A picture-perfect Hebridean island
December 4, 2018 1:49 PM   Subscribe

 
Good. Let's hope that being locally-owned results in better management. Nice to see the Australian support for the project, since Lachlan Macquarie was born on Ulva.

Community Right to Buy is pretty awesome compared to what used to be. Basically, it used to be almost impossible for locals to own the land they lived upon. Thanks, Colonialism!
posted by scruss at 2:15 PM on December 4 [5 favorites]


Half the country’s private land is owned by fewer than 500 people.

Very few of whom are Scots, I'd wager.
These reforms are awesome and long overdue.
posted by rocket88 at 2:20 PM on December 4 [6 favorites]


Very few of whom are Scots, I'd wager.
Neither are a lot of the folk on Eigg. It's a lot of people who made money elsewhere and moved up. But it doesn't really matter, because these places should be open for anyone who desires that lifestyle and wishes to pitch in.
posted by winterhill at 2:39 PM on December 4 [7 favorites]


Not only the islands - the first urban community buy-out took place in Edinburgh a couple of years ago at the Bellfield - formerly a church, now a community centre. Myself and a group of friends are in the middle of planning a memorial for a pal who died a couple of months ago and expressly asked that we remember him at the Bellfield, and his wish is our command.
posted by penguin pie at 3:00 PM on December 4 [12 favorites]


Ulva will be free!

Seriously, this is really cool. Some of my ancestors were from Ulva, and I've always felt a connection, although the closest I ever got was Mull, when I visited Lachlan Macquarie's grave.
posted by Mogur at 4:04 PM on December 4


And isn't the snarky tone of the article exactly what you expect from "The Economist" - "swapping the landlord for Holyrood"

a more positive take from LRB https://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n08/kathleen-jamie/in-fife
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 7:29 PM on December 4 [4 favorites]


But wait...if they're buying out the lairds, then who will lead the procession to the more dreadful sacrifice?
posted by Katemonkey at 1:49 AM on December 5 [6 favorites]


But it doesn't really matter, because these places should be open for anyone who desires that lifestyle and wishes to pitch in.

Being a Scot is a lot more open than, say, being English; Scotland goes in for civic nationalism rather than ethnic/blood-based nationalism, so once you live there as a citizen and subscribe to Scottish civic values, you are a Scot, regardless of whether or not you have Scottish ancestry/heritage. (And let's not even mention clans/tartans, as that's largely a Romantic-era sentimental myth, fleshed out some 50 years after the highland clearances.) In contrast, as far as Englishness goes, the impression I got (as an Australian immigrant and naturalised British citizen) was that “British” is the one you can become but “English” is what you are if your roots stem from England.
posted by acb at 2:12 AM on December 5 [7 favorites]


Very few of whom are Scots, I'd wager.

Increasingly few these days - a lot of foreign investors buying up land. But it wasn’t really better back when most of them were from old Scottish families, either (see eg: the Clearances, or the land raids of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as forerunner to the land reform movement today).

So much of the land owned by the biggest landlords is in vast, mostly-empty estates in rural areas, and so there’s this perception that it doesn’t really matter because nobody can use that land anyway. It is worth remembering when that one comes up that the emptiness is largely artificial, often created for sheep and (these days) for deer/grouse shooting. Ulva had 800+ inhabitants once; now it has, what, 11?
posted by Catseye at 3:12 AM on December 5 [8 favorites]


It is interesting to visit some of the places which have been subject to community buy-outs and to compare them with those still dominated by a large landowner - for example I have been on the remote peninsular of Knoydart recently (community owned since 1997) - and on the land near Lochinver, bought by the Assynt Foundation in 2005. Both of these communities seem like rather positive places - with people willing to get through the necessary disputes and arguments in return for the reward of seeing the place gradually improve. The idea that the highlands were a part of the world where the large scale raising of grouse, deer and sheep should over-ride the modest ambitions of small business and crofters - is still one which holds sway in much of the region, however.
posted by rongorongo at 5:56 AM on December 5


Oh, and if anyone wants a good read on land ownership and reform in Scotland, I recommend Andy Wightman’s The Poor Had No Lawyers: Who Owns Scotland And How They Got It.

(Andy Wightman is now Andy Wightman MSP, and one of the Scottish parliamentarians who brought the recent case on whether the U.K. can unilaterally revoke Article 50. He’s done some interesting stuff recently on housing in tourist-focused cities, and what AirBnB models of tourist lets are doing to that.)
posted by Catseye at 6:00 AM on December 5 [5 favorites]


Ulva had 800+ inhabitants once; now it has, what, 11?
It's interesting to look at some of the islands that weren't subject to such brutal clearances to see what might have been on the rest. Whalsay in Shetland has over 1,000 people in an area pretty much identical in size to Ulva. It's home to much of the Shetland fishing fleet and is relatively prosperous compared to many Scottish islands. To those of us used to densely-populated towns and cities it still looks fairly empty but it survives economically on its own two feet rather than being reliant on subsidies from outside like the islands with a few souls left on them. It has a school full of children, some sports teams, a leisure centre. As far as I'm aware, none of the populated islands of Orkney or Shetland are owned by a landlord (whether a single landlord or a community) in the way a lot of Hebridean islands are.

I'm slightly conflicted on community land buyouts. Of course it's better that communities take control of the land they sit on rather than having it owned by a distant millionaire, that part is beyond dispute. But as a community, you still need money to buy out your landlord. Millionaire landlord money is often simply replaced by other outside money, from people who've been fortunate and done well financially in urban areas and managed to get themselves into the property-owning class but then felt the need to 'escape' to an island to 'get away from it all'. It's just a different kind of exclusive community. If you don't have the cash or a house to sell in another place, you can't become a part of that society. It's not possible to get a job and move there, like you could if your heart's desire was to move to - say, Leeds. You need existing cash.

The kind of active, outdoors, everyone-pitching-in lifestyle that they have in places like Eigg is pretty much my life goal, but I don't have that kind of money, I don't own a property to sell elsewhere and I don't have children. They don't want people like me.
posted by winterhill at 6:55 AM on December 6 [2 favorites]


Scotland goes in for civic nationalism rather than ethnic/blood-based nationalism, so once you live there as a citizen and subscribe to Scottish civic values, you are a Scot, regardless of whether or not you have Scottish ancestry/heritage.

I've heard this before so I assume it's true in certain (perhaps cosmopolitan?) parts of Scotland, but growing up in a rural area I was firmly labelled as non-Scottish and ostracised. My parents spent forty years participating in community life, but were always regarded as outsiders.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 6:29 AM on December 7


I've heard this before so I assume it's true in certain (perhaps cosmopolitan?) parts of Scotland, but growing up in a rural area I was firmly labelled as non-Scottish and ostracised. My parents spent forty years participating in community life, but were always regarded as outsiders.
In the very rural areas, so little of the population is Scottish-born that it's just not unusual any more. You'd be hard pressed to find many Scottish accents in some of the west coast villages - Gairloch springs to mind immediately because I know a few people who've moved there.

Mind you, you're also often hard-pressed to find anyone under the age of 60. Locals move away for work and often don't come back even if they want to, because of a lack of employment and a serious lack of housing. An awful lot of people who do work in the Highlands live in unsuitable accommodation like caravans because an already seriously limited number of houses are bought up by wealthy second-homers or retirees. There's a real concern that large parts of the Highlands are turning into retirement villages.
posted by winterhill at 2:04 AM on December 8


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