IT'S NOT ROCKET SALAD………in the Land o' cakes and brither Scots
Guest blog from Textor
As with all nineteenth century national cultures Scotland’s was an area of contestation. Scotland had lost its identity as a sovereign political state having been subsumed within in the larger formation of Great Britain and the United Kingdom; but at the same time the country retained its distinctive spin on law, education and religion. Added to these characteristics was the legacy of destruction of clan systems, some of which had challenged the rule of the Hanoverian settlement. Into the nineteenth century the question of what it meant to be Scottish had become one with numerous possible answers.
Before the half-century had gone, for example it stretched from the view of Walter Scott who recognised that something of value had been lost in the integration of Scottish life to the larger world of Britain but believed that the benefits of a more peaceable, stable and wealthy society outweighed the losses. In this way he was able to paint pictures of aspects of Scotland’s past as distinct, noble and worthy of praise but now anachronism. Scots could mourn their loss but history had moved on. Get over it.
However, with the rapid and radical changes in social and economic life strainsof political thought developed which challenged what we might call the Tory radicalism of Scott. By far the most contestationist were those Chartists who used Scottish history to promote their cause of political and economic rights, who called up the ghosts of the past, in particular William Wallace, to rally opposition to all the corruption and injustice of pre-1850 Britain. Chartists challenged basic political power across Britain and gave voice to ways forward which would have appalled the historical novelist.
On the other hand there were those who came from the enfranchised middle class, those who had gained from extension of political power in 1832. They had found a place in the sun and at the same time, through education and religious attachment, were well aware of Scotland’s unique cultural history. Whilst these elements did not challenge the basic political and economic fabric of Britain it would be a mistake to see them as wholly complacent in the post 1832 settlement. One of the challenges they faced was the inherited rights and privileges of landed interests, not that they wanted to overturn the right to private property just that sometimes land use was called into question often manifesting itself as urban and rural rights of way entanglements.
Which, at last, takes us to John Stuart Blackie. JSB was born in 1809 into a middle class family, his father was a banker. He was educated at Peter Merson’s school in Aberdeen’s Netherkirkgate where, so the story goes, he would daily gaze on the sculptured figure of a knight mounted high on the town house known variously as Benholm’s Lodge and the Wallace Tower. What matters here is that JSB claimed this became the basis of his fascination and enthusiasm for Scottish culture and history. He like so many others mistakenly believed the figure to represented William Wallace.
Leaving the Netherkirkgate school in 1821 he began attending classes at Marischal College. In the same year his mother died. The poor women in her fourteen years of married bliss had given birth to ten children, six outlived her.
Wildly compressing his years as a young man: JSB dropped out of university in 1824, tried his luck in a lawyer’s office but gave this up following spiritual turmoil akin it seems to the protagonist in Confessions of a Justified Sinner or the angst of Kirkegaard. Death became a fixation and religion the answer. He had been raised in a relaxed Presbyterian home, religion was there but as a guide rather than a dictator. But now he had religion and entering the ministry was to be his salvation, or so he thought. Hence it was in 1825, with his father’s permission and money he travelled to Edinburgh to find certainty and salvation. Interestingly he not only prayed deeply and frequently with his cousin Archy Gibson but also believed that good works were important which led him to the poorest parts of Edinburgh.
Restlessness once again overtook him and he was back in Aberdeen in 1826, still studying theology. This lasted until 1829 when his intellectual curiosity, and his father’s money, took him to Germany the most important event in his life; and before the year was out had given up all thoughts of becoming a minister and worse, at least for those who had hopes of him becoming a leading Scottish Divine, he rejected the Westminster Confession of Faith and turned instead towards a more liberal, historical and humanist doctrine which he was finding in Germany; he also discovered beer and Greek. From being a young man configured with thoughts of death, atonement and redemption he travelled across the liberal divide to arrive at the opinion that Scottish Presbyterianism was silly and pernicious, threatening to stunt the spirit and intellectual lives of children. This was balanced, if balance is the correct term, by his Scottishness, by his continuing sense of pride in the distinct contribution that Scotland had made in religion and despite his criticisms would have none of the bigotry of English High Churchism.
For a moment he toyed with Roman Catholicism but soon gave this up preferring Scottish Sabbatarianism to racket and rattle, fiddling and frivolity . . . and tasteless mummery. His antipathy to aspects of English culture was heightened by his experiences in Germany where he found that John Bull . . .speaks no German . . . is not a great favourite . . . proud selfish and has a mercantile spirit.
Illustrating his secular turn of mind, on a walking tour to Florence he took the opportunity of studying peasant farming and landholding using this to ask questions of Irish land law; and he expressed his support for parliamentary reform and read Shelley’s “Queen Mab” with enthusiasm. However, he was given little time to speculate on possible social injustices as his father had grown weary of the Continental Jaunt.
JSB was summoned home in 1831 where he was told to return to Edinburgh University to study law, which he did. A hateful experience which resulted in his admission in 1834 to the Society of Advocates. At the same time his father stopped JSB’s allowance. It was now sink or swim by his own abilities.
Resenting spending time on the minutiae of Scots Law Blackie resolved to earn a living from writing aiming at the burgeoning market for learned reviews but his central goal was find a university post in Scotland. Aberdeen at the time was a city being run by middle class, liberal Whig men. Blackie’s father Alexander was of this ilk and had the ear of these men. One of the ways of extending influence across the city and beyond was to have a university Chair filled by a sympathetic academic or even, as happened in Aberdeen, canvas for creation of a new Chair and connive to have a suitable candidate win the post. A Chair in Latin was created at Marischal College of which Blackie said a Whig job it unquestionably was, not that this made him unhappy, far from it. With strong political friends he had every chance of winning the Chair. There was one fly in the ointment: his rejection of the Westminster Confession of Faith. He was horror-struck, for to accept the post meant signing up to Calvinism, a condition of teaching at universities.
JSB was no fool. He had the wit and the legal training to get round issue, a little deceit and fancy footwork was the answer. He signed the Confession which was accepted and ratified by the Presbytery. To the Church of Scotland’s horror the new Professor then admitted that signing of the document was not a statement of his own beliefs simply a statement that his teaching would be within the bounds imposed by the Confession. A storm blew-up but in the end the blast of a trumpet for secular education was heard and Blackie began his university career in 1841.
