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.