Showing posts with label aristocracy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label aristocracy. Show all posts

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Madness of Class

Under Scotland's Mental Health Act, someone with a mental illness can be detained against their will if a doctor and a mental health officer agree that they suffer from a mental disorder. This must be for the maximum benefit of the individual. It should also respect the wishes of their relatives or carer.

Lady Hamilton, wife of the Duke of Hamilton, said a psychiatrist had suggested they go to hospital to check the duke's medication and she was led to believe this would just be for a few days but after she filled in an admissions form she was told her husband had actually been sectioned for 28 days.

"I said, 'It's alright pet. You're here voluntarily, you can come home if you want to'. Then a voice behind said, 'No he can't. He's been sectioned for 28 days and he may not get out then'."

"I thought, if this can happen to the Duke of Hamilton, what chance has Joe Bloggs got?"

Lady Hamilton managed to have her husband discharged on a 'pass' on condition that she arranged 24-hour care for him at home.

The Hamilton dukedom is the third oldest in the UK and the senior title in Scotland, dating from 1643. Indeed, and this titled aristocrat should now also be questioning all the privileges in life a duke gets compared with Joe Bloggs, not just only the possibility of paying privately for 24-hour private care.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Blue-Bloods of Scotland Mobilise

The Duke of Roxburghe and other members of the nobility have lobbied the government on its moves to help individuals and communities buy land which  has been in the hands of the aristocracy for generations. A Land Reform Review Group (LRRG) has been set up by the Scottish Government to examine ways of increasing community ownership of the land. A forthcoming review of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act will look at granting an absolute right-to-buy for tenant farmers. That would give them the right to buy-out landowners, even if they are unwilling to sell.

The duke owns the Roxburghe Estate, an enterprise with a £10.1 million turnover with Floors Castle, near Kelso, at its heart  and includes the Roxburghe Hotel and a championship golf course.

 The Earl of Seafield at its head, warned against the “fragmentation” of the land and played the ecological environmental green card to justify his extensive ownership of land as of his shooting and hunting grouse moors were run naturally.

James Carnegy-Arbuthnot, director a family company that owns the 3,250-acre Balnamoon  near Brechin described the extension of  right-to-buy legislation as a “highly vexatious proposal in the eyes of landowners” and described“This amounts to the dispossession of land from one person to the advantage of another and has no place in any democratic system.

Atholl Estates, which oversees 145,000 acres in Highland Perthshire, was critical of increasing community ownership as a means of redistributing land, saying: “It certainly should not be used as a tool to politically engineer property ownership away from one group of people to another as this fundamentally undermines Scotland’s credibility as a nation that respects the private sector, free markets and the protection of property rights as a cornerstone of human rights and financial security.”

 Douglas and Angus Estates, which are owned by the family of the former Tory prime minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home and currently under the stewardship of David, the 15th Earl of Home, remarked the current ownership arrangement put the estates at the heart of community life.

The agent for Kinnordy Estates, Kirriemuir, owned by Lord Lyell, former Tory minister said: “In the instance of Kinnordy Estate and its locality to the town of Kirriemuir, I do not believe there is justification for the wider public community to have a stake in ownership, governance, management or use of the land… land and estate management must remain in the hands of those qualified for the task (by merit of both qualification and experience) as demonstrated on Kinnordy Estate.

Land-reform campaigner Andy Wightman said: “I want to live in a land where class distinctions are no longer legitimised by the recognition of aristocratic titles and where the principle of equality underpins access to land rights… I want to live in a country that finally puts an end to the centuries of landed power and returns the land to the people of Scotland – both men and women.”

Half of Scotland is owned by just 500 people, many of them those relics from feudal time who believe they have a birth-right to “their” land.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The poor once again pay the rich

The Duke of Roxburghe could net £1.5 million a year from a wind farm on the Lammermuir Hills. The Earl of Moray is estimated to receive £2 million a year from a wind farm near Stirling. The Earl of Glasgow could be earning upwards of £300,000 a year from turbines on his Kelburn estate. These hang-overs from our feudal past earn large sums by renting their land to wind-turbine energy firms whose wind farms are in turn subsidised by extra levies on ordinary electricity consumers.

Alison Elliot, chair of the Land Reform Review Group (LRRG), said the issue would be investigated amid concerns that aristocrats are benefiting from the renewables revolution while the poor grapple with fuel­poverty. Dr Elliot told Sir Robert Clerk of Penicuik, a consultant for Smith Gore and a landowner at the centre of a storm over plans for wind turbines on his estate: “Land is implicated in providing food, space for housing and in overcoming fuel poverty.“We are an energy rich country so why do we have fuel poverty?”

The Church of Scotland said such figures represented a “significant transfer of income from domestic electricity consumers, including those living in fuel poverty, to landowners...The Church is concerned this redistribution of income is tending to promote inequality. The ownership of land in Scotland remains deeply inequitable and the new landed income from wind power entrenches that inequality.” It added: “A paradox of life in rural Scotland is that the rapid growth of renewable energy is matched by a growth in fuel poverty… This is unacceptable and if landowners are gaining financial rewards from renewables while a growing number of households are living in fuel poverty, then the strong case for re-examining land reform to ensure the financial benefits of renewables are shared more equitably is strengthened further.”

