both poignant and measured in its response to a long standing problem. There is also green-washing where farms are bought at over the market price ostensibly to return them to the wild, but mostly so someone can offset their greedy land use elsewhere. Or forests planted with public money and then sold to a quango for nothing and the trees ripped out. I’m an advocate of permaculture–as the name suggests, being sustainable and balanced for the long term. People are an essential part of permaculture. We need people to sit on committees and celebrate ceilidhs in the village hall and staff the post office and fill our schools.

  7. 220616 says:

    ‘Since 1997, the islanders have provided a dynamic example of how small, remote communities can come together and figure out best practice for housing, power generation, job creation, land stewardship. The island is now thriving, its population growing…

    ‘Self-determination isn’t always easy, but it does empower and encourage people to make decisions in the interest of their community; and it turns out that, thus empowered, and in simple, sensible ways, there are those who dare to challenge the property market. Imagine if all our island and rural communities were modelled on Eigg; imagine if our urban communities were!’

    Aye, imagine a ‘Scotland’ that’s subsidiary assembly of more or less autonomous communities of place and interest, which comes together only occasionally, as and when required, to address shared problems, rather than a standing nation-state in which all problems are defined and addressed by and in the interests of a central authority… There’s a reframing of independence for you.

  8. Squigglypen says:

    Yes the Welsh had the solution…a warm one!
    if our Scottish government can’t protect us from greedy selfish people then you have to take direct action.
    Sorry you didn’t get your house..scream at the SNP government. I wrote to them re their inability to achieve independence and left their party…I suspect others did also and suddenly Sturgeon made her declaration re the Referendum. Might have been a coincidence. ..but if your supporters walk away you have to react.
    Try and buy land in other countries and you will be investigated and refused. Of course our land appears to be in hidden rich foreign hands. What! Scotland is owned by ‘foreigners’..gasp! there I’ve said it…must be racist. Nope just first and foremost for our own other countries.

  9. Niemand says:

    Yeah, as Not the Nine O’Clock News had it many years back ‘Come home to a real fire, buy a cottage in Wales’. Not a real solution obvs.

    I wonder how this problem in the Hebrides / Highlands compares to the same elsewhere in severity e.g. Cornwall, Yorkshire Dales and I assume many other very attractive parts of the UK countryside? It is infuriating and the lack of *any* government to really do anything about it. It is killing communities. One can even say the same thing about London, which apart from the real outskirts is now unaffordable for even professional people and there, all the very wealthy owners are from overseas. You read accounts of the early 1960s and ordinary people were buying. renting homes right in the centre and the vibrancy and life is like a very distant dream now. And its loss, all avoidable.

    1. Wullie says:

      Presumably lairds at present have the means to eventually take their grievances to the Supreme Court in London. So access to wee bits of hill and glen will have to wait until we bin it!

      1. 220616 says:

        Brexiteers are currently making the same kind of point with regard to the European Court of Human Rights: those dastardly foreigners can take their grievances against us indigenous folk to court and win; where’s the natural justice in that?

        Why would a Scottish Supreme Court be any ‘better’ in respect to the judgements it makes than the UK Supreme Court?

  10. Andy Thornton says:

    Dougie’s article and experience is just one of an increasing record of how local folk are being sacrificed to feed the greed of the already obscenely wealthy. My family has lived in tied houses with all the horrors that a landlord can exact if they so wish.
    Many of the houses in our area – Lochaber – are being sold just now by second home/absentee owners to more absentee owners. The cycle goes on. We cannot “build” our way out of the housing crisis and the assault on rural culture. If they were of a mind, politicians could bring in a stringent residency requirement when purchasing property – potential family homes could be denied permission to be used for anything other than long-term letting purposes. etc It’s not impossible to put things right, But, of course, as George Monbiot has pointed out, too many influencers and policy makers have second homes themselves.
    However, there has to be a positive way forward otherwise despair will seep into our psyche.
    It is possible to market a property and make sure that it only goes to local people, the trouble is that it’s not, by and large, local people who are selling the properties.
    In the late ’60s and early ’70s, squatting became a positive movement for homeless people who simply occupied empty property and made it their homes.
    Perhaps in rural areas, local folk struggling with this appalling problem should simply occupy empty properties. Such an expanding popular movement might not completely solve the problem, but on a growing scale it would gain momentum and be hard to control, A bit like trying to put out a wild fire!
    But more, it might start to put doubts in the mind of those exploiters who care nothing about local people, local culture nor the history that all too often documents the injustices that continue to exist to this day.

