Tuesday, February 07, 2017
The ancient forms of rent paid to a feudal lord, or lord of the manor, or to the Church, were usually levied in kind, and met either by the supply of a portion
of the produce from the land, or by performing unpaid labour on land belonging to these groups. These old social relations of feudal society have been replaced with other higher social relations of production associated with the land and its capacity to attract rent. Land use, including agriculture, has been specifically adapted to the needs of capitalism. The vast bulk of society's food is obtained from the land, and takes the form of commodities, i.e. articles
produced for sale and profit. Consequently agriculture is under the domain of capital.
Rent is the money tribute levied by one section of society (landlords) against other sections for permission to use certain portions of the globe which they (landlords) have appropriated and monopolized to the exclusion of others. To grow food, to build houses, factories, shipyards, etc., a ground rent must be paid to the owner of the soil. Private property of land, and this includes land owned by the State, is a prerequisite for extracting rent. History is full of instances as to how the rural labourers were driven off the land by force, bloody violence, threats of imprisonment and deportation, as in the case of the Land Enclosures over the last few hundred years.
The fact remains that permission even to inhabit the earth has to be obtained from a group of rentier parasites who monopolize it. Ground rent is surplus-value which has previously been extracted from the working class. Whether this is paid to private individuals, the State or the Church makes no difference. It is an element in the overall economic organization of capitalism.
Land has no value - that is, it contains no socially necessary labour, the source of value. The labour of society has not participated in its creation. It cannot be reproduced, and is not a commodity. Not being a commodity it does not have exchange value, and consequently does not contain surplus value. Surplus-value comes from unpaid labour, and as no labour at all has gone into its creation it cannot contain value. Land has use-value as have commodities
generally, but whereas you can have use-value (the utility of a thing) without exchange-value (price), you cannot have exchange value without use-value.
The landlord cannot sell non-existent commodities; the service he provides is the service of rent collection. It is obvious that land is bought and sold both as building plots and agricultural land. To that extent it assumes the commodity form. Capital can be fixed in the soil either through the erection of buildings, land improvements like ploughing, drainage and fertilization, mining and quarrying operations etc.
This capital forms part of the labour of society generally and does not spring from the soil. The capitalist farmer produces wheat etc. in the same way as the capitalist manufacturer produces other commodities. They differ only in the element in which their capital is invested. Their capital, like all other, qualifies for the average rate of profit, and if needs be can move from one sphere of production into another. Capital fixed in the soil - plant, factories, office blocks etc., as with capital elsewhere, would be entitled (under the laws of capitalism) to attract interest, but strictly speaking this is not the same thing as ground rent, which is specifically paid for the use of the soil and for permission to fix the capital in it in the first place.
Unlike machinery and industrial plant which wears away and has to be replaced, the land (apart from natural catastrophe) with normal care and attention, fertilized and drained regularly in the case of arable land, or developed with office blocks and shopping precincts, continues to improve. To that extent it can attract a higher price for its use in the form of ground rent, or fetch a higher price should the landlord decide to sell it. The price of land has nothing to do with its value, which is nil. The price of building land depends purely on the oscillations of the market, or competition between buyers and sellers.
The location of the land is a very important factor in this competition. Land required for building in a big commercial centre like London will fetch a higher price than land elsewhere. With agricultural land the position is somewhat different, but the monopoly of the land owner is a major factor in the determining of the final price in both cases. Obviously good agricultural naturally-fertile land which can yield 2 tons of grain per acre would fetch a higher price than land of lesser quality which would only produce 30 cwts of grain per acre. The rent charged for the use of these lands would vary, and bear some relation to their yields.
Certain vineyards in the Bordeaux/Medoc area - Pauillac, Pomerel, etc. because of certain chemical properties in the soil, are able to produce fine wine. Other vineyards which lack these properties in the soil are unable to produce such fine wines, although the same amount of useful labour has gone into their production. The finer wines and lesser-quality wines contain, broadly speaking, the same amount of useful labour, but there is a considerable difference between the price of a bottle of Chateau neuf de Pape from the Rhone valley, and a bottle of Chateau Petrus or Chateau Lafite from Pomerel or
Pauillac, as any wine- drinking capitalist will tell you - at £5 per bottle this is hardly a worker's tipple.