Monday, December 17, 2012

Blue-Blood Feminism

Daughters of titled aristocrats are calling for a re-examination of inheritance rules amid claims the proposed change in succession laws which will allow a daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to become Queen would leave the gentry "two steps behind" the royal family with calls for the aristocracy to overhaul its own traditions to grant women equality with men by ending the rule of male primogeniture.

 The anomaly was highlighted last year by Julian Fellowes, a life peer, who described it as “outrageous” that his wife Emma Kitchener’s family title will die out rather than pass to a female heir. The current Earl, Henry Herbert Kitchener, a descendant of Field Marshal Horatio Kitchener, is 92 and has no children. Emma Kitchener is his niece but, under the current practice, cannot inherit.

 Another victim of this sexual discrimination is Lady Clare Kerr whose  father, the Tory politician Michael Ancram, is the 13th Marquess of Lothian, but neither she nor her younger sister will inherit the title which will eventually pass to an uncle. Lady Clare, who is married to the Tory minister Nick Hurd, said it was now time to re-examine the practice.

Also among those being passed over under inheritance rules are the three daughters of the Duke of Rutland: Lady Violet Manners, 19, and her sisters Lady Alice and Lady Eliza. The heir to their family seat, Belvoir Castle, is their 13-year-old brother Charles, the Marquess of Granby.

 Peter Yorke,  author of the Official Sloane Ranger Handbook, said that the tradition of male primogeniture had developed to preserve aristocratic power and wealth by preventing estates being divided up but was now ripe for reform. “What mattered was that the estate goes to one person...n this sense primogeniture is more important than gender, it goes to one person rather than being divided up. The relative survival of the British aristocracy is down to them being cruel to younger sons, but also daughters. Daughters you married off, younger sons became soldiers or clergymen or whatever, they went off to safe bits of the establishment"  
Socialist Courier cares little for the rights of the female aristocracy to feudal titles, baronial homes and family estates.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Robber Barons

Scottish "noble" families have survived for centuries. In many cases these are people who gained control of large areas of the country by the lottery of inheritance. Often their fore bearers murdered and stole for their estates or were awarded land as payment from a monarch. In the early 1990s at the top of the aristocratic ladder were Britain's 24 Dukes and Duchesses and no fewer than eight of them (33%) were Scots. They were the Dukes of Hamilton, Argyll, Atholl, Buccleuch and Queensberry, Fife, Montrose, Roxburghe and Sutherland. Some of their titles predated the Union of 1707. Next are the Marquises, and again the proportion of Scots is high. Scotland in 1992 had only 9% of Britain's population but it had more than 25% of its Marquises, these being Aberdeen and Temair, Ailsa, Bute, Huntley, Linlithgow, Lothian, Queensberry, Tweedale and Zetland. Of the five women who are Countesses in their own right four are Scots: Dysart, Loudon, Mar and Sutherland. Of the 16 women in 1992 who were baronesses in their own right, five held Scots titles.

Their ancestors murdered and stole their way to a fortune in medieval times. The inheritors of this stolen wealth have continued to prosper under capitalism. The small landed clique has in their time held absolute power. The courts were packed with their lackeys, and their class sat in judgement over everyone else. In church, the hand-picked ministers sermoned from the pulpit, about the "rich man in his castle and the poor man at his gate" and of how god "made everyone and ordered their estate".

Under their despotic rule Scotland's miners were enslaved along with their families until the end of the 18th century. Not only did they oppose trade unions, their tame Judges hanged and sentenced trade unionists to transportation for life. With their off-spring in the House of Commons and pater in the Lords they opposed every progressive measure, decade after decade. They made their peace with the aspiring Victorian capitalists and together they turned their fire on the working class. The new capitalist class soon acquired titles and land of their own. Marrying their sons and daughters into the nobility. Their descendants receiving a dash of the old blue blood.

This, landed elite, now provide a useful cover for today's robber barons that control the market system. With their romantic ancient titles, fancy robes, court ritual (most of it made up in the last century by the Victorians) and public school accents, the Monarchy and the Aristocracy are supposed to provide the glue that binds the nation together. They are the guardians of our heritage. An historical pageant of heroes, battles and daring-do. It's all a lie, a great big historical con-trick. The monarchy and their landed hangers-on are a parasitical class. Descended from murderers, thieves and rogues. For a thousand years they have used and abused the land for their own purpose, pleasure and profit. The lands that their descendants hold today are stolen property. Acquired, by theft and fraud. Their title deeds are murder, massacre and rape. The vast wealth of, Buccleuch, Cawdor, Atholl, Bute and their, ilk. was created, in the first place, by a medieval brigands.

The Atholls trace their line back to a murderous Flemish pirate called Freskin. The family, have a great fondness for plunder.

The "sly sleekit" Campbells in their various guises, are a family who have supplied some of the biggest rogues ever to disgrace Scotland. You name it they've done it. Treachery, theft and murder are just some of this mob's specialities. Nothing stopped this gang of thieves. They grabbed the lands of Cawdor through kidnap and child molesting. In the early 16th century the chief of the Argyle branch of the tribe had his son kidnap and marry the 12 year-old heiress to the land's of Cawdor.

The Scotts of Buccleuch have moved on from being cattle rustling reivers to the dukes. The original Scott was one Richard, a traitorous character who signed the infamous 'ragman's roll' and sold out to Edward the First. This family of bandits achieved their Dukedom not by so called noble deeds, but by marrying a young child off to a son of Charles the Second.