    1. Niemand says:

      Worth noting, having just looked it up, there is a local ban in several places in Cornwall on buying new builds as second home owners .

      Not sure of more recent news on this. Of course this isn’t vetting where people come from but it shows restrictions can be made and the high court challenge to it was lost.

      Anyone seen the recent film ‘Bait’ that touches on this problem? It is excellent.

  11. Roddie MacLennan says:

    Yes, all admirable, but rarely, if ever, is the word “indigenous” used in this context as it seems to be regarded as a swear word. Some academics and ecologists would argue that landscapes empty of people, but populated by lynx, wolves, bears and beavers are a state of perfection. Many argue that we must simply get “people” back into them. What about justice, culture, identity, continuity and sustainability in relation to the indigenous people of the Highlands? These people haven’t gone away but live in housing estates, in towns across the Highlands and beyond because there are no jobs nor houses. When, like Eigg, decisions are made to provide/ offer housing in depopulated areas, natives of that area MUST be given first choice, otherwise any repopulation becomes an exercise in lifestyle experimentation.

    1. 220616 says:

      Why are you framing the housing issue as a competition between indigenous and immigrant populations? This accepts the premise of scarcity as default, and there’s no need for such scarcity of housing.

      It’s the same argument I’ve heard racists use in Lincolnshire against employing ‘foreign’ labour in agriculture: the schools and health centres, etc., are already insufficient to meet the existing demand, so we should stop people who are culturally and/or racially different from ourselves coming into the area and keep Britain ‘British’ and its indigeneity ‘pure’.

      No, I say; you should be building more schools and hospitals and houses, etc., as required, in response to the demographic changes in your communities.

      1. Roddie MacLennan says:

        I’m not. The housing issue is simply part of a wider argument about righting wrongs; a broader picture which a non-native may not understand fully. If the indigenous population of a tribal area in the Amazon Basin had been cleared and that population, or their descendants lived on the periphery of that area, who would you choose to resettle it?
        Regarding the Highlands and Islands as just a place to be filled with anyone who fancies having a go at living in “wilderness” or “remote” places panders to lifestyle experimentation mentality. I’ve seen it in various places I’ve worked, across Europe and North America/
        An example closer to home. A number of years ago, I was in the process of setting up a housing and land use cooperative, in order to take advantage of the Forestry Commission “community” land purchase. There were eight individuals, five of whom were native to that strath but forced to live outside it because of the housing shortage. We jumped through all the hoops, had our proposal accepted in principal and had it used as an example at a conference on the subject. We engaged a “green” architect and would utilise the timber on site for housing and a wood working business, etc, etc. We were all qualified in forestry. At the last hour, word came back that only those living within the post code area would be classed as “community” members, so the “community” body which eventually became owners consisted of twelve individuals, only two of whom are from that strath. The rest are from the Central Belt and commuters into Inverness, or retirees. None of them are working the forest and no houses have been built.
        Your suggestion that this somehow equates with the situation in Lincolnshire is ridiculous and offensive in equal measure. If we cannot afford advantage to the indigenous population first there is something seriously wrong.

        1. 220616 says:

          I wouldn’t deem to regulate who settled there or how they developed the land they settled, providing they paid ground rent to the commons for the use of that land.

          The point of the parallel I drew with the situation I encountered in Lincolnshire was to illustrate how the problem isn’t scarcity of housing and associated infrastructure, but a lack of political will to develop that infrastructure in response to changing populations and their cultural, economic, and social needs.

          Local communities do need to be empowered, willing, and agile enough to built and service more social housing in response to changes in local demographics. Refusing to integrate ‘incomers’ only ensures their stagnation and death.