The difference in price does not arise from the labour involved but purely because of the natural properties of the soil. The owner of land where the vines
were grown would be able to charge a higher rent for the use of this land, and the wine producer would have to part with a larger share of the surplus value to the landlord than would the Rhone wine producers. Were the fine-wine producer the owner of the vineyards instead of the tenant this would make no difference. In that case, he would pocket the extra profit in his capacity as a landlord and not as a wine-growing capitalist. In any event, before he could
become a landlord, he would have to acquire the land from the previous owner, and spend a capital sum in order to achieve this. To that extent, the rent that he virtually paid to himself instead of to the landlord would merely represent the interest on the capital which he had invested in the purchase of the land.
Rent is the way in which land realizes itself economically, and whilst rent itself is not interest (i.e. money paid for the use of c apital), it is influenced by the rate of interest, as also is the buying and selling of the land. Naturally, market conditions intervene because of the monopoly of landlords (sellers) and demand from the other portions of the capitalist class (buyers), particularly competition for building sites in city centres where any price may be paid.
During periods of inflation the price of land will rise with other prices, not only because the value of money has fallen but because ownership of land provides a certain protection against the depreciation of money. The price of farmland rose from approximately £50 per acre in 1949 to £800 per acre in
1973, due to inflation. Prices are now falling. They fell 22 per first half of 1974, and are expected to fall to £582 per acre towards the end of 1974.
(Farmland market, Farmer's Weekly: The Times 3rd February 1975).
Mr. Donald Campbell, editor of the report, said "The market is highly volatile; only a few years ago changes in value were gradual and their range was small."
Over a period, the yardstick for measuring the price of land is by a capitalization of the rent. That is, by assuming that the rent represents the interest on an imaginary capital. If the prevailing rate of interest is 10 per cent, and the landlord receives a ground rent of £500 p.a., that £500 would represent the interest on an imaginary capital of £5,000. Were the rate of interest to fall to 5 per cent, the £500 p.a. would represent the interest on an imaginary capital of £10,000. The price of land is arrived at under normal conditions by the number of years it would take for the rents to reach the capital sum. In the first case the price of land would be £5,000 i.e. 10 years' ground purchase. The external rate of interest can and does influence the price of land. During a period of low interest rates, the price of land will tend to rise, and during a period of high interest rates the price of land will tend to fall,without affecting the rent at all. In England particularly, land is usually sold at so many years' purchase, usually twenty years or more.
A value is therefore conferred on land by circumstances outside, i.e. the rate of interest, and does not arise from the land itself, simply because those who own the monopoly can prevent others from having access except on terms and conditions decreed by them. In this the landlord is joined by capitalists generally who operate in the same way by excluding society at large from access to the means of production and distribution, as well as monopolizing the social wealth.
As society develops, and the population increases, and there is a growing demand for land for all purposes, the landlord will share in the fruits of this social progress without contributing anything at all. The industrial capitalists who dominate the political machinery take legislative measures to curb the appetite of the landlord, but you cannot abolish rent without abolishing private property in land, and as this forms the basis of the capitalist system of production, you cannot abolish private property in one sphere and retain it in another.
Private property includes State property, which will be dealt with later.
From Socialist Standard No. 847 March 1975
Friday, January 16, 2015
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
While there may be a legal requirement to retain land in public ownership a presumption of a community right to use land assets and utilise unused land should be considered, Mr Hancox suggests "We believe that much land is needlessly unproductive, and would urge the Scottish Government to encourage ways to allow people to use land more intelligently," he said. "Making land available to poorer Scots offers them a way to grow healthy, accessible local food, and build skills and food security at a local level. In our urban areas such as Glasgow there is a lot of land which is largely passive and unused, while in rural areas, patterns of land ownership which concentrate land into relatively few hands also mean that availability of land for ordinary people is scarce."