JSB found teaching at Marischal too constrained and hidebound. He wanted a bigger and more stimulating environment for his pedagogic skills. With Greek being his first intellectual love he set up the Hellenic Society, took to lecturing to working men and women outside the university bounds where he found a more receptive audience; in contrast the university had a low standard of attainment and ambition. With this opinion it is hardly surprising that he was on the lookout for a post away from Aberdeen. But it took years for him to find a job which he eventually did in 1852 when he was appointed to the Chair of Greek at Edinburgh University, this after again undergoing questions as to his religious affiliation which he had said was the gospel of the heart as found in the New Testament. Unlike the youth of the 1830s he now had no interest in going into a corner to look at the point [of my nose] and solve the mystery of the Trinity. Nonetheless, he might not be interested in biblical nasal gazing but some men who influenced university appointments were concerned and it took hard canvassing by Blackie to win the post but win it he did. He remained at Edinburgh University until retirement in 1882 and died in 1895.
Within the sixty odd years of active intellectual life JSB displayed an amazing ability to at one and the same moment be the odd man at the table, the one who looked and sounded wrong to men and women of conventional wisdom yet always seemed to be welcome at the table. Perhaps it’s a bit like fellow Scotsman Thomas Carlyle (Blackie described him as a notable monster) who cried misery to Progress and so much of what Victorian Britain stood for yet was keenly read and listened to by both a middle class and working class audiences.
Blackie differed in many ways from Carlyle, he had a joy of good living of company and the pleasures life, including female company (he had married in 1841 with a most unconventional romance). Unlike the London based “Sage” he was not miserable. But he did, like Carlyle, betray that willingness to express affection for working men and women, for their capacity to deal with adversity, their willingness to labour and to grasp at learning. But again like Carlyle grasping could only go so far. Under the tutelage of enlightened men such as himself industrious classes could find a better world, unease only emerges when working men and women begin to formulate alternatives generated by themselves. As with so many of the middle class reformers of the 1830s JSB could not get his head around the notion that Chartists might be proposing alternatives which needed to be taken intellectually seriously. Attending a Chartist meeting in 1843 he heard a meagre scarecrow of a man extolling Carlyle’s critique of industrialisation, pouring out floods of real natural eloquence on the triumphs of democracy. Much impressed by the physical looks of the orator and the voice the Professor of Latin pulled back from full endorsement, perhaps not wishing to be deceived as he had deceived the Presbytery of Aberdeen. Appearance and sound was all very well but what of the Chartist substance? And this was found wanting.
Democracy, there was truth there too, but more than half-a lie. I believe the majority are good-but are they wise can a multitude of passion-moved men be wise? His answer was no. Critical thought and wisdom of any value could not come from mass movements rather it was to be found with a solitary sage in a chamber. Having said this when in 1843 the Scottish Church split Blackie sided with the dissenters, which in Aberdeen was all the ministers in the city, describing the men who walked out of the Church as noble but these men were of course from a respectable class.
But to return to his Scottishness, apart from wearing a plaid as everyday dress he asserted his national if not his class identity by questioning land usage in the Highlands. Addressing the problem first broached in the 1830s he turned to the medium of poetry to show his distaste for families being cleared from land. Like his one-time colleague at Marischal College, William MacGillivray, Blackie walked Scotland. This gave him ample opportunity to see the cleared land and with him learning Gaelic in the 1860s was able to speak directly to men and women forcibly driven from crofts.
The poems he published in 1857 under the title “Braemar Ballads” gives vent to his anger and sadness at viewing deserted and ruined clachans across the landscape: Where the stump of a stricken ash tree/ Shows the spot, where the home of the cottar should be. Villain of the piece is the destruction of social unity which, he said, had underpinned Highland clan society being replaced first by sheep farming then deer forest. It’s not great poetry but the message is clear, the chieftains are gone, the kind lords of the glen have left the heather muirs, they bartered the rights of the brave Highlandman putting what should be a Scottish heritage into the hands of stalkers of deer . . . lordlings that live for the pleasure to kill. Make no mistake the man hostile to organised Chartism makes a searing indictment of clearances: O heartless lords, O loveless law, with calculation cold / Ye sold the mighty force, that glows in faithful hearts, for gold . . . Woe unto you, the grasping crew . . . By Heaven, it is a lawless land! We boast that we are free. And he asks how and why this has happened. Having pretty well jettisoned the ideology of Providential acts with his turn to the morality of love he squarely puts the blame on the drive for wealth and money and the absolute right of an owner to dispose of property as he or she saw fit.
Clearances, he said were a man-made phenomena, one that his beloved Scotland needs hang its head in shame: O Albin! O my country! O my dear Highland home/ The lust of gold hath ruined thee, the lust that ruined Rome. Absentee proprietors he wrote These be the masters, Scotland! Commerce was the problem. A society which centred its activity in manufacturing for profit rather than expanding the moral worth of individuals was bound to slip towards treating men and woman as numbers in an accounting ledger. This was a theme he had touched on in the 1840s when he encouraged Aberdeen male shop assistants to treat with both customers and employers for the restriction on what we would now call unsocial working hours. Long working days Blackie said gave little time for education and appreciation of the better things of life. Interestingly the shop men found a great deal of support for their request amongst Aberdeen’s great and good but there was little similar enthusiasm for improving the working conditions of men and women employed in more industrial enterprises. With this moral stance it should come as no surprise that JSB was hostile to utilitarian philosophy.
