The Highlands of Scotland are owned by a small handful of very wealthy people who treat the country as their own private playground while receiving massive amounts of money from the EU and paying next to no tax to the UK in return. We are accustomed to seeing Scotland’s bare hillsides and have grown to believe that heather covered hills are the natural landscape but the reality is our country should be covered in trees and play home to countless species of plants, birds and animals which are now extinct. One of the species that is ‘extinct’ from the hills and glens of Scotland are Scots. Our countryside used to play host to countless families, villages and towns until the Highland and Lowland Clearances ethnically cleansed the land of its people.
Over and above that is are the current social and economic injustices that allows small numbers of really rich people land a plenty to indulge themselves in while many ordinary Scots struggle to find a place to call home. Did you know that feudal law still applied in Scotland until as recently as 2004? I didn’t and I thought I knew a fair bit about the iniquities that this country had to offer! What other relics of the past are still lurking in our legal system that really should be a thing of the past in a 21st Century nation?
There is an argument that Highland ‘sporting’ estates are a good source of employment in rural areas. To an extent, that is entirely correct; in some areas, sporting estates are virtually the only source of employment. But the same argument could be used to support working in a sweatshop or dangerous mine in some third world country where often the only way to feed one’s family is to toil in what we, here in Scotland, would consider slave-like conditions. I have had the pleasure of travelling along Norway’s coast on many occasion and what has struck me is how much industry there is in far flung places. If Norway can manage to spread its sources of industrial production along its immensely rugged and extremely long coast then Scotland, with its compact land mass and well-established road, rail and sea links, can certainly ensure that rural populations will not have to rely on rich foreigners coming to kill fish, fowl and fauna in order to make a decent living.
The practices of the landowning class within the Union will not allow this to change for the better any time soon and it will take concerted work post-Independence to address the issue, but at least there is a chance something will get done. Please vote Yes and allow the future Scotland to rebalance the scales.
The map above shows the scale of land-ownership in Scotland. The fact that Scotland is in private rather than state ownership is NOT the problem; the problem is that so very few of the private landowners are ordinary residents of Scotland who work, play and contribute towards the economy, society and culture of Scotland. Instead they are absentee landlords who control the land and what it is used for regardless of how that effects those who live here. I bet you didn’t realise you live on the fringes of a giant playground, did you?