Monday, May 14, 2012
"Treasa tuath na tighearna." (The people are mightier than a lord) - Highland Land League slogan
The common people of the Highlands and Islands had been cleared from large areas of their ancestral lands. The Highland Clearances had crammed the surviving remnants into crammed crofting townships on very small areas of land where they were very vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by their landlords. Many lacked even crofts of their own and became cottars and squatters on the crofts of other people. Landlords turned most of the land over to use as sheep farms and deer forests. The creation of sheep farms, often comprising large tracts of empty, uncultivated and often fertile land, which hemmed in the congested townships on their boundaries, created social tensions, which unavoidably led to revolt among the disadvantaged. The farms established on Tiree in the 1840s and 1850s, having been forcibly cleared of their original occupants were but a few of the farms designated by crofters as suitable for resettlement by themselves. In addition, in the 1880s, the Highlands and Islands were ravaged by a decade of severe, occasionally chronic, agricultural depression. As wool prices collapsed, sheep farmers‘ profits and landlords‘ rentals fell back sharply from the heights they had reached in the balmy years of the 1860s and early 1870s. The poor harvests of 1881-1882 plunged the crofting population to a level reminiscent of the potato famine. Then on 1st October 1882 after prolonged rain in August and September came a severe southerly gale that destroyed the unharvested grain. In addition, the storm damaged or destroyed some 1,200 fishing boats, their nets and fishing gear
A mass movement for the reform of land laws erupted in the 1880s. Links formed by radical crofters in the Highlands and industrial workers in the Lowlands worried the authorities: and the crofters leaders who attended conferences organised by the Labour movement in Edinburgh were followed and hounded by police officers. It has been argued that the the Crofters movement of the 19th century was a catalyst for the formation of various working-class organisations in Scotland and it has also been suggested that the influences were the other way, both describe the organic links between the struggles for land and workers rights.
The association between land reform and those movements claiming to be socialist had always been more marked in Scotland. Before the emergence of Keir Hardie the principal workers organisation in Scotland, which was for a time affiliated with William Morris’s Socialist League, called itself the ‘Land and Labour League’. Far from wishing to be a carbon copy of the Social Democratic Federation, the Scots were keen to establish their own separate national identity. This was why they named their organisation the Scottish Land and Labour League. In Scotland the Scottish Land and Labour League severed its connection with the SDF to join the break-away Socialist League.
"I was then a member of the Scottish Land and Labour League, in Edinburgh, Scotland. It must have been in the very early Eighties I guess in 1883. The Scottish Land and Labour League was the first body in Scotland to take up the "New" Socialism, that is to say, it was the first to study Marx. Das Kapital had not yet been translated into English; we studied it from the French translation. We had affiliated ourselves with the Socialist League in London." describes Thomas H Bell (the anarchist, not the later Communist Party Tom Bell)
John Mahon was a former engineer from Edinburgh and member of the Scottish Land and Labour League, who joined the SDF, served on its executive, and was to go on to be the first secretary of the Socialist League. Nevertheless the alliance between the "socialists" and the group interested primarily in the land question did not endure. They became involved in the same sort of conflict the Socialist League as with the SDF.
In the early 20th century the land agitation had become a vital force uniting farmer and crofter, miner and smallholder, and Highlander and Lowlander. To understand why the land question was of even greater importance in Scotland than in England, we must direct attention to the strength of feudal legislation in Scotland. An old Act of 1621 was still in force, for instance, which penalised farmers, miners, crofters since no-one could kill game unless he owned a ploughgate of land (about 100 acres). Moreover, even a farmer could be convicted of being “unlawfully on his own farm at night for the purpose of killing game.” The 19th century Trespass Act and the various Game Laws that legitimised the rights of landowners to restrict the movement of citizens wishing to gain access to uncultivated moorland and mountain in Scotland created a powerful sense of public grievance. In addition to restricting many traditional rights that the rural population had enjoyed they created a great deal of resentment amongst the growing urban membership of amenity groups and recreational clubs. Climbing and hill walking clubs were particularly active in campaigning to have the concept of freedom to roam enshrined in law. In the 1880s and 90s members of these clubs in conjunction with key figures from the Land League spearheaded a public and parliamentary campaign to have the Trespass and Game Laws altered. The campaign for freedom to roam was unsuccessful but during the following decades the number of people going to the hills increased as did the membership of walking and mountaineering clubs. The tension between hill goers and sporting estates during the grouse and deer stalking seasons was a constant reminder of unfinished business.