          1. Niemand says:

            The trouble is your arguments are just as dogmatic as those we might consider ‘racists’. Saying we can have no restrictions on who might buy a property, where there are clear issues of communities being destroyed, is no more tenable than saying keep all the foreigners out. Eigg comes up here and they do indeed have severe restrictions, though not based on where people are from, but on what they intend to do. There is a strong vetting procedure in other words, democratically decided upon by the people of the island who have the autonomy to do so. I see nothing wrong with that, quite the opposite, and the point is, given the chance, that is what they have done as they realised mostly unoccupied second homes were killing the island community.

          2. Dougie Strang says:

            “Though not based on where people are from, but on what they intend to do.” I reckon Niemand’s point is key here. It’s the intentions and attitudes of people who move to, or remain in, rural communities (any communities) that dictates whether they are a positive or a negative gain. It’s worth remembering that many of the key folk on Eigg who helped organise the buy-out, were originally from far furth of the island. And meanwhile, I know of people who have genealogies that place them firmly on a particular island or rural community, but that hasn’t stopped them ruthlessly exploiting crofting legislation and housing grants for massive personal profit, and to hell with how it impacts the community.
            I deeply respect and, to be honest, envy, those who have an ancestral connection to the land they live on. It’s a rare enough thing nowadays. But using blood and soil to dictate housing policy is a tricky road to set yourself on.
            I mean, I’m sure there’s plenty of Leòdhasaich who get annoyed at those pesky coves from Harris coming up and settling in Stornoway, and as for those Deasaich from Uist… 🙂

          3. SleepingDog says:

            @Dougie Strang, social housing has local authority waiting lists. The issue in local government comes down to mandamus (what the authority is legally obliged to do) and ultra vires (what actions are outwith its remit, and therefore it is banned from doing). If the authority is obliged to house everyone who lives there, that should apply to children and babies who are projected to have separate housing needs when they are older. Under a pro-housing legal framework, that could give the authority a wide range of powers, like compulsory purchasing of housing stock and land for housing. But it will be outwith the authorities remit to house people outside its jurisdiction. Because of the time it takes for children to grow up and land to be prepared and houses built (or renovated), and of housing standards to be improved and housing raised to specification, these plans must be drawn for a point years in the future. This logically means that the authority should prioritise people currently living in the area, and projected to have housing needs years in advance.

            Why not put everyone on a local authority housing list when they are born, with future needs to be met appropriately? (There could be some reciprocal duty on people to, for example, have paid local authority taxes and fees in full, and have a fraud-free and non-anti-social record, else be bumped down the list). Extra housing can be planned for projected influxes, but not at the expense of planned capacity for people on the register. Why make money the measure of all things? The UK has unusually weak local government by European standards, and for all the blather of politicians, a powerful, centralised executive government, traditionally in cahoots with interests like landlords. Things could be very different.

          4. 220616 says:

            I see nothing wrong with that either. In fact, it enacts the very kind of grassroots democracy and local autonomy (to which all other government up to national and international level should be subsidiary) that I advocate.

            BTW I didn’t say that there should be no restrictions on who might buy a property (dogmatically, I believe that all land should be held in common, rented out for private use when it’s not being used in common, and the revenues raised used to fund public services – including social housing where its needed); I said that I wouldn’t deem to regulate who settles where or how they use the land they settle – and especially not on the grounds of ethnicity or non-nativity – and I wouldn’t want to be a member of any community that did so choose (democratically or otherwise) to discriminate against immigrants.

          5. Roddie MacLennan says:

            This is where we differ and where I think you’re wrong. Of course it matters who repopulates depopulated areas. In some cases we are talking about literally centuries of continuous occupation by an indigenous population. Not applying some form of restriction on who resettles the area, at least initially, is no better than the free market. The “Highland” problem was never just about depopulation per se, but about depopulation of the indigenous, Gaelic speaking people.
            I’m not saying nobody other than native Highlanders should live in the North. I’m making the case for a stable, critical mass of natives who can absorb any incoming minority. The HIDB was set up to develop the area, in order to stem outmigration. It never worked because the land issue was never addressed. Its successor, HIE, was a free market conduit for resettlement by “entrepreneurial-minded” individuals/groups from primarily the South of England (HIE had a major advertising campaign in London/Home Counties exorting businesses to move North). This group was ideal as they had money, weren’t land-based business oriented and had no dog in the land fight. This was a deliberate a policy as the Statutes of Iona.

