Scotland: Who owns the land?


Scotland has the ‘most concentrated, most inequitable, most unreformed and most undemocratic land ownership system in the entire developed world’ (Professor James Hunter, The Guardian, 2013). Around 432 families own half the land in Scotland. The Global Justice Now report, Scotland’s land barons and their connections to global capitalism published in August 2016, has shown Scotland’s land system is not simply a ‘feudal relic’ but very much part of a global parasitic capitalism (imperialism) with ‘billionaire oilmen and Emirati princes, mineral conglomerates, London property speculators, online clothing retailers, Swiss bankers, and financiers of every sort’ claiming a stake alongside the Dukes of Buccleuch and Argyll.

Landowners in Scotland are notoriously hard to identify, with almost 750,000 acres of land held through a series of opaque offshore companies. The SNP government has been criticised by land campaigners for giving carte blanche to rich industrialists buying up vast swathes of Scotland’s countryside. Under pressure it has set a target of publicly registering all landowners by 2024. Some landowners have already been exposed by Global Justice Now as having links to colonial style racism through land grabs, exploitation, human rights abuses and environmental destruction:

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Thugs in suits and ties, Glasgow council budget 2016

On 10 March, Glasgow’s Labour council passed its budgets for the next two years 2016/17 and 2017/18. A further £130n is to be cut from jobs and services throughout the city. Headline cuts include

- The loss of 1,500 jobs

- Changing job conditions of Cordia care workers, who are responsible for home visits to old and vulnerable people throughout the city, with six public holidays cut, less flexible working hours and apparently restricting overtime hours too. This comes on top of controversial changes to shift patterns which were implemented last year, forcing some care workers to work seven days in a row. The overwhelming majority of care workers are women with caring responsibilities in their own families.

- More cuts in grants to third sector charities and community funds

- a lower standard of cleaning in schools, museums, libraries and offices with janitor posts to be cut from one per school to four in every five schools. This comes despite recent janitor strikes against low pay.

- School children’s breakfast clubs to increase from £1.00 to £2.00. This means an extra £40 a month for 2-child families. School teachers reporting hungry pupils will become more numerous as families struggle to make ends meet.

The overwhelming majority of the cuts have so far not been made public. Glasgow Labour Council is determined to continue austerity, even if it means cementing their defeat to the SNP at the next council elections in 2017. For all their posturing, neither the SNP nor the trade unions are willing to effectively oppose cuts. The SNP, like the Labour Party, are determined to make the working class pay for the crisis.

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Lochee protests against exploitation and austerity. 'SNP! Hear Us Say – Budget Cuts – No Way!'

On Saturday 7 May history came alive at the protest in Lochee. Dundee against Workfare. Dundee Against Austerity (DAA), the Revolutionary Communist Group, Class War, Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Dundee Trades Union Council, Dundee Trades Union and Socialist Coalition and the Socialist Workers Party stood united to condemn workfare exploitation at the Range store.

We were standing on the site of what was once the largest jute mill in the world where Scottish and Irish immigrant workers toiled to make the Baxter, Caird and Cox mill owning families fabulously wealthy. At one point in the 19th Century the densest proportion of millionaires in Europe could be found in the richest suburb of Dundee, Broughty Ferry, many miles from the filth and heat of their factories.

A recent report has highlighted the present 10 years gap in life expectancy between Lochee and the Ferry in the seven miles between them. DAA campaigners have openly condemned the Scottish National Party council's action in setting a wreath around the bust of Sir James Caird on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Fitting then that our protest rallied on Lochee High Street at a modern memorial to Mary Brooksbank, a communist who led unions and unemployed workers in Dundee in the 1920's. In 1968 Mary had sung at the unveiling of the original plaque on the site of James Connolly's birthplace in Little Ireland in the Cowgate, Edinburgh. Her father had worked with James Connolly in organising unions in Dundee and Aberdeen in the 1890's. DAA campaigners were told by locals that a famous photograph of hundreds of predominantly women workers at the mill gates had in fact come about when news of a visit of James Connolly, Irish republican socialist and trade union organiser, reached the factory gates.  

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Scotland: SNP and Labour share out austerity

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 250 April/May 2016

‘This idea that the SNP are going to put an end to austerity is just nonsense.’
David May, independent councillor

Pensioners in Angus have learned the reality of that statement. Service users and their families in the small towns have confronted the SNP-run rural council. Iain Gaul, council leader, argued on BBC Radio Scotland that privatisation was the most effective means of providing care services. The SNP council is seeking £0.5m cuts, and the vulnerable are to bear the cost. So much for the SNP’s claim to be anti-austerity.

Angus Against the Cuts led the opposition. A wee pensioners’ army mounted protests outside council meetings. Supporters from Dundee Against Austerity and the Revolutionary Communist Group joined them. Elderly citizens braved the Scottish winter to demand: ‘Angus Council Hear Us Say – Service Cuts – No Way!’ A 93-year-old woman spoke of this country being a ‘dictatorship’ and recalled the suffering of the last World War after which promises were made about security and welfare.

Despite public assurances that decisions would be reviewed, 28 Tenant Support Officers who help older folks in their homes and in sheltered housing were given formal redundancy notices. Laundry charges, essential for dealing with issues of continence, have been raised and the frequency of critical support services reduced.

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Fighting deportation: exposing the SNP

The Scottish government’s White Paper, published in 2013, proposed that in the event of independence the SNP would end dawn raids, close Dungavel Detention Centre and grant people seeking asylum access to the mainstream welfare system. As it is, immigration law remains a ‘reserved issue’ for Westminster, over which, according to the rules of bourgeois democracy, the Scottish government has ‘no power’. SNP politicians and ministers have repeatedly raised their opposition to inhumane UK immigration policy and proclaimed ‘refugees are welcome here’. However, the reality is that devolved Scottish institutions and public bodies, above all the police, are deeply involved in colluding with the racism of the British state and its associated violence. The apparent outrage of the Scottish government is worthless in the face of Police Scotland’s direct role in carrying out dawn raids and brutalising those who are actually opposing Britain’s racist immigration system.

This collaboration was starkly exposed by recent events in Glasgow. On 21 March, Police Scotland officers and local social workers assisted a Home Office Enforcement Team in carrying out a brutal early morning raid against Beverley Vaanda Kanjii and her 14-year-old son. In the course of the raid, in front of her terrified child, Beverley was handcuffed, dragged across the ground and repeatedly kicked, sustaining serious injuries. After her son refused to board a flight from Glasgow Airport, they were transferred to the Home Office’s Immigration Reporting Centre on Brand Street.

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