Land use and tenure had to change, one remedy was to find men in Parliament to represent the needs of small farmers and find some way of restricting the spread of large farms; to bring back the form of close relationship which had at one time, he believed, typified clan society. Absentee landlords could have no feeling for the men and women of the land and being a Gaelic speaker he excoriated those who lived in the Highlands but would not learn the native tongue. We should remember that the university professor had got his first step up the academic ladder with the assistance of Aberdeen’s Whigs, men who favoured (without being absolutists) the free play of the market and the right of capital to make capital. Clearly any whiggism retained by Blackie was held within his moral critique. His liberal view of religion and pedagogic humanism melded with the large ethical stance to make him a man well-able to sit with academics across Britain and beyond, to flirt (literally) with women of the highest social standing, be invited to the houses of great landowners and give talks on politics, literature to working men. Looking at JSB it is easy to conclude that for all that he made the call to action a central issue of his philosophy he was sufficiently distant from it to actually upset the social circles he inhabited. But this would be unfair. For all his deviousness in rising to his first professorship he did raise publicly the issue of the right to teach without affirming membership of or agreement with the Church of Scotland; this was a conscience issue which he resolved by being cleverer than his opponents. Similarly his outspoken attack on clearances could have threatened to close many doors in his face. Indeed following the publication of the poems he was encouraged to write a letter The Times setting out his views; this was no shrinking sentimentalist, my whole breakfast table was deluged with papers about the desolation in the Highlands. In 1883 Blackie demonstrated his continued commitment to reforming Scotland’s land laws; he gave evidence to the Napier Commission where he called for fair rents with fixity of tenure for small tenants; called on restrictions on both large sheep farms and deer forests and for a Royal Commission to look into some way of redistributing land to the benefit crofters. These and other points made by him showed that the example of Ireland with soul-destroying poverty and rapacious landlords and Gladstonian liberalism’s attempt to relieve the conditions of the poor farmer was not lost on JSB. Unlike some of his contemporaries he did not blame Popery for the sad state of Ireland it was, he said, down to the English . . . [who] sucked the blood systematically out of the people; the English were filled with measureless greed. Scots it seems had nothing to do with the state of Ireland which sounds a bit like his plea that it was English landlords who brought the Highlands down, move along no Scots here. Paradoxically for all the denunciation of clearances he had a very good relationship with the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland, one of the most kind-hearted easy-going . . . creatures that I have ever met . . . a sweet blooded race these Sutherlands. There is surely a question mark over this view of the family notorious for its clearances. Probably the solution to the tensions and dissonances in Blackie’s social policies is that on the one hand he wanted to avoid materialism (philosophical and otherwise) of liberalism and the closed reactionary bulwarks of the Tories. Thus he would swing between them, looking for spiritual values, liberal education and decent treatment of the poor. Liberals gave so much as did Tory paternalism, at one point he wrote that Tories are the best landlords and true friends of the crofters; and the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland would have fallen into being the best of the lot as they were drawn from the old heads of houses and clans. Flying between the two poles of liberalism and Toryism of course left him adrift from the one philosophy of action emerging from outside his class, namely socialism. For all the progressive things he stood for he was constrained within the limits of his class vision forced to search for solutions and salvation in the world of commerce.
Some Early Scottish Agricultural writers
Lord Belhaven’s pamphlet, The Country Man’s Rudiments, or An Advice to the Farmers of East Lothian how to labour and manure their grounds (1699) must be in with a shout for longest title ever. This so embarrassed Belhaven he published it anonymously.
But let us start with another famous name.
Sir Archibald Napier is mostly known for his associations: his father was the illustrious mathematician, physicist and astronomer, John Napier, who invented logarithms and an early calculator known as Napier’s bones; his wife, Margaret Graham, was a sister of James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose – the Covenanter leader who turned. Archibald himself was a judge and politician at the time of the Union of Crowns and he was among the coterie who accompanied James VI to England to be crowned king of England and Ireland.
The Napiers’ estate was Merchiston at Edinburgh and Archibald thought he understood enough about agriculture to offer advice to others in the shape of an early publication on husbandry. Essentially his message was to dose cultivated land with common salt. It is not clear why he came to this view and it is doubtful anyone who worked the land would be persuaded to try this out but it did impress King James VI. Now I know little about James other than he was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots and went on to become king in England and Ireland as well as Scotland at which point he was demoted from VI to I, oh, and that he was too lazy to get off his horse to take a pee. But so impressed was he with Archie he awarded him a 21-year patent to liberally sprinkle salt from one end of Scotland to the other.
Scottish agriculture is not what it used to be, and if Napier’s practice is anything to go by then it’s just as well. Back in the 16th and 17th centuries life was mostly lived locally, apart from men called away to fight to defend someone’s else’s argument, and food was what you produced within your communities. Nowadays much less importance is placed upon agriculture within Britain – far less than elsewhere in Europe. That said there are parts of Scotland where agriculture still dominates the landscape and is vital to local and national economies: Aberdeenshire, Galloway and Orkney for example.
Back in Napier’s time there were the beginnings of agricultural ‘improvements’. Improvements is a loaded term I know which benefit some and are detrimental to others. Scotland adapted more slowly to new methods of farming than England and parts of the Continent but once she caught up Scottish improvers transformed how land was worked, how it looked and the relationship of rural dwellers with it; some of the best agricultural innovators in Britain coming from this part of the country.
Scotland, as we know, is hugely varied when it comes to how land is owned and worked with major differences between the Lowlands and the Highlands; partly as a consequence of the terrain and partly from the inheritance of the organisation of land where Highland estates were changed irrevocably following the Jacobite Risings of the 18th century when land confiscation was rife and and clan relationships destroyed.
Times were transforming in other ways with the industrialisation of Britain establishing new ways of living; becoming dependent of earning a wage to buy food instead of growing it being one obvious change.
And for those who didn’t move to town to find work in one of the new manufactories how they engaged with the land altered, how they were housed, how they were paid as well as what was grown on the land.
The number of printed works promoting new methods of farming increased from the 16th century, at first often written by owners of land, such as Napier, but in successive centuries others developed the confidence to air their opinions.
An early writer was Thomas Tusser who gave us Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandrie in 1599. I would have thought one hundred ideas might have sufficed to get farming off to quite a good start and, well, five hundred seems a little excessive. Given there are only 365 days in the average year it would take a farmer one whole year to get through a mere 73% of his suggestions, assuming he or she was adopting one per day, by which time it would be time to start back at number 1.
Few Scottish farmers fell for his multiplicity of advice but Tusser proved a bit of a hit in England’s shires and his book went on to become a best-seller in South Britain. Tusser is also remembered (or Googleable) for coining the adage: A fool and his money are soon parted – whether that was a comment on those who bought his book or not we can only imagine.
Proving far more popular back in Bonnie Scotland was advice from John Reid, a gardener to Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, by Avoch (for all you non-Gaelic types Avoch is pronounced Och). Reid’s book admittedly was on gardening but he included observations and suggestions on growing crops so its inclusion it justified. Reid’s book became so popular it was reprinted in many editions following the initial 1683 print-run.