            The oft-quoted idea of sustainability should be found in a more enlightened approach to the shape future communities take. The average length of time spent in the Highlands by an incomer is two Winters, then they move on. That is not sustainable; it contributes zero to meaningful community development and simply further skews an already insane housing market. Strong communities with native majority are the way forward, for a plethora of reasons. It’s not the issue of not accepting incomers which causes stagnation and death of Highland communities but lack of control over the natural resources and a lack of jobs and housing to hold young natives.

          6. 220617 says:

            That’s indeed where we differ and where I think you’re wrong.

            Cultural identity doesn’t depend on land occupancy. People carry and transmit their cultural identity within themselves and between themselves (and over and against ‘others’) in whichever place they find themselves.

            The way to mend housing scarcity in any part of the country is to build more social housing and infrastructure, not to keep foreigners out or require their assimilation to the culture of the land’s existing or historical occupants. That’s just cultural racism and xenophobia.

            Claims that one’s traditional way of life is threatened by an unregulated influx of foreigners take one into Farage territory.

          7. 220617 says:

            That’s indeed where we differ and where I think you’re wrong.

            Cultural identity doesn’t depend on land occupancy. People carry and transmit their cultural identity within themselves and between themselves (and over and against ‘others’) in whichever place they find themselves.

            The way to mend housing scarcity in any part of the country is to build more social housing and infrastructure, not to keep foreigners out or require their assimilation to the culture of the land’s existing or historical occupants. That’s just cultural racism and xenophobia.

            Claims that one’s traditional way of life is threatened by an unregulated influx of foreigners into one’s homeland take one into Farage territory.

          8. Niemand says:

            Roddie, I mean I hear you but do you think this applies specifically to the Gaelic speaking people of this area, or more generally? The Amazon Basin is one thing – a remote, very isolated area in huge rain forest – is Highland and Island Scotland, on a highly populated relatively small island (‘British’ Isles), really same with its centuries of links and intermingling beyond the immediate area?

            Yes we can say some people of the Highlands are ‘indigenous’ but where does that stop? Are the people of Glasgow who can trace back their ancestry many generations in a part of the city, indigenous? Or indeed people in rural Lincolnshire, or the East End of London? Or is there something special about language i.e Gaelic and the fear of its ultimate demise?

            It is not difficult to see how some *might* use similar arguments against major demographic change in, say, an urban area where the local white Scottish or English working class population who have dominated for hundreds of years, is mostly replaced by people from the Indian sub-continent, who speak a different first language and have a very different culture, changing the face of the community permanently. I grant it is not exactly the same as the main ‘British’ culture would still dominate outside the area, but those who are displaced can still feel aggrieved.

    2. E J MACDONALD says:

      Crucial point ! And one that is almost never mentioned.
      Goes to the real heart of the issue as far as
      ” indigenous ” people are concerned . I noticed the
      immediate accusation of ” racism ! ” as soon as you
      raised the issue. As for the island of Eigg as a template
      for a solving the problem : the adjective ” scrambled ”
      fits that particular situation perfectly. Apparently if you are deemed to be suitable the Committee MAY allow you to live there . There are a couple of other West Coast villages where a similar situation prevails .
      Never discussed by our courageous radical journalists.!

  12. SleepingDog says:

    Surely the pathologically greedy are vulnerable to a bit of trickery? What’s the modern equivalent of paying community buy-outs in fairy gold: cryptocurrency? oil shares? the promises of politicians?

    Or perhaps consider how issues like land for living on might be codified in a brand new Constitution, untrammeled by past resorts to the divine rights of landowners?