The Stuarts of Bute are descended, like the present head of the Windsor clan, from an illegitimate daughter of the first Stewart King Robert the Second. This character was a useless nonentity. The Stewart's were a dysfunctional lot. James the First was murdered by members of his own family. His grief-stricken widow had the perpetrators roasted over an open fire. James the Third was stabbed to death after a family feud, when he was defeated by his own son. The Stewart's brought ruin on Scotland time and time again. One of them betrayed William Wallace for £100 worth of land. It all came to a sticky end at Culloden, when the not-so-Bonnie Prince Charlie fled the field, and left his troops to the tender mercies of Butcher Cumberland

John the 3rd Earl of Bute had a great fondness for money, other peoples. He wangled himself the job of his dreams as First Lord of the Treasury. This 18th century upper crust wide-boy had very sticky fingers. He managed to steal a fortune before he was found out and driven from office by popular demand. The bold John had looted enough though to build himself a large mansion in London stuffed full of art treasures. The present 7th Marquis, also Earl of Dumfries (John Bute as he prefers to be called) the former racing driver, inherited a fortune of £110 million, needless to say he never offered to re-pay what his ancestor stole.

The Douglas, Hamilton and Home clans have rampaged across the centuries. These three dynasties are, linked, by a thousand threads. Its hard tell were one lot ends and the other begins.

The late Duke of Hamilton is Scotland's premier Duke and has more titles than you can shake a stick at. He is also a descendent of the Douglas clan.

The Douglas's are another tribe, which has that rascal Freskin the pirate in its lineage. Their most famous historical figure was the 'Black Douglas'. Portrayed as a Scottish hero, he was nothing of the kind. In reality he was a bloodthirsty psychopath. One of his so-called heroic deeds was to massacre a group of unarmed soldiers on their way to church on a Palm Sunday. He rose to prominence under Robert the Bruce.

Bruce like the rest of his kind knew how to play both sides. This Norman whose family had long held lands in England (his father was Edward the First's governor in Carlisle) put the interests of Bruce before anything else. He even fought alongside Edward against the Scots. He grabbed the throne after murdering another claimant 'Red' John Combine in a Dumfries church. Comyn not the brightest of a very dim bunch turned up to meet the noble Robert on his own and Bruce stuck the knife in. After defeating the English based Norman's and their local Norman allies at Bannockburn, Bruce carved up the country amongst his Norman pals.

As for the poor Scottish peasants, life went on as before. It was nasty, brutal and short.

The founder of the glorious Hamilton bloodline was a Norman robber baron Walter Fitz-Gilbert. This thug bolted north after murdering a bandit with a bigger gang than him. His passport, to the big-time came, through an act of betrayal. The bold Walter had sworn allegiance to Edward the First and got fixed up with a nice little job -keeper of Bothwell castle. On hearing the result from Bannockburn, it was make your mind-up time big style. He flew the English standard and welcomed all those fleeing the battle. Quickly turning his coat, he handed the lot of them over to the Bruce. This one act of betrayal made the families fortune.

The Hamilton's piled up a fortune from mining before nationalisation. Whilst the miners of Lanarkshire sweated in the bowels of the earth the Hamilton's sat back and counted the royalties. Such was the greed of this crew that they allowed their stately home Hamilton Palace to be undermined. It had to be demolished in the twenties.

The third leg of this noble treble is provided by the Homes. They claim decent from an old Scottish King called William the Lion. This individual's nickname was a huge exaggeration. The Homes turned murder theft and treachery into a fine art. Over the years they feathered their nest well with mining royalties. Douglas-Home who was a Tory Prime Minister in the sixties was the 14th Earl of Home.

The Drummond Castle Estate lands in Perthshire has been passed down the generations to Baroness Willoughby, daughter of the last Earl of Ancaster. The Ancaster’s acquired the land by marrying into the Drummond family. The Drummonds were gifted much of these vast estates by courting the favour of Robert the Bruce and then Robert II. The first Earl of Moray was the illegitimate child of James V and given numerous titles by his father. The Moray family’s estates were stolen from the Church. Much of this land still remains under the control of the current Earl whose late wife was the elder daughter of the 7th Earl of Mansfield.

The Earl of Airlie and The Marquis of Huntly are but two minor aristocrats in terms of landownership, and yet their position as landowners in their respective localities brings with the title certain forms of symbolic and ceremonial power.

