Politics

Highland Scenes - An Essay on Land Reform

 

 

 

A Snow Bunting looks across a mountain landscape with little sign of human habitation. This photograph was taken by my husband Rob Bruce on our Highland holiday this year, on land owned by a reclusive Malaysian businessman.

 

Rob’s big day out across the estate was with our son, and for Walter the trip raised questions about Scotland’s land ownership. Land reform is a hot topic in Scottish politics - There are many large estates in private hands and this is described by the Scottish Government as inequitable. The Highland Clearances generally come up in any debate about land ownership. Changes in tax are in progress, new laws are planned.

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A Visit to the Doctor: Why American Health Care is Sick

American health care is a racket run by scammers who prey on the sick and the worried. Its health professionals behave like escorts in a hostess bar, prompting drunk punters to order the most expensive drinks, knowing they will get a portion of the proceeds. It is a fundamentally dishonest system, heartless and duplicitous. But as well as its immoral base, it is bankrupting America where health spending is heading for one pound in every five of economic activity.

 My personal experience is trivial but salutary. This morning I received two bills for seeking medical help, totalling $600. As a freelance content creator this is a sum that in itself will cause stress. I am kicking myself for going near the doctor in the first place. It turned out that what was ailing me would get better by itself - which it did, within a week. 

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Brexit is an immediate threat: - Remainers should vote SNP; Indyref 2 is a battle for another day.

Every democratic election is a choice, to a certain extent, between the bad and the worse. In that sense, it is much like life. There is seldom a perfect option. And every voter who takes pencil in hand in the privacy of the polling booth will assess the issues, compromise on some and prioritise others.

In the First Past the Post Westminster election, we also vote for - or against - an individual whose name appears on the ballot. It seems likely that across the UK on Thursday night some big names will lose their seats and be subjected to the kind of ritual humiliation by media that goes with the job of MP these days. Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson may be among them.

I am not a nationalist but I will be voting SNP. More specifically, I will vote for Tommy Sheppard in Edinburgh East. Sheppard seems to be a man who takes an international view, not a narrow nationalist one. But my decision is based on his party’s strong pro-EU stance. In the event of a hung Parliament - unlikely though that may be  - the SNP would be a voice for staying in the single market, the customs union, for freedom of movement.

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The Scottish Economy - Could it Survive as an Independent Country?

The debate about the Scottish economy centres largely on GERS which looks at public expenditure - the taxes raised in Scotland and the government spending. These suggest an independent Scotland would have a massive deficit.

This reflects the fact that Scotland has a shrunken private sector. Scotland has a very big public sector and those people are paid, of course, with money that has to be raised from taxation. So if Scotland were to have a sustainable future as an independent country, it would have to expand its private sector and create more profitable businesses.

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How Le Monde Sees Brexit and the Scottish Referendum

The week that ‘Article 30’ was triggered by Nicola Sturgeon and ‘Article 50’ was triggered by Theresa May’s letter, I was in France and over a cafe creme each morning, read about it all in Le Monde. This great European newspaper with its painstaking reportage and thoughtful opinion; sophisticated use of photography, and broad agenda of international news, illuminated the situation and it is always interesting to see oursels as ithers see us, as the poet said.

At their meeting in Glasgow, May said to Sturgeon about the referendum call: “Ce n’est pas le bon moment.” Some things just sound better in French. In English her: “Now is not the time,” has a rather nanny-ish ring, it’s one of those circular phrases that May likes. I can imagine a character saying this in Alice In Wonderland and the White Rabbit replying, irritated, looking at his watch: “The time is always now, don’t you know anything?” But “Ce n’est pas le bon moment,” sounds faintly desperate. It reminds me of the Jacques Brel classic “Ne me quitte pas,” with its lines “Oublier le temps..et le temps perdu” (Forget the time and the time that’s past). This song, of course, would also do as a soundtrack for Brexit.

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