Just squeezing into my list is a guide by anonymous from Aberdeen who in 1684 published a directory of annual fairs and weekly markets (faires and weekly mercats) across Scotland – and I wish I had a copy of it.
A trickle of advice grew into a veritable torrent of publications, each offering instructions on everything from the best way to feed the infield -as much manure as can be fitted onto a muckle graip seems to sum that up – to using the outfield to grow flax and hemp which was essential for homespun fabrics and later for commercial textile production (I have an ancient mortcloth spun from home-grown Black Isle flax and home woven by my greeeeeaaaatttt-something Granny -obviously surplus to requirements). Of developing importance in this world where eating flesh was a rarity for the majority was the rearing and raising of cattle and sheep, for food, leather and wool and much else besides.
Back to manure for a moment. James Donaldson, another laird’s son, published his Husbandry Anatomised, or, an Enquiry into the present manner of Toiling and Manuring the Ground in Scotland in 1697. It was possibly written as a money-spinner for, despite being a laird’s son (or perhaps because he was the scion of a laird) James was no horny-handed toiler of the soil and his instructions were of very little use to those who were. When that sunk in and the book failed to establish his reputation, one that would do him any good, Donaldson thought he would become a merchant only to discover that trade was not what he’d imagined either so he offered himself up to the army of a King always referred to as William III – although in Scotland he was William II, running a poor second to William the Lion of the 12th/13th centuries – and he never gets demoted, unlike James the pee-er. Anyway, William was king of just about everywhere as well as oranges and lemons and he was evidently tight because he didn’t pay Donaldson who eventually said sod this and made off, followed by his considerable debts and his creditors.
Just think about this for a moment. King Billy II and III was forgetful about paying his soldiers, certainly Donaldson who ended up owing money to folk who provided him with food and other stuff and was therefore in debt. Donaldson’s debt came about, partly because he wrote a bad book on agriculture but also because King Billy didn’t pay him. Yet no-one hounded King Billy the Freeloader for not paying his debts, they were only interested in pursuing Donaldson (and other Donaldsons). Debts, you see, become less of a crime the greater your status.
Don’t feel too much pity for Donaldson just yet. When he returned from abroad he penned another book on farming based on what he observed on his travels across the Continent and nauseatingly dedicated this publication to the Lord Chancellor of Scotland, Patrick, Earl of Marchmont and ‘the whole Remnant Lords of His Majesties most Honourable Privy Council.’
His gross toadying made no difference. The book, as they say, bombed … as did his poetry… but that’s another story. However it would be wrong to dismiss his work entirely for Donaldson did strongly advise manuring the infield – the one-third of land nearest the house that was best cultivated – and rotating its crops of oats, barley or bere and peas. As for the farther off ground, the outfield, he recommended resting fifty percent of it for two consecutive years to recover from cultivating oats on its less enriched soil.
Other helpful ideas Donaldson discovered abroad included providing shelter for beasts (now often lacking in Scotland with wire fences replacing stone dykes) during bad weather and enriching the land with marl, seaweed (sea-ware) and lime as well as promoting the planting of the new vegetable called potatoes and specialist grasses and clover for grazing and replenishing exhausted soil.
And good lad that he was, he criticised the Scottish habit of weaning lambs at around four week so farmers could get more milk from ewes for cheese-making, and which he claimed led to high numbers of deaths among lambs. Donaldson was spot-on too in criticising short leases for tenant farmers who then had no incentive to improve their fields as any improvements they made would be enjoyed by the next tenant in line.
I haven’t forgotten about Belhaven, it’s a name that lives on, if for different reasons.
Belhaven had, as a member of the Scottish Privy Council (this is before all that Union malarkey) had been one of a group of prominent men who asked King William the Orange to run Scotland and he joined the Orange King’s army but it appears any time was too long in the company of the old fruit and Belhaven became ‘a passionate opponent of the Union’ who could see where that small clique of prominent Scotsmen, the Squadrone Volante, who forced through the Union against popular opinion were leading their country – to obscurity and foreign taxation. Such was his passion, they (the new Great British state) arrested him for expressing his opposition to the Union and hauled him off to London where he was treated so abominably, it’s said under pressure from members of the Privy Council, that he died in July 1708 aged 51.
His legacy was a powerful, if futile stand, in defence of Scotland’s continuing independence and a successful book on husbandry which went into several editions. He reiterated the need for land to be fed to support annual crops and advocated cultivating turnips, as animal fodder, and the potato. Belhaven was also concerned over tenant farmer poverty and debt – suggesting rents should be paid partly in kind, with grain as they were traditionally, but partly with money for as he explained a laird might take all or nearly all the crop during a bad growing season leaving the tenant and his family to starve.
William Mackintosh was 10 years old in 1672 when he travelled from Borlum in Inverness-shire to study at King’s College, Aberdeen’s first university. He would go on to tour the Continent and England, eventually returning to Scotland, to Alvie near Aviemore, where he took over a farm and incensed his neighbours by experimenting with enclosures – closing off pieces of land into separate fields as opposed to the traditional open areas of infield and outfield through which animals could roam and graze on growing crops. The hedges he planted to divide up his fields were ripped out and the banks he built for the same purpose were broken down by angry locals who wanted to retain old and familiar ways of farming.
At the Jacobite rising of 1715 Mackintosh, as their Brigadier-General, raised a company of Mackintosh clansmen which occupied Inverness for a time before heading south by foot and sail to take Leith. From there they continued into England, rendezvousing with English Jacobites at the Border and onward to Preston. Captured, Mackintosh was taken to London and imprisoned in Newgate goal from where six-months later he and some fellow-prisoners overpowered their jailers and escaped. A £1000 bounty, something around quarter of a million pounds today, was put on his head but Mackintosh made it to France, along with his son. Within a few years he was desperate to return to Scotland but still outlawed he was forced to keep on the move for government forces were ruthless in tracking down and silencing opposition. Mackintosh was captured in Caithness and locked up in Edinburgh Castle where he remained until his death, many years later, at the age of eighty in 1743.