The Earl of Airlie is reputed to own 37,300 acres of land north of Kirriemuir in Angus. The Earl is in many ways the quintessential Scottish aristocrat, living in the royal county of Angus alongside the Queen and the Earls of Strathmore, Southesk, Dalhousie and Woolton. His principal residence, Cortachy Castle, is set in heavily wooded land beside the River South Esk. Educated at Eton, and having served with the Scots Guards, he remains well connected with the ceremonial establishment. Like past Earls of Airlie who owned land in Glenisla, the Earl of Airlie's patronage gave him control over the proceedings of the Gathering of the Glenisla Highland and Friendly Society, a Gathering which dates back to 1852.
The Airlie family are illustrative of the fact that networks and family connections play a key role in preserving and supporting the landowning interest. Networks in conjunction with organisations such as the Scottish Landowners Federation help to sustain a core body of beliefs and attitudes with regards to preservation of sporting estates, the sanctity of private property rights, and exaggerated claims concerning the contributions which rural sports make to both the local economy and rural employment. Such connections and indeed the sporting season itself provide insights into the heart of the British and Scottish establishment. The late Queen Mother was the daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore (Glamis in Angus). The Queen (land in Angus and Aberdeenshire) herself has a cousin, the fifth Earl of Granville (North Uist Estate) whose daughter is married to Jonathan Bulmer (Amhuinnsuidhe Estate in Inverness-shire) whose brother David also owns Ledmore Estate in Sutherland. The second Earl of Granville's daughter was the mother of John Granville Morrison, Lord Margadale (Islay Estate). The Queen is also related to the Earl of Airlie (Airlie Estates) through his brother, Sir Angus Ogilvy who is married to Princess Alexandra of Kent. The Countess of Airlie is also Lady to the Bedchamber of the Queen. The Queen's aunt, the Duchess of Gloucester, is the third daughter of the seventh Duke of Buccleuch whose widow was the daughter of the 13th Earl of Home. The current Duke of Buccleuch's sister is the Duchess of Northumberland (Burncastle in Berwickshire).

The Marquis of Huntly remains in charge of Aboyne Castle Estate Trustees and yet perhaps the significance of the position is more symbolically displayed at the Aboyne Highland Gathering, a Gathering at which a nominal unity sometimes conceals the fact that at the same event there co-exist different seating arrangements, different styles of dress, different social codes and prescriptions, all of which serve to unite and segregate different social groups. At Aboyne the ceremonial display of flags is but one small indicator of the social spaces which different people occupy. At the opening of the Gathering the Royal banner or flag is the first to be raised, shortly followed by the banner belonging to the Marquis of Huntly, who fulfils the dual roles of feudal superior and local patron to the Aboyne Highland Gatherings and Games. Subsequent banners, raised on either side of the two flags, tend to provide not just a galaxy of colours but also an insight into the upper circles of power and social structure within the district, the Highlands and Scotland.

Ever since 1603 when James the Sixth moved the Scottish Court down to London, the Scottish elites have taken their cue from London. The process continued all through the 18th and 19th centuries as Scotland's 'Noble' families joined the Anglican Church, sent their children to English public schools and universities, married their English counterparts, and used their Scottish estates to fund their social life in London. This has had a profound anglicising effect on the influential upper reaches of Scottish society. To some extent the Scottish upper classes have become nominal Scots, Scots in name only. They are Scots who speak with English accents - or at least that variety of English accent which has become the language of power and influence. They are educated in English public schools like Eton College, Winchester and Harrow or English-style public schools like Fettes, Glenalmond and Gordonstoun which happen to be in Scotland. They prefer the universities of Oxford and Cambridge to the universities of Scotland. They also have a distinct tendency to marry their counterparts south of the border, who, very often inherit their land and property. Which is one of the reasons so much of rural and highland Scotland is owned from addresses in the better-heeled parts of the Home Counties and the West Country.

There are nine Scottish Dukes; Abercorn, Argyll, Atholl, Buccleuch, Fife, Hamilton, Montrose, Roxburghe and Sutherland. Six of them were educated at Eton, and only two in Scotland - The Duke of Argyll at Glenalmond and the Duke of Fife at Gordonstoun. And these schools while in Scotland have nothing to do with the Scottish educational system. There are sixteen 'Knights' of the Thistle, Scotland's highest order of chivalry. Only three were educated inside the Scottish system. There are 31 Queen's Lords Lieutenant in Scotland and there are There are 32 Queen's Bodyguard in Scotland, again most came from the same anglicised, social milieu of English public schools. The Scottish upper class - the social elite - is now more or less totally anglicised.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Scots Land?

In Scotland's feudal system of land tenure all rights of ownership are vested in the Crown as Paramount Superior. All rights of land ownership are deemed to derive from the Crown which is the ultimate owner in Scotland. However, it is hard to believe in an advanced industrialised democracy that a natural asset as basic as land can still be largely controlled by a small band of aristocrats. Yet in modern day Scotland a system of land ownership which is feudal and hierarchical has remained substantially intact since the 11th century. A mere 579 private landowners own 50 percent of all land north of the border, giving Scotland the narrowest concentration of land wealth in the whole of Europe. Even in industrialised parts of the area such as the "Mid-Scotland and Fife" EU parliamentary constituency, a small group of private landowners and aristocrats still control much of the land. The aristocrats of the houses of Argyll, Buccleuch, Home, Roxburghe, Stair, Airlie, Lothian, Montrose, Hamilton, Moray, Westminster, Burton, Cowdray, Dulverton and others still control about 13% of Scotland. The private ownership of land has allowed a tiny minority of people to control economic and social activity in Scotland, a small number of people are able to disproportionately influence the lives and environment of others.

Tom Johnston in his 1909 book Scotland’s Noble Families wrote: “Show the people that our Old Nobility is not noble, that its lands are stolen lands – stolen by either force or fraud; show people that the title-deeds are rapine, murder, massacre, cheating, or court harlotry; dissolve the halo of divinity that surrounds the hereditary title; let the people clearly understand that our present House of Lords is composed largely of descendants of successful pirates and rogues… A democracy ignorant of the past is not qualified either to analyse the present or to shape the future and so, in the interests of the High Priests of Politics and the Lordly Money-Changers of Society, great care has been taken to offer us stories of useless pageantry, chronicles of the birth and death of Kings, annals of Court intrigue and international war, while withheld from us were the real facts and narratives of moment, the loss of our ancient freedoms, the rape of our common lands and the shameless and dastardly methods by which a few selected stocks snatched the patrimony of the people."

