Highlanders seek demolition of monument to oppression: John Arlidge reports on a campaign to do away with a despised symbol of 19th-century land clearances

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MORE THAN 100 years after Scottish landowners forced 500,000 people off their estates in the Highland clearances, a campaign has been launched for the destruction of a hated symbol of a man behind the forced removals.

A retired councillor in the village of Kingussie, near Inverness, has applied to Highland Regional Council for the demolition of a statue of the first Duke of Sutherland, who 'cleared' some 15,000 residents from his 1 million-acre estate to make way for sheep farming in the nineteenth century.

Campaigners say the statue should be broken into pieces and scattered on the slopes of Ben Bhraggie, where it has stood for almost 150 years, so that people visiting a new 'appropriate' monument can walk on the remains.

Sandy Lindsay, who lodged the application, said the 100ft high, grade-B listed memorial, above the town of Golspie, was a painful reminder a man who destroyed the Highland way of life and culture. He condemned the first Duke of Sutherland as 'perhaps one of the most evil men there ever was'.

'Like Stalin and Hitler he destroyed people's homes without cause. He has no honour in Scotland and he is despised in the Highlands.'

Dr Jim Hunter, author of The Making of the Crofting Community, an account of the clearances, added that the monument was 'a grotesque representation of many forces that destroyed communities in the Highlands and islands'.

He and Mr Lindsay believe the statue should be replaced by 'a memorial to the suffering, death, emigration and tragedy which the land policies of that time caused'.

Their view is not unanimous, however. Donald Findlay, chairman of Golspie Community Council, warned that the local economy would suffer if the monument were removed.

'We don't agree with what the man did in the past but this statue is a help today in pulling in tourists,' he said.

The land on which the statue stands is owned by Sutherland Estates. Lord Strathnaver, who manages the estate for the 73- year-old Countess of Sutherland, said he had received a copy of the application but could not comment on it.

Highland Regional Council will consider Mr Lindsay's application next month.

(Photograph omitted)