But what about his book you are asking . An Essay on the Ways and Means of Inclosing, Fallowing, Plant, &c, Scotland, and that in sixteen years at Farthest, by a Lover of His Country was published in 1729 while Mackintosh was a prisoner in Edinburgh. In it he encouraged farmers to leave some land fallow before re-sowing it and he favoured growing wheat instead of the bere which was commonly grown in Scotland for its quick growth that required only a short season to mature. He too supported cultivating flax and hemp.
Mackintosh also supported extending tenancy leases, to 19 years in his view, to encourage better use of land and appealed for an end to tenant farmers being forced to work their laird’s fields which took them away from tending their own land. And, of course, Mackintosh promoted enclosing fields, separating stock from arable farming.
Adam Dickson, kirk minister at Whittingham, East Lothian thought he would add his penny’s worth to the farming debate and published a series of essays on the subject. His Treatise of Husbandry specified differences between farming in Scotland and elsewhere, with reference to the country’s climate and soil conditions. Dickson’s works took a more modern approach to land improvements, more scientific than anecdotal.
Land-holding and social relationships on the land affected the development of agriculture in Scotland. The early 18th century was a period when the British state confiscated estates owned by Jacobite supporters of the ’15 and ’45. Following the 1715 Rising a commission of Scots and English was set-up to manage these properties and very quickly most of them were flogged off to a dodgy bunch of land speculators who went by the name of York Buildings Company for £411,000 and thereafter to the highest bidder.
Mistakes were learned from that episode and following the ’45, land grabbed by the government and crown was managed entirely by Scots who were more sensitive to the complex relationships of tenants and their exiled lairds. As a result affordable rents were set, schools were built and local industries were introduced.
When, in 1784, estates were restored to some of their owners the terms were not ungenerous although the estates commissioners continued to take revenue out of these estates to fund expensive projects such as the Forth and Clyde Canal, the building of Register House in Edinburgh and a payment of £3000 to the Highland Society.
The agricultural revolution transformed food production in Scotland and as a consequence our relationship with land. Land-holding in Scotland is as relevant today as it was in the 18th century and what Scotland needs is another revolution – over the ownership of Scotland’s land. As for professional advice to Scotland’s farmers it still comes in printed form and over the past three hundred years a myriad of farming societies, some local others national. Over the past century guidance has come through the Rowett and Macaulay Institutes in Aberdeen and the Scottish College of Agriculture, now called something else and regrettably not the institution it was once but indicative of the reduced importance of agriculture in Scotland.
If you believed John Knox long dead you would be wrong. He is dead but his coarse ranting against the unnatural desires of women to assume equality with men live on in the hearts and minds of the Labour Party in Scotland, as was made apparent in the rapturous reception and support for its stark misogynist message to the women of Scotland last weekend.
I came on a passage from John the Resurrected in the Party’s Wee Red, White and Blue book of handy things to say on doorsteps (but don’t mention alcohol at football anymore). I’m summarising for reasons obvious if you’ve seen the actual text.
The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regimen of Women
(Aye there was not a ‘t’ on Regimen – refers to rule or governing)
The head of woman is man, and she must be commanded and give homage and obedience and appear before him, honouring him with the distinction of his position for man has received a certain glory and dignity above the woman. Scotland has drunk the enchantment and venom of Circe (a sorceress) to its own shame and confusion.
How abominable before the Party, (that was one-time called socialist but that was a long time ago and now we are exceeding right-wing and intolerant [as is our right]) is the empire or rule of a wicked woman (yea, of a traitress and bastard); and what may a people or nation (not Scotland you understand because we don’t believe we are a nation but a fiefdom of brother England wherein are domiciled our imperial masters) carry on destitute of a lawful head, a mere wee lassie in a tin hat.
I see our country intent on challenging the natural order that Scotland shall remain a region of England and yet there are those who would question this order for a monstrous empire [government] of a cruel woman.
It is more than a monster in nature that a woman shall reign and have empire above man. And yet, with us all there is such silence. I know the natural Scotsman, enemy to the Nats, shall find many causes why we should hold our tongues and ought not to speak out on these things in these dangerous days before a General Election: first, for that it may seem to lose us votes; secondarily, that it may lose us more votes.
But woe be to me, if I preach not the evangel of the doctrine of the Labour Party in Scotland!
If any think that the empire of women is of little importance, that to speak of such is to hazard our MPs their seats I answer, that it is the duty of every true messenger of the Party to let women know their place. For what, I pray you, is more able to cause a woman to forget her own condition, than if she is lifted up in authority above man? It is a very difficult thing to a man (be he never so constant) promoted to honours, not to be tickled somewhat with pride (for the wind of vain glory does easily carry up the dry dust of the earth).
But as for woman, it is no more possible that she, being set aloft in authority above man, shall resist the motions of pride, than it is able to the weak reed, or to the turning weathercock, not to bow or turn at the intensity of the inconstant wind. And therefore I say forbid all women to intermeddle in the office of man.
For it is written in de Viginibus Velandis: “It is not permitted to a woman to speak in the parliament, neither to discourse, neither to reason, neither to vindicate to herself any office of man.” For it is written of a place called Scotland where there is a great monster in nature, that women in those parts are not tamed nor abased by consideration of their own sex, but that, all shame laid apart, they make use of their intellect, and question the word of men, and take pleasure in this way that they care not what men think of them and will not be subject to man.
The Labour Party in Scotland abhors all attempts by women to promote themselves as leaders over men for it has been written long ago in smoke clouded rooms that it is the nature of women to be inferior to men.
A vote for Labour is a vote to keep women repressed and bridled at all times.
Is my repast ready? Toot toot.
The UK’s publicly funded broadcaster, the BBC, was under fire for its distortion of news and blatant promotion of views in favour of preserving the union during the Scottish independent campaign. It issued the usual denials it was ‘at it’ but then it would say that wouldn’t it. The referendum controversy was happening at the same time the BBC found its reputation taking a hammering over revelations of mismanagement and its institutional cover-up of serious sex crimes involving its personnel.
With the 2015 general election in the offing it is again doing what it does best declaring impartiality and fairness while in fact it is twisting and manipulating arguments in a way that undermine democracy. BBC management and government are inextricably linked so it can be blatant about taking certain actions such as its refusal to host the Disasters Emergency Committee Gaza Appeal when Israel was pulverising that strip of land and its people.
