Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Angus Macleod memorial lecture

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Mr Kenny Macaskill, is to give the 10th Angus “Ease” Macleod memorial lecture on 25 October 2013 at Gravir. The lecture, entitled “Opportunities of Independence for Island Communities”.

Without prejudging Mr Macaskill’s speech, I want to log a few observations. I have previously disagreed with one of the lecturers; if memory serves, Mr Bill Lawson postulated in 2006 that Lewis had not been very badly affected by the Clearances. Putting forward that opinion in South Lochs of all places grated with me. The extreme south of South Lochs (Eishken) was wholly cleared of permanent residents in the 1820s, resulting in gross overcrowding in parts of Lochs further north; also, the cruel way in which people from this island were selected for “encouraged emigration” by the chamberlain of James Matheson in 1851 puts Mr Lawson’s opinion in a strange light to say the least.

Although I appreciate that Kenny Macaskill has family connections to South Lochs, I find it equally grating to have a Minister of the current Scottish Government lecturing in South Lochs on opportunities for island communities under independence. For the last 10 years, the residents of the Pairc Estate have been frustrated in their efforts to mount a community buy-out of the land. It is my opinion that the Scottish Government has done very little to expedite the process in favour of the residents, particularly as the landowner has deployed each and every trick in the book to delay the process, and divide the community. Legislative powers should have been created or invoked to counter these methods. It is even worse now that the MSP for the islands is a junior minister in the Scottish Government.
What puts a wry slant on it for me is the recent idea that Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles could break away from an independent Scotland to become a crown dependency, like the Isle of Man. A poll, however, did demonstrate that the idea only carried the support of about 10% of all islanders involved.

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