I am tired of writers who do not live in Scotland that argue for a ‘Yes’ vote in the forthcoming referendum (George Monbiot’s article 20/5/14). Many people living here are not persuaded by the SNP’s ‘positive future’ message of a land of milk and honey with an apparently seemless transition from a 300 year old union to independence, instead seeing benefit (both past and present) to Scotland of being part of the UK; the referendum is a ‘black cloud’ that hasn’t moved since the Edinburgh Agreement was signed. I have never known a time when Scotland was so divided on an issue that cuts to the core of identity. I am a federalist who campaigned for a Scottish Parliament but hopes for a ‘No’ vote noting that parties opposed to separation continue to not only deliver more devolved power to Holyrood but pledge more. The SNP Government’s White Paper on Scotland’s Future, available to all Scottish residencies on request at no cost but funded by British taxpayers’ block grant to Holyrood, poses more questions than it answers?
In government, both locally and nationally, the SNP tend towards centrist, controlling and corporate approaches that include planning administration with a local democratic deficit; council tax will have been frozen for nine years by the end of it’s term and they argue for greater fiscal autonomy but have never used the varying tax powers they currently have under devolution.
It is not necessary to break up Britain to deal with private land ownership issues in the highlands and the management of some estates. Power exists under devolution that would be enhanced following a ‘No’ vote; the previous Labour/Liberal Government having delivered the radical Land Reform Act that led to successful community buy-outs by crofters in Assynt and islanders on Eigg, amongst others. I have campaigned since 1997 for a land-use management plan for the highlands and the restoration of the Caledonian Pine Forest. There are many areas of the highlands where forest regeneration has been taking place over the last 25 years and Royal Deeside contains some of the larger Scots Pine forests, saved from the axe by our royal family.
The SNP’s track record on the environment invites scrutiny. The Scots Pine is rightly Scotland’s national tree but it did not prevent the SNP convener of my Council’s planning committee in Big Tree Country using his casting vote recently, which resulted in the felling of one (a memorial site), probably around 250 years old, in the grounds of Perth Academy to make way for a plastic sports pitch when other solutions were possible. The UK has 14 national parks of which only two are in Scotland (both created by the previous government) and their White Paper doesn’t even mention the subject; despite the founding father of national parks being a Scot (John Muir) and a campaign presented to Parliament for a National Parks Strategy for Scotland on this ‘Unfinished Business’, they have rejected calls to create new ones.
In conclusion, I do not recognise Montbiot’s description of the highlands and he should check his facts before extolling the virtues of nationalism as a cure for their problems.
Councillor Mike Barnacle (Independent)
Kinross-shire Ward of Perth & Kinross Council,
CROOK OF DEVON,
Tel: 01577 840516