The BBC takes its role as the voice of the state seriously. The links between the BBC and government are strong and effective. When the criminal Andy Coulson was forced out of David Cameron’s office, BBC Global News controller Craig Oliver stepped right in. The Director General of the BBC Lord Hall insisted that when former cabinet minister James Purnell, who served in Gordon Brown’s government, took up his £300 000 job as Director of Strategy and Digital with the BBC he ‘hung his boots up at the door and left politics behind.’ And yes he is that same Purnell, yet another Labour MP up to his neck in scandal having screwed money out of the tax payer, claiming £100 a month for cleaning expenses and £586 for repair etc etc – not forgetting £247 for 3,000 fridge magnets. More damning in my eyes was he was the one who proposed charging interest on crisis loans taken out by people on very low incomes. However he impressed the BBC management and got a plum job.
There was Gordon Brown’s other little helper, Ed Richards, also an adviser to Blair on media, telecoms, internet and e-govt, who helped draft the Act setting up Ofcom. He found his niche at the BBC and as chief executive of Ofcom. Nice piece of symmetry there.
There was Bill Bush, Head of Political Research and Analysis at the BBC, who then worked for Blair and Tessa Jowell whose brief covered the BBC licence fee. His assistant at the BBC, Catherine Rimmer, went with him to Downing Street.
There are so many of them – former Director General John Birt had been member of Labour Party. Former DG Greg Dyke was a Labour donor and activist and once stood as a Labour candidate for the GLC. Oh, and Birt’s former diary secretary, Katie Kay, also worked for Blair.
There was Gavin Davies a former BBC Chairman and Labourite and financial backer, and adviser to two Labour governments, whose wife was Gordon Brown’s private secretary. There was Sir Michael Lyons , one-time Labour councillor, also a BBC Chairman who headed the BBC Trust, and appointed by the then Labour government. Ben Bradshaw BBC Labour – is that a Party? I’m beginning to wonder.
There was Chris Bryant BBC Head of European Affair /Labour MP for Rhondda. Celia Barlow, one-time Labour MP and PPS and BBC reporter and Home News Editor when she was also Secretary of Chelsea Constituency Labour Party. And not to be left out her husband Sam Jaffa and one-time BBC’s man in North America and a Labour wannabe politician coming 3rd in an election in 2001. Better than 4th.
Let’s draw a curtain over Celia’s involvement in the 2009 parliamentary expenses scandal. What’s that – she claimed over £28, 000 for her second home and then flipped it. I just hope it was worth it – and the whirlpool bath and the high lustre silver shower screen, nice. Phil Woolas Labour MP and Minister and BBC producer on Newsnight. Denis MacShane Labour MP and Minister and BBC reporter. Tom Kelly former BBC Head of News in Northern Ireland worked for Blair and became Director of Communications at the Northern Ireland Office. His role came under scrutiny in 1998 when ‘plans for an unprecedented PR offensive to secure a Yes vote in the referendum on the Good Friday agreement’ came to light. Denials were put out it was an attempt to manipulate public opinion but the Rev Ian Paisley said at the time it, ‘makes Machiavelli look like a rank amateur.’
Anyone remember Geoff Mulgan BBC reporter and adviser to Brown? No. Well what about Lance Price, BBC journalist who was Alistair Campbell’s assistant? You know Labour’s Director of Communications. Tim Luckhurst goes back a way, once PPO for Donald Dewar, Labour former First Minister of Scotland, and stood as a Labour candidate in the 1987 election. He went on to work on the BBC’s political and current affairs flagship programme Today. He was Editor of News Programmes at BBC Scotland (that fine democratic and professional body). Luckhurst wrote a critical piece for the New Statesman on Scottish devolution entitled, ‘Scotland returns to the Dark Ages.’ With Donald Dewar in mind there was Peter Hyman who worked as a researcher for Labour’s Scottish leader who was also a producer at the BBC.
Charlie Whelan once seldom out of the news was another Brown spinner and BBC presenter. Martin Sixsmith was a BBC foreign correspondent who switched to become Director of Communications with the Labour government. When I say switched it wasn’t much of a switch as most of you will agree. He was Labour’s Director of Communications and Press Secretary to Harriet Harman and Darling Darling. Where is he now? Still works with the BBC – had a 25-part radio series on this year, ‘In Search of Ourselves.’
Don’t have to search too far to discover the hand of a Labour apparatchik on the rudder of news and current affairs at the BBC. Where were we – ah, yes – someone called Joy Johnson worked as a Political Editor with the BBC – curious how these people are all interested in politics isn’t it, not many hanging up their proverbial boots at the proverbial door as far as I can make out. Joy was a Campaigns Director for Brown – Brown again – he’s a guy with lots of links or is that strings? Joy went on to work for Ken Livingstone – I believe he was in charge of some parochial wee town in the far south of the UK. And staying with Brown, did you know that at his wedding his bridesmaids were the offspring of Gavyn Davies the former BBC Chairman? No reason why you should – except there is every reason you should be aware that the UK political establishment is riddled with former BBC employees and visa versa. All of which is a long-winded way of saying when the BBC insists it is an honest broker in the world of British politics it is anything but. What is the point of a state-run broadcaster if the state cannot use it for its own ends?
In 1940 Sir John Reith, Mr BBC, was appointed Minister of Information with the Chamberlain government. During the 1950s the DG of the BBC, Sir Ian Jacob, was seconded to the Ministry of Defence where he was criticised by Churchill for failing to be his propaganda bitch. To his credit Jacob believed that the BBC should not be used in such a way by government. It is a pity his opinion has not been shared by all who take up influential posts within the BBC. Sir Hugh Greene was DG in the sixties. He had been involved with the Political Warfare Executive during WW2, a covert propaganda organisation that had been set up in 1921. This shadowy body included others from the BBC – Robert Bruce Lockhart, a later DG, Ivone Kirkpatrick, an adviser to the BBC. The information spinning machine run by this group was partly housed at BBC HQ. Many of you will recall the bizarre period when the government wanted to stifle the voice of the IRA and so we were subject to the likes of now Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness, being voiced-over by actors although curiously the BBC did not subject the UDA to the silence treatment. Not that there was anything political in this decision.
