Monday, 19 August 2013

For Tartan Army islands all games are away games

Some of the Lewis lads who came to London for the Scotland match last week called in for a ceilidh.

The cost of travelling from the islands means Wembley could be their only Scotland away game for some time to come.

That puts them at a disadvantage compared to other members of the Tartan Army, who can fly to away games and be back at work in the Central Belt next morning, er, hangover permitting.

With 35,000 members the Scotland Supporters Club is at about away match capacity, so tickets are sold through a points system.

The more away games you attend the more points you earn, and the better your chance of a ticket the next time.

But for Tartan Army fans from Shetland to Islay every Scotland game is an away game, involving a costly flight and a few days off work.

There is a case for the Scottish Supporters Association letting members with island postcodes start with a few away points advantage. That way they have a chance to qualify for occasional games abroad.

Wait a minute, if we applied the bonus points principle to the Scotland team’s away games too...

Monday, 12 August 2013

Planning "sterilisers" dictating to the Highlands

From my Daily Record column

"White settler" was an insult once used to disparage those who had moved to the Highlands to make a new life.

The natives realised their mistake and you don't hear the phrase much these days.

The people who came to stay are now recognised as shaping and saving the communities they adopted as home and enrich many a glen and island.

But the New Highlanders been followed by another wealthier breed who do not accept the values of the place or engage with the communities they live in, even if only part-time basis.
They are recognised by planners, councillors and locals across the western seaboard with a new phrase - "white sterilisers".

The sterilisers have paid a few hundred thousand pounds for their slice of Highland paradise and feel that buys them the rights to the view across the loch as well.

These are the people who object to the windfarms, who object to the fishfarms, to more ferry services or any other development that might detract from the "visual amenity" at the end  of their "private road - no entry" track. 

In the case of one west coast village, Torridon, the sterilisers succeeded in stopping an active crofter build a home on her croft because it might ruin the landscape.

They are joined by the vested interests of landed class, lairds like Mark Pattison of Kinlochdamph, who thinks that the revival of the nearby Kishorn oil yard would be an environmental disaster and isn't necessary while the west Highlands have "full employment".

The view from Planet Landlord is reflected in powerful landowning charities like the John Muir Trust and the National Trust for Scotland.

Combine that with the bird-loving RSPB and you have a toxic lobby that actively campaigns against economic development while shielding behind the argument that the "unspoilt" landscape (all of it shaped by man at some stage) provides greater wealth.

Well, as Victor, the Russian fisherman in Local Hero, quipped thirty years ago: "You can't eat the scenery".

Backing up the sterilisers' alliance are environmental designations handed out like parking tickets by Scottish government Ministers, who then wring their hands and blame Europe.

The result could be a Highland landscape and seaboard preserved in aspic but empty of people and the jobs that keep them there.

Environmental sterilisation is cumulative process over years and is now cleansing planning decisions. As the Torridon case shows planning power urgently needs to be rebalanced towards the people who want to be able to live - and work - in rural Scotland.  

The Scottish Crofting Federation, the crofters' union, said last week of the decision by Highland Council to reject that croft house in Torridon: "It is particularly alarming that this decision appears to have been heavily influenced by the objections submitted by holiday home owners in the area, people who don't themselves stay and work in the community yet feel they have the right to dictate on where a crofter can and cannot live."

Sùil eile air Runrig 's iad dà fhichead

Nochd am p'ios seo anns an Daily Record an-diugh

’S ann a’ ruith air falbh bho ar cànain a bha sinn nuair a dh’fhàg sinn an taigh anns na h-Ochdadan.

Uill, ’s e sin a bha mise a’ dèanamh, chan eil fhiosam mu fheadhainn eile.

Cha robh luach anns a’ Ghàidhlig, cha robh càil tarraingeach mun àite às an tàinig mi.

Am measg sluagh a’ bhaile mhòir, aig nach robh fhios sam bith cò às a bha sinn, thàinig tuigse oirnn fhìn mar Ghàidheil.

Chan e gu robh sinn eadar-dhealaichte; tha gach neach fa leth. Ach tron chànan bha ceangal againn ri chèile, ris an talamh, ri dualchas agus creideamh a bha, agus a tha, nas motha na sinn fhìn.

Dè dh’atharraich ar cùrsa? An t-astar bhon taigh, gu cinnteach.Ach b’ e rionnag na h-àirde tuath dhuinn an còmhlan Runrig, a tha an-dràsta a’ comharrachadh dà fhichead bliadhna on a thòisich iad.

Do dheugairean, thug iad creideas dhan chànan agus dhan a’ Ghàidhealtachd, fiù ’s ged nach e sin an seòrsa ciùil a bha sinn a’ leantainn.

Aig ìre chultarail, stiùir iad an ginealach agamsa dhachaigh. ’S e sin an tiodlac, an t-uabhal as àirde.