Earlier today I posted a copy of an article on Reddit by an American self-described ‘policy wonk’, Will McLeod aka OllieGarkey, giving his opinion on the US perspective on and independent Scotland, NATO and nuclear weapons. In a further comment Will offered these observations on Scotland how the rural areas could be reclaimed by the people of Scotland and redress the imbalance caused by the Clearances. The full thread can be accessed here but I have reposted the text below as I think the ideas expressed are worth considering:
[Once you have finished reading, pop over to the Scottish Rural Parliament and see what they are about.]
Well, just to talk about Scotland then as a Policy Wonk, one of the things that’s always concerned me is the fact that economically, a lot of families in the Central Belt never recovered from the Clearances, both Highland and Lowland. My family was kicked out of Skye during the clearances, but what worries me isn’t a bunch of fat Americans and Canadians, it’s the folks we left behind who are languishing in poverty and generational unemployment.
Scotland has some incredibly fertile farmland in the highlands and islands, but in places like the southern half of the Isle of Mull, there are no farms. There’s just sheep.
Scotland has the capability to completely regrow its forests and turn an ecological wasteland in the highlands into a thriving, living environment with sustainable farms, green energy, and sustainable towns.
Why not create a new redevelopment policy? Tell unemployed folks in Glasgow “If anyone wants a free farm, take these land management and agricultural courses, and we’ll give you one.” Specifically target it as a new, trial scheme as an alternative to council houses. You already consume more food than you use, but bringing green, sustainable agriculture and lumber jobs to the highlands does three things.
First, it provides a basis for an economy. Those farmers will need a pub to go to, a school to send their kids to, a grocer, a baker, a mechanic to fix their equipment, construction workers to build their homes, a plumber to work both on irrigation and plumbing for their homes, and plenty of other industries, some of which exist and can expand, and others of which will need to be built.
You start with one sector of the economy that’s been totally ignored for a few hundred years, and you move forward with it. Soon, you’ve got farming towns popping up in places that are currently totally depopulated. You educate people, you provide help to the ones that want to relocate from the central belt.
Second, you’ve reduced population pressure on public services and housing in central belt. That makes fixing public or private housing that’s falling apart much easier. It also opens up areas of the central belt for easier redevelopment for modern industries. Silicon glen stuff. 3d Printers. The kind of light industry that’s innovative, can be set up overnight, can provide an economic boost, but won’t take a huge sector of the economy with it if it fails.
Third, you’ve increased your exports which means that more money is flowing across the border into Scotland.
And this all sounds really huge, so the way to do it isn’t to have some big scheme were we put all our eggs in the redevelopment basket, and try to do it everywhere all at once.
You pick one part of Scotland that you can redevelop, and you run a pilot program. You make a modest investment in a new farm community, or you breathe life into one that’s seeing its population decline.
If it works, you’ve got a model for redevelopment. If it fails, you ask yourself why, figure out the problems, and if it seems unworkable, then you’ve still built a couple of farms that weren’t there before.
Now take that small picture, and compare it not to Europe, but to Africa. To Latin America. To impoverished parts of the Midwest and the American south.
If an experiment like that works, Scotland will have given the world a way to fight poverty while building farms and sustainable communities.
And this sort of pilot program model applies right across the board in Scotland. There are already models for Community Banking, for small business growth, for worker-owned businesses that can revolutionize the way the world works. You’ve already proven to people that a REAL National Health Service is the smart way to go.
And when you’re rebuilding a country after Thatcherism and generations of neglect, there’s almost unlimited opportunity to try new and potentially revolutionary ways of doing, well, just about everything that a country does.
I feel like some people look at Scotland and see a nation in decline: for every business functioning and aircraft carrier being built, there are still silent, empty shipyards; rusting factories closed for decades; and fishing boats listing, idle, and empty.
But when I look at the numbers on the page, the economic data, and when I talk to Scottish people, that’s not what I see at all.
I see what can be.
I see incredible opportunities, not just to make things better for the people who live in Scotland, but for everyone, everywhere. I see an opportunity for another Scottish Renaissance that fundamentally changes the way we think about the world. From economics, to medicine, to energy, to agriculture, there’s a potential for world-shaking revolution.
As the “Very Serious People” as we call them, or the chattering classes as you call them, bang on about how poor Scotland is and how it will never amount to anything, and how Austerity is the only way forward, you can prove them wrong on every front.
You can show the world how to create wealth without also creating economic injustice.
You can show the world how to grow an economy without destroying the ecology.
You can show the world how you can value your own traditions and languages without needing to hate anyone else’s traditions and languages.
There is so much you can do not just for yourselves, but as an example to the world of the way things should be.
And it’s not going to be overnight. There’s a century of amazing, wonderful, revolutionary work to be done in building Scotland into the nation it should be.
And for me, that’s incredibly exciting, and something I’ll be a part of if I can.