All this is a long way of saying when the BBC maintains it is pursuing a ‘fair and realistic formula’ in its coverage of the 2015 general election we can take that with a pinch of salt. When it presents us with what it swears is an objective presentation of the current state of UK politics we can be sure it is anything but. When the BBC says it uses levels of past and current electoral support to determine how much it promotes political parties we can be sure it is ignoring that bloody great elephant in the room. When the BBC hold up its hands in horror at the suggestion that UKIP’s success is partly down to the amount of coverage this party gets on the BBC we know it is being deceitful. When the BBC attempts to justify its unjustifiable intention to include UKIP in the 2015 leader debates it is dissembling – BBC – ‘Although UKIP did not win a seat in the 2010 general election, they polled more than three times as many votes as the Green Party, which did win a seat. In the 2014 European elections, UKIP topped the poll, beating all the Westminster parties in terms of seats (24) and share of the vote (more than 27% – up more than 10% on 2009). The Greens won three seats in the European election, with just under 8% of the vote (a small drop since 2009).’
When the BBC attempts to justify the unjustifiable decision to exclude the SNP from these debates through a cobbled together argument that the SNP is not a UK-wide party we are witnessing direct political interference in democracy in the UK by the BBC. The last time the BBC were actively campaigning it was to keep Scotland in the UK so either Scotland is in it or it isn’t and as it clearly is still a member of the UK its interests should be aired during these debates, across the UK, not those confined to Scotland. If the BBC can argue a case for UKIP to appear on grounds that it, ‘…performed strongly in local government elections in England for the past two years’ then the strong performance of the SNP in Scotland should be also germane. If England is highlighted as relevant in a UK-wide context then so too should Scotland.
Where the BBC argues it takes ‘account of opinion polls, when there is a robust and consistent trend’ then it should open its eyes farther than the shires of England to the political hinterland of Scotland and see what the polls are saying here about the biggest party in this country (still part of the UK) and the third largest party in the UK.
When the BBC shrugs its collective shoulders and insists it is acceptable that the whole of the UK see political leaders arguing their case for issues which affect Scotland as part of the UK without the leader of the third biggest party in the UK it is returning to the days of gagging certain political voices and promoting others.
The BBC website carries a page called Manifesto watch: Where parties stand on key issues the pictures on this page are taken from it. Couching it as views from ‘The main UK-wide political parties’ is a ruse to prevent exploration of matters relevant to the whole populations of Scotland and Wales. And the BBC gets even this completely wrong because while it maintains it is presenting only UK-wide concerns it includes law and order, education, jobs, housing which are devolved issues to Scotland. So even under its own strangulated logic it fails to present its licence fee payers in Scotland (and Wales) with a breakdown of policies by party on these vital issues. One of the problems with the BBC it is up to its neck in politics and is furiously promoting a reactionary agenda that fails to reflect the changed political landscape here in Scotland (still part of the UK). The BBC is being dishonest . It should remove this page immediately and replace it with one which includes references to devolved matters in Scotland on which the UK citizens in Scotland will be voting in 2015.
It should immediately discard its plans to have any TV debates that include the Conservatives, Lib Dems, Labour and/or UKIP, (and the Greens) without representation of the SNP. Having secondary debates in Scotland allows multiple opportunities for the first four parties to present their opinions while wilfully restricting the voice of the SNP.
We do not expect the BBC to reform itself. It is clearly so mired in party politics it does not even recognise the absurdity and anti-democratic nature of its output. All we can do it expose the corruption of this nasty and deceitful organsiation.
Keiser at his best on what Thatcher has done for Britain.
Funny and sharply observed.
Why did they want to censor this film?
Watch it to find out.
Let’s nail the lie. LibDems tell us how they are a moderating influence over what otherwise would be the excesses of the Conservatives in government.
This is pure fantasy.
The LibDems far from protecting us from merciless Tory policies have enabled them.
Without the LibDems the Tories would not be imposing their austerity measures on us.
Let us not forget how eager the LibDems were at the prospect of getting into government at Westminster in 2010. They couldn’t wait to dump their election promises to park their bums on the ministerial limos’ leather seats and so we are faced with the present programme of callous attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable in this country.
The LibDems want us to see them as the good guys in this relationship. They are not.
The LibDems are responsible for every savage cut to services and every welfare attack on the vulnerable. The LibDems are as culpable for the bedroom tax as any shire Tory; as responsible for the immense pressure imposed on the mentally ill by those Atos assessments for disability benefits.
Far from doing favours for the electorate LibDems have shown themselves to be consummate hypocrites.
The years of the Blair and Brown governments saw an increase in inequality in the UK. In real terms the poor were being pushed further back into poverty while the incomes of the wealthiest rose incrementally. It surprised some that this should occur under Labour governments and the LibDems condemned Labour for its ideological move to the right. You might assume that while in government the LibDems would use their manifesto platform to halt social and economic inequality.
So what happened once the LibDems took over the limousines of power? Inequality has increased still further. Now the UK stands comes in at number 4 in the inequality stakes in the developed world and their tenure is not finished. We can be sure that however bleak things looks now they are going to get a whole lot bleaker.
And this is entirely due to the LibDems. Remember the LibDems are the yes lobby fodder of this coalition government.
Could it have been different? It looked for a time after the 2010 election that the LibDems might join Labour in coalition. As we know Alistair Darling promised the country savage cuts to sort out the economy and the LibDems might argue that Labour’s promises to cut harder and deeper than the Tories led to them turning to the Tories as the least Draconian option. Let’s not go there. We are where we are.
We have had three years of LibDem duplicity, denials, excuses, obfuscation.
LibDems the enabler party. LibDems have enabled the Tories to do whatever they like and Clegg and co are happy to take on that role. Manifesto promises. Promises shromises.
Pledge dodger Clegg turned up at the LibDem conference in Dundee where he criticised Salmond for giving out mixed messages on independence.
He should know about mixed messages. That is precisely what you get from LibDems.
But Clegg likes to pontificate. He turns up in Scotland to issue a warning that we should not believe anything the SNP says. Well no – not everything but some things we can and we are able to judge their policies here in Scotland (unlike Clegg we don’t have to rely on briefings to know what is going on.)