At the 1885 and 1886 General Elections a group of candidates, The Crofters Party, who described themselves as representatives of the crofters contested some of the Highland constituencies of north-west Scotland with almost complete success. The group had varying degrees of links to the Highland Land League which had been established to independently promote the interests of crofters and their specific land rights. The League never seems to have made a clear statement of its ultimate objectives. Although, as will be seen, it made use of Henry George for propagandist purposes, it was not a ‘Single Tax’ organisation. While some of its leaders spoke at times of "the necessity of abolishing landlordism" and "the restoration of the land to the people" – stock phrases of Henry George advocates – they appear to have had peasant proprietorship more in mind.
The discontent of the crofters had mounted to the point of revolt in the early 1880s. Although the days of the notorious Clearances were over, they had no security of tenure, the rents of many of them had been raised several times during the preceding decade, not a few were living in extreme poverty, and evictions seem to have been frequent. Many had recently been moved to less fertile holdings to make way for sheep-grazings or sporting preserves; some were still in the process of losing common grazings to their landlords. While a large proportion did not hold written leases, but were entirely dependent upon the goodwill of their landlords, without even the protection of recognised custom, many of the written leases that did exist appear to have been merely annual. One of their main grievances was their inability to increase the size of their holdings, most of the plots being quite insufficient for the support of a family. Bitterly resenting being dealt with according to commercial, profit-making considerations – with the growth of luxury in England due to the increase in industrial productivity, the shooting rights of Highland estates rose in value much higher than crofters’ rents – they accused the lairds of abusing a sacred trust in their management of the soil, which they claimed was really the traditional property of the clans. Predictably the problem of landlessness was most acute in areas where the crofting population was at its most dense. In Tiree and the Outer Isles, it was not uncommon, as the Napier Commission noted, to find "crowds of squatters who construct hovels, appropriate land, and possess and pasture stock, but pay no rent, obey no control, and scarcely recognise any allegiance or authority".
An important source of disaffection, the first notable demonstration – the so-called ‘Battle of the Braes’ – took place in April 1882. It occurred at the foot of Ben Lee, in Skye. In protest, perhaps in part inspired by events in Ireland, the Crofters War began against an attempt by Lord Macdonald, their landlord, to deprive them of some pasturage to which they claimed a right, some of the crofters were refusing to pay their rents – a measure that was becoming widespread at this period. When an attempt had been made on 7th April to serve summons of ejection upon them, they had responded by burning the summonds and mildly assaulting the sheriff-officer’s assistant. Then, on 17th April, a force of fifty Glasgow police, sent to the area to effect the arrests of six ring-leaders, was set upon, when making the arrest,by some hundreds of crofters with sticks and stones. It succeeded in withdrawing the prisoners, no major injuries being suffered by either side. In February, two months previously, a gunboat had been sent to Skye to facilitate the arrest of three crofters in another district, Glendale, for their part in a similar instance of deforcing a sheriff-officer. One of these men, John Macpherson, known thereafter as the ‘Glendale Martyr’, became a leading figure in the movement, an impassioned speaker at Land League meetings throughout the Highlands.
Over the next few years there were numerous such incidents in various parts of the crofting counties. Invariably sympathisers in the towns and cities – Portree being particularly notable in this respect – found bail for imprisoned crofters or otherwise saw to their interests and comfort. In November 1884 a number of gunboats were sent to Skye and a force of marines made several marches over the island; this action, however, had been taken as the result of some fabricated reports of disturbances sent to the press by a landlord’s official, and no disorder either preceded or followed this action.