He denounced the Scottish aristocracy on the grounds that three-quarters of them were descendants of foreign freebooters who forcibly took possession of our land after the Norman Conquest of 1066.

“Your land, eh?”, asks the miner.
“Yes”, replies the laird, “and my grouse and my deer.”
“And who did you get this land from?”
“Well, I inherited it from my father.”
“And who did he get it from?” the miner insists.
“He inherited it from his father, of course. The land has been in my family for over 400 years,” the laird proudly declared .
“OK, so how did your family come to own this land 400 years ago?” the miner asks.
“Well....actually.... they fought for it!”
“Fine,” replies the miner. “Take your jacket off and I’ll fight you now for it.”

If it was only that easy but the story demonstrates is not that all land is illegally held and so it can justify seizing land by force but that historically, legal and political systems have acknowledged rights to land on the basis that the ownership is already properly established. Historically, such claims can be relatively easily disputed and it is only the existence of an agreed code of law that prevents rival claims being entertained. Rights in land are entirely dependent for their legitimacy on the wider agreement of the society upon whose legal system such rights rest.

Professor Cosmo Innes (1798-1874), Advocate and Professor of Constitutional Law and History wrote in his Scotch Legal Antiquities,
“Looking over our country, the land held in common was of vast extent. In truth, the arable - the cultivated land of Scotland, the land early appropriated and held by charter - is a narrow strip on the river bank or beside the sea. The inland, the upland, the moor, the mountain were really not occupied at all for agricultural purposes, or served only to keep the poor and their cattle from starving. They were not thought of when charters were made and lands feudalised. Now as cultivation increased, the tendency in the agricultural mind was to occupy these wide commons, and our lawyers lent themselves to appropriate the poor man’s grazing to the neighbouring baron. They pointed to his charter with its clause of parts and pertinents, with its general clause of mosses and moors - clauses taken from the style book, not with any reference to the territory conveyed in that charter; and although the charter was hundreds of years old, and the lord had never possessed any of the common, when it came to be divided, the lord got the whole that was allocated to the estate, and the poor cottar none. The poor had no lawyers.”

Not only did the poor have no lawyers. They spoke no Latin either and were not in the habit of traveling to Edinburgh on a regular basis to examine the title deeds of the nobility. In Scotland, indeed in the whole of Britain, centuries of enclosure and eviction created a vast class of displaced people whose only recourse was to migrate to the industrial centres. This proved quite a convenient source of labour for the emerging industrial owners, who frequently converted their growing wealth into political power by purchasing land. This power was also reinforced through the provision of tied housing for their landless labourers.

Appealing to such concept as the "national heritage" allowed the Lords and lairds to insinuate their own histories and that of their families into that of the nation. They can present themselves not simply as the owners of appreciating economic assets, but as the "keepers of the nation's soul", the phrase used by the National Trust for Scotland. Scotland's lairds have sought to convert their own histories into that of the nation, so that, by implication, one cannot abolish one without the other. In recent years, landowners have also adapted their claim to authority not only based on their legal claim, but on the view that they are the proper managers - stewards - of Scotland's "natural heritage". It helps this claim that purchasers of land often view land as a means of consumption rather than production, that they have bought land for reasons of status conferment and consumption, rather than or as well as for its economic potential as a tradable commodity. In other words, they are making use of forms of what academics called cultural capital (rather than material/financial capital) to position themselves in the field. When they are most successful in doing this, management science conservationists have to work around and through them. They are involved in "objectifying" Scotland's natural heritage in such a way that assumes the rightness of the social order.

This "capture" of Scotland's heritage is an important weapon in class survival. The landowning establishment among Scotland's elite continue to have their links into financial and money-making circles, as well as considerable cultural power. The "mighty magnates" of 19th century Scotland - the men (and some women) who headed the great houses - were essentially a rentier rather than an entrepreneurial class, making their money from rents and investments. They were sufficiently astute to invest in the new industrial capitalism which ran Scotland economically and politically for so long, while being strongly represented on the boards of the major banks and finance houses. At the turn of the century, The Marquess of Linlithgow, for example, was a director of the Bank of Scotland, and Standard Life; the Duke of Buccleuch, of the Royal Bank, Standard Life and Scottish Equitable; the Earl of Mansfield, of the National Bank, and Scottish Equitable; and the Marquess of Tweeddale, of the Commercial Bank, Edinburgh Life, and Scottish Widows. Such hegemony has, of course, eroded significantly with the decline of indigenous Scottish capitalism and its replacement with multinational corporations. Nevertheless, the banks and finance houses still find it useful to have titled property represented on the board. Economic power in Scotland is an amalgam of old and new wealth, the individual and the corporate, the indigenous and the foreign, the private and the public. Commenting in the late 1970s, one journalist observed that Scotland's elites "all know each other - a tight circle of politicians, businessmen, civil servants, lawyers, trade unionists, churchmen, academics, and a nostalgic sprinkling of titled gentry" (C.Baur, The Scotsman, 18 September 1978).