We can do the same with the LibDems in power at Westminster.
And what do we discover when we look at the record of Clegg and co in government? Broken promises from a dodgy manifesto which reveals that Clegg and his apparatchiks will go to any lengths to stay in power, to enjoy riding the limos for as long as possible.
It is not Scotland’s oil say the LibDems but it could be Shetland’s and Orkney’s demonstrating that when it comes to pronouncements LibDems will say anything, absolutely anything, because as we know the LibDems don’t join up the dots when it comes to principles or policies.
Clegg also warns the Scottish people that it will be very difficult for a Scottish government to run its offshore oil industry ‘on its own’. This is inane drivel. Just words.
It would have been very difficult for the Tories to form a government ‘on its own’. In the event it didn’t need to – it had Tories by another name, LibDems, to do that with them.
Mixed-message Clegg and his mouthpieces promise Scotland will become a land of milk and honey if only we vote No.
They would have us believe Scotland will miraculously flourish if we stay part of the Union. Doesn’t matter that the evidence points otherwise.
Willie Rennie promise us pie in the sky in the sweet by and by but last time this was promised to Scotland – for returning a No vote in the devolution referendum of 1979 -did we get our pie? Did we hell. We got war, the poll tax, greater unemployment, the steady transfer of wealth from the public to the private sector, a sharp decline in industrial output, a reduction of affordable homes, the blatant transfer of wealth to London and the southeast.
When was Scotland ever at the centre of Westminster’s planning for infrastructure, for economic development?
The answer is never. And if you think Thatcher was indifferent to Scotland’s economy and culture wait until a coalition of the Tories or Labour in cahoots with their obliging little helpers the LibDems stop crowing in the event of a No return in the referendum. Prepare to be shocked.
If you are thinking we have devolved government so what’s all this talk about Westminster – remember what LibDem leader in Scotland Willie Rennie said last week, ‘The bedroom tax is tough, but it is central to the welfare reforms.’ That’s right – ‘central to the welfare reforms’ – welfare and reform being key words but if you imagine reform always leads to an improvement in welfare think again. This is reform in terms of restructuring on economic grounds and this is being said by the ‘Scottish’ LibDems so don’t get fooled that a label makes them different from any other brand of LibDem up and down the country.
Remember this when you vote no. You might not be poor. You might not be disabled. Lucky you. Don’t turn your back on those who are.
The LibDems are looking to influence what happens in Scotland if the referendum comes back negative so prepare yourself for a stream of easy promises.
Promises shromises. In 2010 they promised:
“Fair taxes that put money back in your pocket. A fair chance for every child. A fair future, creating jobs by making Britain greener. A fair deal for you from politicians.”
Vroom, vroom – that’s Clegg being chauffeured in his limo into Downing Street. Rip – that’s him tearing up the LibDems’ manifesto promises -taxes, VAT, tuition fees, bankers’ bonuses, cutting rail fares, blah blah only words. They didn’t have to mean what they promised. Well they didn’t.
Where is the UK economy going? Who knows, least of all the organ grinder Chancellor Osborne and his monkey Alexander. Under their guardianship the UK has lost its triple A status. This means we can expect far harsher measures to come, imposed by LibDems and Tories in their desperate attempt to prevent the economy spiralling into freefall. All their bluster that an independent Scotland would suffer because of its inevitable loss of the Triple A has been quietly forgotten by our flexible friends. Now Danny Alexander tells us that credit ratings aren’t ‘the be all and end all’ Just words. They don’t believe them why should we?
Despite being hoist by his own petard Alexander insists it will always be worse for an independent Scotland – that Scotland has ‘no track record’ (of major debt) so will find it difficult to borrow to pay back debt. You can’t say that the LibDems don’t have a track record – in not meaning what they say, in promising anything to capture votes, of slithering this way and that to keep in with their coalition colleagues, whoever they are, for the LibDems are not fussy who they share power with – they just love it. Those limos.
Last week with breathtaking hypocrisy Nick Clegg accused Salmond of sending out mixed messages – over independence. Mixed messages are precisely what you get from LibDems who still like to claim the moral high ground. He warned the Scottish people that it will be very difficult for a Scottish government run its offshore oil industry ‘on its own’. You might think, well at least we wouldn’t have Osborne and Alexander. Then again, according to the LibDems, it is not Scotland’s oil at all but it could be Shetland’s and Orkney’s revealing again that they will say anything, absolutely anything because as we know the LibDems don’t join up the dots when it comes to principles or policies.
I don’t think Clegg knows much about Scotland. I doubt it’s high on the agenda ‘back home’. Certainly hasn’t been in the past. That doesn’t stop him from issuing a warning that we can’t believe anything the SNP say. Well no – not everything but some things we can and other things we see with our own eyes. And anyway independence is not just about the SNP. There are nationalists who don’t vote SNP. We know what’s going on in Scotland unlike Clegg. What we can also see is that other track record of the LibDems – broken pledges and their dodgy manifesto.
We should all remember the words of The Times reporter, Louis Heren when referring to politicians, ‘Why is this lying bastard lying to me?’
I suppose some politicians believe the lies they tell us. Doesn’t mean we have to.
The LibDems are a moderating influence? The evidence tells us otherwise. The LibDems are responsible, along with the Tories, for this determined shift in the economic balance so that the greater share of profits goes to capitalists at the expense of Britain’s working families and pensioners. Irrespective of their bluster LibDems are the facilitators of austerity Britain.
The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black Black Oil was a tour-de-force in political theatre.
Written as a musical drama by John McGrath, from Liverpool, it looks at how Scotland and its people have been systematically tricked, beaten and exploited for its resources of land, sea and people.
Set up in the 1970s, the agit-prop theatre group 7:84 – a reference to 7% of the UK population who owned 84% of the wealth of the UK – it proved a great hit with audiences in small venues all around Scotland.
Bill Paterson and Alex Norton are probably the best know of its actors from this time but the talented cast was excellent.
For those in Aberdeen who watched the first run of The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black Black Oil in 1973 it proved an unforgettable experience
This film comes from a television version broadcast in 1974 so is nearly 40 years old. Allowing for issues of quality given its age stick with it. It’s great fun and you will undoubtedly learn a thing or two about Scotland and be hugely entertained into the bargain.