The Napier Commission published recommendations in 1884 but fell a long way short of addressing crofters' demands, and it stimulated a new wave of protests. The ensuing Act of 1886 applied to croft tenure in an area which is now recognisable as a definition of the Highlands and Islands established the Crofters Commission which had rent-fixing powers. Rents were generally reduced and 50% or more of outstanding arrears were cancelled. The Act failed however to address the issue of severely limited access to land,
In October 1886 a further force of marines and police went to Skye to enforce the collection of rates: both landlords and crofters had been refusing to make payment, with the result that the schools were on the point of closing, and the banks were declining to meet cheques for the Poor Law Officers. On the landlords’ part this action was, of course, a demonstration in protest against the refusal of the crofters to pay their rents – and it was their default which had precipitated the crises, since their share of the arrears of rates formed by far the largest proportion of the total amount. As soon as the expedition reached the island the landlords gave way; but there were a number of ugly scenes when the authorities distrained the personal effects of crofters who professed themselves unable to pay. At about the same period two hundred and fifty marines and fifty police were sent to Tiree (Argyllshire) when the Duke of Argyll Greenhill farm was occupied by over 300 men who at once proceeded to divide the farm among crofters and cottars from nearby townships. Confronted at Greenhill by a force of men and youths armed with sticks and clubs, the police – outnumbered by about six to one – were obliged to withdraw to the relative security of the inn at Scarinish, their mission unaccomplished. On the morning of 22nd July, Scarinish Inn was surrounded by the men responsible for the seizure of Greenhill. The police contingent, it was demanded, should immediately withdraw from Tiree. They left that afternoon. With the police in full retreat and the Duke of Argyll complaining that Tiree was "under the rule of savagery", military involvement became inevitable. On 31st July 1886, a detachment of fifty police escorted by five times that number of marines was landed on the island from the naval ships HMS Ajax and HMS Assistance. Eight crofters were promptly arrested and conveyed to the mainland where they were subsequently found guilty of mobbing and rioting as well as of deforcement – five being sentenced to six month‘s imprisonment, the others to four months.
In later years, there were still isolated cases of deforcements. Plus there were still demonstrations – at the ‘Pairc Deer Raid of Lewis’, in November 1887 the crofters organised a deer-hunt (the venison distributed to the needy.) in protest at their treatment by The Matheson’s, landlords of the Lewis Estate. The authorities panicked and sent a contingent of police and marines to quell what they thought was a full-scale rebellion. Six were arrested and sent to trial in Edinburgh but all were acquitted. Today, most of Pairc is still a sporting estate in private ownership.
And then there was the ‘Aignish Riot’, also in the Lewis, in January 1888, crofters, despite the presence of a force of marines, drove stock from a large farm. It took the bayonets of the marines and the arrival of company of the Royal Scots, however, made them realise there was little more they could do and to keep them at bay. Eleven prisoners, were escorted aboard HMS Jackal, and taken to Edinburgh where they were found guilty of the crime of mobbing and rioting and sent them to prison for periods ranging from twelve to fifteen months.”
In Glasgow, in 1909, a second Highland Land League was formed as a political party. This organisation was a broadly left-wing group that sought the restoration of deer forests to public ownership, abolition of plural farms and the nationalisation of the land. Also they resolved to defend crofters facing eviction by their landlords and they supported home rule for Scotland. During the First World War politicians made lavish promises about reform which would follow the war, and of course many croftsmen lost their lives in the war itself. After the war the words of politicians did not translate into action, but croftmen returning from the war were in no mood to accept government inaction. Land occupations began again. In January 1918 in Tiree a number of cottars from Cornaigbeg took possession of a 13-acre field on Balephetrish farm and at once proceeded to prepare it for a spring planting of potatoes. The Balephetrish raiders were all old men – two at least being in their seventies – and all had sons on active service. But none of that prevented them from being sentenced to ten days‘ imprisonment as a result of legal proceedings initiated by the Duke of Argyll.
When faced with new land seizures the government responded by giving the Board of Agriculture the money and powers to do something like what had been promised. The Board's work was assisted by a downturn in the profitability of sheep farming and, by the late 1920s, perhaps 50,000 acres of arable land and 750,000 acres of hill pasture had been given over to establishing new crofts.
In August 1918 the new Land League affiliated with the Labour Party, with four candidates for the 1918 general election being joint League-Labour. By the 1920s they had fully merged with Labour, under the unfulfilled promise of autonomy for Scotland were Labour to gain power in the forthcoming years. Land League members were then key to the formation of the Scottish National Party in 1934.
The Crofters Act of 1886 was not the remedy. It gave the remaining Highlanders security of tenure but froze the crofters on the marginal land to which they had been driven. In the forty years between 1891 and 1931, on the other hand, in a period in which it was virtually impossible under Scottish law to evict a Highland crofter from his holding but singularly easy to evict a Lowland farm labourer from his cottage, the population of the Highlands & Islands counties fell by 26%, that of the Lowland group by only 16%. The law seems to have done nothing to slow down the drain of men from the Highlands. Some twenty-three Not-for-private-profit organisations own, lease or manage by agreement around 5 percent of the Highlands and Islands’ land area – some 506,725 acres. The state sector (Forestry Commission , Scottish Natural Heritage, Dept. of Agriculture, etc) whose land holdings comprise just over 14 percent (1.4 million acres) while the private estate sector owns some 80 percent (8.1 million acres).