The power and influence of thosed landed magnates has long been identified as one of the key features of landownership in Scotland. By and large there has been little movement in the Top Twenty chart of landowners in Scotland for more than a century. The mighty magnates of the 1990s such as the Duke of Buccleuch, the Duke of Argyll, the Farquharsons of Invercauld, the Duke of Westminster, the Earl of Seafield, the late Duke of Atholl, and the Countess of Sutherland owned great acreage in 1875, the last occasion when a comprehensive land register was compiled. The 1871 official enquiry into landownership in Britain was designed to show that land was far more equitably distributed than the radical critics of the day made out. What it actually revealed was a pattern of monopolistic than almost any other country in Europe. In 1872, the 1500 largest landowners in Scotland held over 90% of the country, a figure which had only dropped a percentage or two thirty years later. A small group of landowning families has remained relatively stable throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and as such have witnessed the arrival and departure of various people who might fit more easily within any nominal notion of a capitalist class or business elite.
Those whose ownership of Highland estates has not been dependent upon old hereditary wealth or have been part of a traditional labouring aristocracy have been joined at various points throughout the 1990s by the nouveau riches such as Philip Rhodes the property developer, Ann Gloag owner of the Stagecoach bus company, Peter de Savaray, Malcolm Potier, Keith Schellenberg, Mohammed Al Fayed owner of Harrods, Professor Maruma the German spiritual artist, and Fred Olsen the Norwegian shipping magnate. Undoubtedly, the mighty magnates have also been joined in the 1990s by a number of corporate lairds and trusts such as the Bocardo Société Anonyme and Ross Estates Ltd, the Co-op Wholesale Society Ltd, Eagle Star, Gallagher Pensions Trust Ltd, Midland Bank, the John Muir Trust, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Church of Scotland and the Assynt Crofters Trust. The State itself through the Crown Estate, the Ministry of Defence, the Forestry Commission and Scottish Natural Heritage still owns vast tracts of land. Yet what is significant is not so much the decline and fall of a landed elite or a traditional aristocracy, or even the extent to which changing patterns of wealth behind estate ownership emerged, but rather the stability of landownership and in particular the enduring nature of Scotland's magnates and those members of a British aristocracy who own land in Scotland.

Scotland's landed class has to an astonishing degree survived almost a century of change. Survival strategies have included marrying into new money, setting up trusts, carving out a niche in the city, letting out sporting rights, promoting family and heritage and selling off fractions of the estate. Despite the cost of maintaining huge estates and crumbling castles, inheritance taxes, hostile governments, calls for land reform and public access to land, Scotland's magnates and those members of the British aristocracy who own land in Scotland remain remarkably resilient.

Take the reported exchange in the Westminster's voting lobbies between the Tory MPs Tim Sainsbury of the supermarket dynasty, and Nicholas Soames, a descendant of the Duke of ­Marlborough, when the latter was dressed in his hunting gear. “Going rat-catching, Nick?” asked Sainsbury, to which the noble Soames is said to have replied: “F**k off, you grocer. You don’t tell a gentleman how to dress on a Friday.”

The aristocracy may be in decline, but their fall is some way off yet !

Top 20 aristocratic landowners in Scotland 1995
Owner Acres
Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry 261600
Capt AAC Farquharson of Invercauld 120500
Earl of Seafield 101000
Duke of Westminster 95100
Crown Estate Commissioners 94015
Countess of Sutherland 83239
Viscount Cowdray 76600
Sir Donald Cameron of Locheil 76000
Duke of Roxburghe 65600
Baroness Willoughby de Eresby 63200
Duke of Argyll 60800
John A Mackenzie of Gairloch 56900
Earl of Cawdor 56800
The Queen 55270
Marquess of Bute 53990
Sir Ivar Colquhoun of Luss 50000
Lord Burton 48000
Earl of Dalhousie 47200
Lady Anne Bentinck 45000
Earl of Stair 43674
Total 1,554,488
% of Scotland - top 20 aristocratic estates 8.01%
Total Acreage above 5000 acres owned by aristocracy 2,554,399
As a % of Scotland's total land mass 13.16%

Scotland 19,068,631acres 100%
Urban 585,627 acres 3%
Rural 18,483,004 acres 97%

Of the rural land, 2, 275,768 acres are in the ownership of public bodies
and 16,207,236 are in the ownership of private bodies.
Of this privately-owned rural land:
One quarter is owned by 66 landowners in estates of 30,700 acres and larger
One third is owned by 120 landowners in estates of 21,000 acres and larger
One half is owned by 343 landowners in estates of 7,500 acres and larger
Two thirds is owned by 1252 landowners in estates of 1 ,200 acres and larger

Two thirds of Scotland is owned by one four thousandth (0.025%) of the people!

325,865 area in acres
41 number of owners
111,300 acreage held by these owners
34.5% percentage of region
666,007 area in acres
92 number of owners
331,336 area in acres
49.7% percentage of region
Tayside (part)
377,979 area in acres
23 number of owners
201,376 area in acres
53.3% percentage of region

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The aristocracy keep control of Scotland

An earl will take over from a duke as president of one of Scotland’s major conservation charities. The 16th Earl of Lindsay will take on the role at the head of the National Trust for Scotland, which owns some of the nation’s top mountain estates. He will succeed the 10th Duke of Buccleuch.