    Also, I think we should be applying such stringent new housing standards that any such scabby cottage should be razed and rebuilt to something like Passivhaus standards, with energy and materials sourced locally and renewably.

    1. Wullie says:

      Anent this Supreme Court business, Scotland already had a Supreme Court, the Court of Session, this London outfit was an unwanted imposition by a Labour government. 8

      1. 220616 says:

        Unwanted by whom?

  13. Tony says:

    Can I ask which Hebridean island this was on? Thank s

    1. Dougie Strang says:

      Hi Tony,

      I’ve not named it because I don’t want to personalise the issue. You’ll find there’s similar accounts on every island and in every rural community.

  14. Hector says:

    All rural housing should have section 75 slapped on them for locals only for farming etc
    If tourists want a house, they can have a mobile home
    So many farms have been sold off and split up to lawyers , bankers etc and are ruined.
    Not just in highlands
    Now we have a real food crisis, those farms are needed .
    Councils actually love second homes as they get twice the council tax , and they demand few services!!!

    1. 220618 says:

      Indeed! Local planning authorities could use S75 agreements to grow social housing for the homeless by making the provision of such housing (or payment in lieu thereof, so that the planning authority can then build that housing and supporting infrastructure) a condition of its granting building consent. Such agreements could be extended to change of use, in addition to new builds, with a duty being levied to compensate for the loss of domestic housing to recreational use.

      But wouldn’t it be simpler and more effective to simply empower local authorities to levy a ground rent on all land use and to use the revenue it so raises to supply the social housing needs of its constituents?

      1. David+B says:

        They can only do that if it’s in the Local Plan, and it can only be in the LP if it’s in the National Planning Framework. Few local authorities have the time or money to deal with the resultant appeals, especially when many find that ScotGov ministers overturn their decisions. Having worked in a local authority in England I’ve been shocked at how little agency over planning matters we have up here compared to the one I worked for down there.

        1. 220620 says:

          Yes, I know; the over-centralisation of government is a problem in Scotland, which I don’t see the mythical ‘Great Reset’ of independence sorting.

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @Hector, indeed, it is good systems thinking (and commendably biocratic) to link housing policy to food production (and other life-support systems/services). The shape that relationship should take will be grounded on some form of good life philosophy (guiding the extent of communitarian labour and so on).

  15. Robert says:

    Very sorry to hear you couldn’t get the house, Dougie. Horrified by the state of the market. How about self-build on community land, any possibilities there?

  16. John Wood says:

    Well sadly here in Wester Ross the locl landowner offered amenity land to the community, and the community won’t accept it. We have a hidden problem of people who call themselves ‘conservatives with a small c’ , and are staunch supporters of private ownership, who who are sabotaging progress. We also have a Scottish Government that is deliberately running down and ‘rewilding’ the rural highlands and iselands as part of their urban ’20 minute neighbourhoods’ agenda. It is the same old story of seeing the highlands and islands as a ‘wild playground’ to escape to’ – if you have the money. The Highland Council flatly refuse to fix the potholescaused by all the traffic and years of neglect. Bed and Breakfasts are about to be hit with outrageous fees that will put them out of business while drive-through. ‘safari park style’ self contained road trippers must be given everything for nothing. Local jobs are centralised and lost, or automated; the only investment we get is in viewpoints for campervans where they park for nothing – with litter bins marked ‘Visitor Use Only’. The New Clearances are happening, quite deliberately, for the sake of the wealthy and of course the fascist Great Reset agenda we mustn’t mention. None of the candidates in the recent local elections could seriously stand up for local communities – I spoiled my ballot. We need an independent Scotland that empowers local communities. Invests in new approaches to crofting. Scraps landowner rights over the deer that are just destroying trees as fast as we can plant them. The only answer to all this is community ownership. Of land, energy, telecoms, water …

    1. Thanks John – agree with much of what you say. Can you explain what the connection is between re-wilding and 20 minute neighbourhoods is? (“We also have a Scottish Government that is deliberately running down and ‘rewilding’ the rural highlands and islands as part of their urban ’20 minute neighbourhoods’ agenda”).