Campaigners, radicals and social reformers of the 19th century attempted to implement a number of practical schemes based upon self-reliance and mutual assistance. Community ownership in the region in the 20th century commenced in 1923 with the Stornoway Trust. A resurgence of interest in the concept of community land ownership in the early 1990s has enabled new groups to form and re-discover older initiatives. This recent upsurge has resulted in a variety of different types of community landowners emerging in the region. Bill Aitken, the Conservatives' chief whip in the Scottish Parliament, along with Mohamed al-Fayed, Harrods owner, describes the 2003 Scottish Land Reform Act granting crofters the right to buy estates as a "Mugabe- style land grab" and the Conservatives' rural affairs spokesman, Alex Ferguson declares that it undermines "the principles of private property and freedom of contract which underpin a free society". Peter de Savary, who is chairman of Skibo Castle, where Madonna and Guy Ritchie were married and the destination of choice for the world's rich and famous said the Bill could have been drawn up "in Cuba or North Korea" !!
Scotland as a whole has one of the most concentrated patterns of land ownership in Western Europe. Some 50 percent of the country’s land area is controlled by just 600 (or even 343, depending on source) owners. In the Highlands, this pattern of ownership is even more extreme with some 85 privately owned estates accounting for about a third of the total land area. This results in various barriers and obstacles being placed in the way of development. Examples of these include difficulties in obtaining land for housing, industrial use, community facilities and recreational access to river, woodland, moor and hill. Only when land is commonly owned by the people who inhabit and work it, as opposed to private ownership, leasing or renting, can a community master its own destiny.
Under the clan system of land tenure, the land within the area occupied by a clan, belonged to the clan as a whole collectively, romantically described by some such as John McLean as "celtic communism". The clan chief had no exclusive rights in the clan lands. He was given nominal control of the land for administration purposes, on behalf of the clan. The clan chief’s position was not hereditary but by the consent of the clan, and there was nothing to stop the clan from replacing their chief at any time, if necessary. The clan system was a communal social system albeit organised on military lines. The old social order in the Highlands disintegrated and the clan chieftains were encouraged to assume control of the clan lands as private landowners. Then they proceeded to oppress their own clansmen. The real philosophy behind these events was the unrestricted accumulation of wealth in the hands of the privileged few, by exploiting the land as well as any other basic resource available. These changes in Highland society introduced a new class division of privileged and servile. Gone forever was the sense of kinship and loyalty to a patriarchal leader. But an emotional attachment to territory – an attachment stemming ultimately back to the clan land of the ancient kin-based society of the Highlands – continues to be prevalent among crofters.
The social ownership sector can trace its history back to the first organised efforts of crofters and land re-settlement schemes just over a 150 years ago. Only with the creation a people’s organisation representing the aspirations of community organisations across the country can there be the necessary counter-power to that of the existing landed establishment and which can challenge the dominant position in Scottish society of the Scottish Landowners Federation, that has for almost 90 years exercised power on behalf of the landed elite and other powerful rural interests.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
That can be bad for their health, according to Professor Juliana Maantay, Fulbright Visiting Professor at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, as many derelict areas – she calls them dismissed lands – are contaminated post-industrial sites. "Very often the levels of vacant and derelict land coincide with the worst health. For example, in the poorest areas, one fifth of babies are of low birth weight, and that correlates with vacant land." she explained, although adding "That is not to say that the vacant land is causing the bad health, but there is no doubt that contaminated land is not good to live near."
Her survey identified 1,300 hectares of "dismissed" lands in the city which are contaminated or need some kind of remediation, on 925 sites.
Empty land can provide other ecological services, she adds, including urban agriculture projects and community gardens, natural areas and recreational space for surrounding communities. "Contaminated sites need to be cleaned up but they can have real potential."
"Giving local communities a say is anathema to some planners. But the way you get community to buy into something is if you allow them to have an input. People in these communities have lived with this terrible land for long enough. They should get some of the benefit too," she says.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
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
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
% 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
377,979 area in acres
23 number of owners
201,376 area in acres
53.3% percentage of region
Sunday, April 08, 2012
Scotland is on the verge of having its first Chinese laird. Wealthy Chinese investors are said to be scouring the property market to find a Scottish castle to buy.