The earl, James Randolph Lindesay-Bethune, educated at Eton and Edinburgh University, is currently chairman of the Scottish Agricultural College, United Kingdom Accreditation Service and the British Polythene Pension Scheme.

He is also a non-executive director at Scottish Resources Group and BPI, an associate director of the National Non-Food Crops Centre and a member of the advisory board of Business and a Sustainable Environment. From 1995 to 1997, he was the Conservative Scottish Minister with responsibility for agriculture, forestry, environmental protection, countryside, sustainable development and culture. He is also a vice-president of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and between 1998 and 2003 was chairman of RSPB Scotland. He is chairman of the Moorland Forum, president of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, vice-president of the International Tree Foundation and the Royal Smithfield Club, and was a recent president of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.

Jamie Lindsay, as he is known to his friends, "...combines commercial acumen with direct experience of policy-making and governance..." according to Sir Kenneth Calman, chairman of the National Trust for Scotland

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

one law for the poor , another for the rich

Ten years after legislation banned the blood-sport forever, fox-hunting still goes on.

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act was passed – in the teeth of furious opposition led by the Scottish Countryside Alliance – on 13 February, 2002. The legislation outlawed the hunting of wild mammals with dogs, but made some exceptions. It is legal to use dogs to flush a fox from cover in order for it to then be shot, so long as this is done as a form of pest-control. The act further states that no offence is committed if the dog kills the fox during the course of this activity, in other words if it was not the intention of the huntsman that the dogs should do so.

These loopholes have allowed fox hunting to continue in Scotland. Hunts now present themselves as pest-control operations offering a service to farmers. The packs of hounds, followed by riders, chase the fox towards waiting gunmen who attempt to shoot it. If the fox is killed by the hounds before it runs towards the guns then that is regarded as an accident and therefore within the law. Hounds are also used to kill foxes that have been wounded by the gunmen or are otherwise seriously injured or diseased.

Trevor Adams, huntsman with the Duke of Buccleuch’s Hunt for the last 23 years, suggests that of all the foxes killed by his hunt, one third are dispatched by hounds. However, as a result of the introduction of guns, many more are now killed than before the change in law; in the case of the Buccleuch, it is thought that up to three times as many foxes now die in a season. This means that roughly the same number of foxes are being killed by hounds as before the ‘ban’, and there is no reason to believe that the Buccleuch is unrepresentative. Indeed, the protocol on how to hunt foxes within the new law was developed by the Buccleuch and endorsed by the Master of Fox Hounds Association, the governing body for fox hunting in the UK. The new approach was then tested in court when – in 2004 – Trevor Adams became the first person to be prosecuted and the first to be acquitted under the new law.

The Duke of Buccleuch’s hunt is the largest in Scotland, covering a huge area from west of Hawick to east of Kelso, from the foothills of the Cheviots to the bottom of the Lammermuirs. The hunt essentially belongs to the Duke of Buccleuch, the UK’s biggest landowner, and it is no surprise to see the Duchess of Roxburgh go trotting by on a white horse, or to notice one of the foot followers tip his cap to her. The Buccleuch Hunt has a membership of around 150, the majority of whom are mounted; the remainder follow the hunt on foot. Riders pay subscriptions ranging from £300 to £1,000 per season, depending on how many days they intend to hunt. One might pay £5,000 for a horse, £150 each week for stabling, plus additional costs for equipment, clothes, transport, and for the farrier. It isn’t cheap.

Although fox hunting is presented as a form of pest control, few if any of the riders with the Buccleuch – or, surely, with the other hunts – pay their annual subscriptions because they want to help farmers protect their hens. Trevor Adams is quite open about it. “We are very definitely in the entertainment business,” he says.

The landed rich cannot conceive that their will cannot run untrammelled. The attempts of the rich and the powerful to maintain their power over making the rules and laws of society is an affront that serves to illustrate how shallow democracy under capitalism really is.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Lairds of the land still rake it in

Scotland’s aristocrats are earning millions of pounds from windfarms on their estates , according to figures from the Renewable Energy Foundation, a charity that promotes sustainable development.

Fallago Rig in the Lammermuir Hills in the Borders, will earn landowner the Duke of Roxburghe £720,000 a year. In the course of the 25-year lifespan of the windfarm, the Duke of Roxburghe could earn something between £18 million and £62.5m.

Sir Alastair Gordon-Cumming will earn £435,000 from the 29 turbines on the Altyre estate near Forres in Moray.

The Earl of Seafield also has eight turbines on his estate near Banff in the north-east which are estimate to be able to earn him £120,000 annually.

The Earl of Moray receives £540,000 a year from 36 turbines at Braes O’Doune near Stirling.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Guardians of the Countryside ?

Eggs are crushed, chicks trampled, nests smashed, baits poisoned, birds trapped and shot – and all to line the pockets of the landowners. Birds of prey are being routinely killed to protect the sporting estates of landowners – and perpetrators have tried to cover up evidence of their crimes, according to the Herald.

An authoritative new report for Government advisers shows thousands of rare and beautiful hen harriers are being illegally persecuted across huge swathes of the country. But publication of the report has been blocked by the landowning lobby. Another expert study, due to be unveiled in the next few weeks, suggests as many as 50 golden eagles are being illegally poisoned, shot or trapped every year in Scotland. This is far higher than previously suspected.