      Also, what is the Great Reset agenda?

      1. Alison says:

        The Great Reset refers to the plans being promoted by the World Economic Forum. They want them in place by 2030. Essentially the financial system has been on its knees, sitting on top of huge amounts of debt it’s become a charade – propped up only by bailouts since 2008. It’s on course to collapse at some point and those at the top of the hierarchy want to preempt a collapse (in which they risk making losses) so instead have designed a new system to make sure they maintain all their privileges and grab some extra control whilst they’re at it. They of course did not bother to ask the plebs what we want for the future. It’s a technocratic future – constant surveillance enhanced further when we become a cashless society and they’ll know exactly what we spend every penny on. Commercial banks will collapse (rumoured to take on the role of landlords – presumably after houses are repossessed when mortgages become unaffordable) and the central banks will host our bank accounts [CBDCs – central bank digital currencies]. CBDC linked to social credit system as has been trialled in a number of Chinese cities – follow the rules, get Browny points, break the rules and lose access to your account (as trialled in Canada for anyone having donated to the Truckers Convoy). They want everyone living in Smart Cities and to depopulate rural areas. They want to get everyone on a vegan diet, to phase out meat and therefore pastoral farming. The food supply is to be industrialised further than it is already (vertical growing in urban areas, novel forms of protein etc) which means much of existing farmland can be ‘rewilded’. Their vision includes the famous line as per their website: ‘you’ll own nothing, have no privacy and be happy’. And what you’re reporting is happening in the Scottish housing market – people being priced out at all costs by absent owners who have no intention of living there but are more interested in making sure noone else can – is happening all over the western world. Reports in US cities of every house being hoovered up at over twice the asking price and more – much of it ends up in the portfolio of these massive asset holders like Blackrock and Vanguard. We’re being subjected to a coup – but the media isn’t telling us so it’s up to us to piece it together, keeping speaking out and find any way we can to push back.

      2. 220619 says:

        The ‘Great Reset’ is referenced by a number of conspiracy theories. In the real world, the name comes from a meeting of the World Economic Forum, an NGO based Switzerland, which was convened by Prince Charles in 2020 to discuss ways in which we might revolutionise capitalism and its society as part of our recovery from the latest of its serial crises; namely, the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussion resulted in a programme that closely resembles Prince Charles’s own Sustainable Markets Initiative.

        This programme centres on the cultivation of three core components: a ‘stakeholder economy’, in which corporations are oriented to serve the interests of all their stakeholders and not just those of their shareholders; a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable human environment (‘green growth, smarter growth, fairer growth’); and harnessing innovation for the public good rather than for private interest (a ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’). Key areas for action were listed as the re-invigoration of research and development, a move towards net zero emissions globally through carbon pricing and the implementation of long-term incentive structures, and rebalancing investment to encourage green public infrastructure projects.

        The Forum went on to suggest that the inherently unstable globalised world of late-capitalism would be best-managed by a self-selected coalition of multinational corporations, governments, and civil society organisations – a suggestion that some critics find profoundly undemocratic, the last stand against an ethos of democracy of a pre-democratic ‘dirigisme’; an insistence on domination and control by self-selected elites. Other critics dismiss the whole project as nothing but a cynical greenwashing of capitalism and its hegemony.

        Conspiracy theories, nurtured and spread by the American far-right, surged in the aftermath of the ‘Great Reset’ forum and have increased in fervour as the likes of Joe Biden, Jacinda Ardern, and Justin Trudeau incorporated ideas based on a ‘reset’ in their speeches. Even Oor Ain Wee Nicola has been framing Independence as a ‘reset’, an opportunity to rebuild a fairer, more prosperous, and more inclusive Scotland.

  17. Penelope Trevose-Clowe says:

    This is not only happening in Scotland – all over England properties are bought up by would be second home owners – thus depriving the young local community of the chance to own their own homes in the places in which they were born and wish to live.MANY OF THESE “2ND HOMES ” ARE LEFT EMPTY OUT OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON , destroying the community spirit so needed by the local families , who feel totally let down by the so called planners .

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