Leading property agents are reporting a rise in interest from rich Chinese and Taiwanese buyers, who have made their fortunes in the Far East boom. Wealthy Russians are also snapping up prime properties in Edinburgh for the first time. Prices in central London have been driven up by wealthy Russians seeking a safe environment to invest. Agents say the next step could be the purchase of Scottish landed estates, which, even with thousands of acres, are relatively inexpensive compared to London. In Kensington, the average residence costs £2m.
Jamie Macnab, of estate agent Savills, said it had also seen an increase of interest in Scottish rural properties from China. “It’s a market we expect to grow. We’re constantly looking at how to attract Asian money, and we’re confident it will come. We had one young Chinese man who came into the Edinburgh office recently, hired a cab and then went to view eight properties in Fife because of the golfing interest. Golf is a key reason why the Chinese and the Koreans want to buy property here.”
John Coleman, head of residential and farm agency at Smiths Gore in Scotland, said: “There have been one or two large Chinese consortiums looking for investments in the UK and have looked at a few Scottish estates but we’re unaware of any transactions having gone through yet. They are testing the water, and they’ll do it in London first.”
At least three country castles on sale for more than £2 million have been sold or are under offer after buyers sought to avoid the end of the stamp duty holiday in last month’s Budget. Sales prior to the Budget attracted a 5 per cent tax, which has now risen to 7 per cent. Deals signed prior to change will have saved the buyer £40,000 on a £2 million property.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
“The point is to conserve these assets and maximise the benefits to the island and coastal communities most closely involved with them.The only way this can be done is by devolving as much of the responsibility – and benefit – down to those local communities as possible.”
Socialist Courier previously but briefly touched upon this subject when it highlighted the continued existence of the Viking-derived Udal law found in Shetland. Scottish Courts have acknowledged the supremacy of Udal law in property cases and in particular about shore ownership rights, where it declared that the Shetland community owns the sea and seabed around its isles. The Crown Estate had to admit the supremacy of Udal Law.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Andy Wightman, an authority on land-ownership in Scotland, is calling for answers from ministers and the local council. "This land is crown land. It is Scottish public land. It should be administered by Scottish ministers, as nearly all other historic castles, palaces and royal parks are. No public money should be needed to acquire control of this land, least of all the bulk of Stirling's common good fund. Why...is the Scottish Government sitting idly by while a common good fund is raided to pay for public land that already belongs to us, to be given away to a private golf club for 175 years? It is time to stop this madness."
King's Park Community Council wrote to the council: "In our opinion this is a serious mistake given that the recommendations about to be published in the Scotland Bill give every indication that Crown Estate management in Scotland will be returned to Scottish ministers."
Monday, October 31, 2011
Half of Scotland is owned by just 500 people, few of whom are actually Scots.
Only 1 per cent of the 19 million acres of land in Scotland has passed into the control of local communities.
Currently, about half of Scotland is in the possession of 608 landowners and 10% of Scotland is owned by just eighteen of them. 6% of Scotland is currently owned overseas, primarily by private individuals. "Public" ownership of the land had reached a total of 16.8% of Scotland by 1998
At present, of the rural land (94% of the total) 83.1% of this is privately held. Here, just 969 people, in a country of 5.2 million people, control 60% of it.