"It is the grouse industry that is responsible. They simply won’t tolerate birds of prey on grouse moors.”
said Mark Rafferty, a former police officer who now investigates wildlife crime for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The birds of prey are being killed to protect lucrative grouse moors on estates owned by some of the country’s richest men and women. The owners of sporting estates are keen to control the numbers of birds of prey, because they eat or scare grouse. This leaves fewer to be shot by paying visitors, many of whom come from abroad. But environmentalists argue the birds can happily coexist with thriving grouse moors, if the land is well managed.

Labour MSP Peter Peacock says landowners are deliberately delaying "A Conservation Framework For Hen Harriers In The UK," by scientists for Government wildlife advisers Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and was to have been published on December 17. But this was halted at the eleventh hour after the landowning lobby formally complained, claiming they were not properly consulted. to stop it from influencing the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill.
“It is further damning evidence of what appears to be a group of serial offenders in the shooting fraternity, persisting in destroying iconic species,”

Andy Wightman, Scottish land expert, writes "Historically, Scotland’s landed gentry have secured their private interests because they effectively made the law. Even following the reform acts of the 19th century, they ruled in the House of Lords. Locally, they had control of county administration – police, roads, justice – as the Commissioners of Supply up until 1890, and their role was not abolished until 1930...Scotland’s landowners remained adept at spiking unhelpful legislation and promoting causes advantageous to their vested interests...Old habits die hard though, and some may have reverted to nobbling civil servants behind closed doors and trying to suppress inconvenient truths about sensitive topics such as wildlife crime...But this is not just about the power of elites, it is about land laws that vest so much power in the hands of an elite so few in number most of their names can fit on a few pages of a letter. With vast tracts given over to private hunting reserves, it is time to bring an end to the charade that our wildlife is best managed by this distorted form of landholding... "

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Lords on the Gravy Train

Instead of claiming what they are entitled to , those law-makers and upholders of law and order in the House of Lords are on the fiddle with their expenses .

Peers are exploiting an expenses loophole to claim a tax-free annual income of up to £48,000, it was claimed today . Parliamentary rules mean members of the House of Lords can claim back up to £308 a day for travel, meals and accommodation while performing their duties and is not eligible for tax.

However, under the system they do not have to submit receipts to prove their outlay.
It was reported that nearly two thirds of peers are automatically claiming the maximum amount nearly every time they visit the Lords , viewing it as a right .

Some 259 of the 550 Lords who applied for "day subsistence" - a £78.50 payment for meals and taxis - claimed the maximum amount at least 95 per cent of the time.
272 0f the 406 peers who claim "overnight subsistence" for hotels - worth £159.50 a day -claimed the maximum at least 95 per cent of the time.
And 338 of the 514 Lords who claim office expenses - worth £69 a day - claimed the maximum on nearly all occasions

It was reported that several lords admitted that they saw the expenses as an allowance and collecting the full amount was routine.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

No mourning here

One of Scotland's biggest landowners, the Duke of Buccleuch, has died .

As recently as 2005, the duke was believed to be Britain's biggest private landowner, owning 270,000 acres, mostly in the Borders.

The Sunday Times Rich List estimated his wealth at £85 million .

Born in 1923, the oldest son of the eighth duke - whom he succeeded in 1973 - Johnnie Buccleuch was educated at Eton and Oxford and became director of the Buccleuch Estates in 1949. He later became a Tory councillor in Roxburghshire and subsequently Tory MP for North Edinburgh. In 1978 he was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Thistle - the highest honour in Scotland.

He is succeeded by his eldest son, the Earl of Dalkeith.

Socialist Courier will definitely not be wearing black

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Blue-blooded Door-to-Door Salesman

The Royal Family - Capitalism personified .

The Independent on Sunday interviewed Prince Andrew , second son of the Queen or "Air Miles Andy" as he is sometimes known as . He is presently employed as a "roving ambassador" for UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), the government quango that lobbies on behalf of British business overseas and tries to attract foreign investment to the UK. In November, the former CBI director-general Sir Digby Jones was appointed business adviser to the Duke.

Lord Levene, chairman of Lloyd's of London, wrote personally to the Duke to thank him for helping the reinsurance market in obtaining a licence to operate in China. The Duke had met the vice-mayor of Shanghai and raised the issue.

The Doncaster-based furniture maker BLP also credits him with having helped in the lifting of unexpected tax duties on the new £35m factory it had built in China.

He can be relied on to deliver the official line. Asked whether it was right for the Government to drop the investigation into British defence firm BAE Systems over alleged bribes to Saudi officials, he replies: "There was no case to answer for BAE."

Nevertheless his qualifications to promote British business interest is not based on any specific knowledge or acumen .

Talking about Barclays' proposed takeover of ABN Amro, he says: "It's quite complicated. I don't profess to understand [all of it]. That's something someone in the City understands and I don't."

He is simply the gloss and image salesman for British business that the government are willing to fund at £500,000 bill for his UKTI work this year

"In terms of the return on investment to the UK, bearing in mind I am part of a number of people, I would suggest that £500,000 is cheap at the price..." he says "I bring down a drawbridge if necessary and allow those [British] companies to be able to go through the window, go through the door or go over the drawbridge."

Indeed, the Blue-blooded door-to-door salesman for British Capitalism on the world market .