UK Land Owners:
Forestry Commission 1,600,000 acres
Duke of Buccleuch 270,000
Scottish Executive - Rural Affairs 260,000
National Trust for Scotland 175,000
Alcan Highlands 135,000
Blair Charitable Trust (Private Trust) 130,000
Captain Alwyn Farquharson 125,000
Duchess of Westminster 120,000
Earl of Seafield 105,000
Crown Estate Commission (MOD) 100,000
Edmund Vestey 100,000
South Uist Estate Ltd.92,000
Sir Donald Cameron 90,000
Countess of Sutherland 90,000
RSPB (52 estates) 87,000
Paul van Vlissengenowner of Calor Gas and the Makro cash-and-carry empire) 9 87,000
Scottish Natural Heritage 84,000
Robin Fleming 80,000
Hon. Chas Pearson 77,000
Lord Margadale 73,000
Foreign Land Owners:
Person Unknown Malaysian 1,600,000 acres
Mohammed bin Raschid al Maktoum Arab 270,000
Kjeld Kirk-Christiansen Danish 260,000
Joseph & Lisbet Koerner Swedish 175,000
Stanton Avery American 135,000
Mohammed al Fayed Egyptian 130,000
Urs Schwarzenburg Swiss 125,000
Count Knuth Danish 120,000
Mahdi Mohammed al Tajir Arab 105,000
Prof. Ian Macneil American 100,000
Lucan Ardenberg Danish 100,000
Eric Delwart Norwegian 92,000
Friday, October 21, 2011
It is a legacy of the universal process behind the rise of capitalism: the war on common ownership and the separation of people from land, by sword and by fraud (The Clearances).
Once enough people were denied the autonomy that access to land provided, a class of exploitable wage workers was produced and the rest, as they say, is history.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Dundee West MSP Joe Fitzpatrick “The Oxfam report evokes grave echoes from Scotland’s past, namely the Highland Clearances, when, throughout the Highlands and Islands many thousands of people left their ancestral lands, many after being forcibly evicted.”
Oxfam details that more than 20,000 people forcibly evicted from their land to make way for a British timber company, The New Forests Company, and Fitzpatrick described it as an example of “a new modern-day clearance” in operation.
Oxfam Scotland head Judith Robertson said: “Many of the world’s poorest people are being left worse off by the unprecedented pace of land deals and the frantic competition for land. Global action is crucial if we are to protect local people all around the world from losing what little they have for the profits of a few.”
Stretching to nearly 20,000 acres, the estate has entertained kings and prime ministers over the years and is described by CKD Galbraith, property agents to the gentry, as the "Holy Grail" of grouse shooting. Located near the village of Edzell, Millden was the first of the sporting lodges built for the Earls of Dalhousie on their Glen Esk estate in the Regency period. Shortly before the beginning of the Second World War King George VI and then prime minister Neville Chamberlain enjoyed a week's shooting.
Along with three recently-improved moors spanning more than 10,000 acres, fishing rights to eight miles of the River North Esk, and extensive woodland, prospective buyers of the estate in Glen Esk will acquire a considerable property portfolio. The centrepiece is the grand Millden Lodge, a 19th-century shooting lodge that includes ten bedrooms, a gun room, a bar, a billiard room, and various cottages for gardeners and gamekeepers. Along with two other lodges, Millden, bought by investment banker Richard Hanson in 2004, boasts a dizzying array of more modest accommodation, from cottages to farmhouses. In all, there are upwards of 30 properties included in the guide price, plus numerous lunch huts, sheds, and outbuildings, plus a staff of 16 to help with maintenance.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Every year birds of prey are found trapped, poisoned and shot on the country's hills, despite being protected by law and specialist wildlife crime officers. Landowners say the number of illegal killings is relatively small. The official figures are between 25 and 30 each year. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds believes many other cases of raptor persecution go undiscovered and unreported.
Why would anyone want to kill a bird of prey?
The RSPB believes it's all about money. Shooting, especially grouse shooting is worth £240m a year.
Monday, January 17, 2011
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... "
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Community councils are up in arms about the council policy of selling off common land to housing developers .
Land in Stoneyburn sold even though the previous Labour council denied it was up for sale . Stoneyburn Community Council secretary said "It was originally done without our knowledge "
Plans to sell land in Craigshill , Livingston and according to the Community Council secretary " It looks like they were trying to slip it through quietly "
Common land -West Lothian Council - Common Thieves
Thursday, June 21, 2007
"Much of the land Mrs Gloag wants to fence off can't even be seen from the castle itself. This is more about privilege than it is about privacy...Even more disturbing is the reason Sheriff Fletcher gave for his decision. He said that it was because Mrs Gloag was wealthy and had a high profile that she was entitled to a higher degree of protection. This sounds to me very like one law for the rich and another for the poor..."
Mrs Gloag, who along with her brother Brian founded the Stagecoach bus company, is worth an estimated £395m .
Why should Lord Smith be so surprised . The law has always favoured the wealthy and the powerful . We at Socialist Courier don't expect that to change .
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