Letters: Land that was stolen from the Scottish people

These letters appear in the January 19 edition of The Independent

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The result of landlordism in Scotland has been the greatest curse which has ever blighted the country (“SNP storm clouds gather over Highlands estates”,  17 January).

Every inch of land in the Highlands and Islands was stolen from the ethnic population by Anglicised clan chiefs and landlords. The whole mass of the inhabitants were dispossessed by an unrelenting avarice, which has now been found to be as short-sighted as it was selfish and unjust. The Highlands was the largest man-made wilderness in Europe.

The Highland Clearances is the longest period of ethnic cleansing in European history, lasting over 100 years – from 1784 when the Duke of Athol (Chief of the Murrays) evicted the population of Glen Tilt, until 1903, when Lady Gordon-Cathcart was cramming emigrant ships with men, women and children from Uist and Barra. It is not by accident that today there are more Highland surnames in Halifax, Nova Scotia, than in the Highland capital of Inverness.

Once British aristocrats acquired a great taste for deer, salmon and game, large swathes of land were appointed as deer forests. Between the early 1800s and 1913 the area of Scotland covered by deer forests escalated from a few hundred thousand acres to 3,599,744 acres.

Many of the tyrannical landlords were members of the House of Commons or the House of Lords. Is this the reason that Westminster has not apologised to the descendants of the Clearances, though Tony Blair apologised to the Africans and the Irish for the slave trade and the potato famine?

I fully support the SNP policy on land ownership, and as a descendant of an evicted family that settled in Canada in 1851 would like to see the estates nationalised so that the people of Scotland have the fundamental right to use and enjoy their native land.

Donald J MacLeod
Bridge of Don, Aberdeen


It was inevitable that Scottish landowners would complain about Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that Holyrood would be seeking to take away the tax subsidies for their estates.

They didn’t mention how much money some of the estates got in farm subsidies. According to Andy Wightman’s tireless research into who owns Scotland, in 2008-9 the 50 largest estates received anything from £2.3m to £8.5m per estate – this when so many small farms are going under.

All Sturgeon is doing is implementing the Land Reform Act 2003, which was promised to be implemented by the end of the current session of the Scottish Parliament in 2016.

The Tory rural affairs spokesman Alex Fergusson bleats that the Scottish government was supposed to be governing for all Scotland’s people. When around 400 people own half of Scotland’s rural land, I would say that Sturgeon is thinking of the remaining 5,327,300 citizens.

Lesley Docksey
Buckland Newton, Dorset


What the ‘Charlie’ cartoons mean

Even in France, but certainly here in the UK, many people rushing to express solidarity with Charlie Hebdo don’t know what they’re doing. This is not a satirical magazine like Private Eye, whose cartoons are mostly gently mocking at the Establishment. Naïve Brits imagine that when they say “Je suis Charlie” they are defending free speech. Well, not quite.

Have a look at a cartoon like the one of a naked Muslim woman with a bit of blue rag sticking out of her derriere. The caption reads: “Yes to the wearing of the burka – on the inside!”

I doubt if even Voltaire would have fought to defend this or any of the other vicious and salacious anti-Muslim cartoons.

Elizabeth Morley


If you pay attention to the content of the cartoons produced at Charlie Hebdo you will see that, just as in the case of the Danish cartoons at Jyllands-Posten, none of them are actually about the Prophet Mohamed himself (pbuh).

Indeed they could only be construed as “being about him” if they depicted something he is generally believed to have done or said. Most of these cartoons satirise not the Prophet but the beliefs about him implied by the actions of extremists.

The primary target of all such cartoons is the beliefs of extremists. What they seek to depict is not the Prophet himself, but what the extremists’ actions imply about him.

It causes great mischief to misdescribe these cartoons as “satirising Mohamed” or even as being about him, because it risks prompting devout Muslims to say the fault lies in making any kind of depiction in the first place. Some may try to use this in justification of extreme reactions. Instead such pictures should be rigorously referred to as “cartoons satirising extremist Islamist beliefs” or as “anti-Islamist cartoons”.

Is it too much to hope that the media could combat visual illiteracy by making sure readers pay attention to how images should be “read”? Failing to do so, and lazily using the wrong language to describe them, may well stoke hostility between people who actually agree with one another.

Jonathan Powers
Quarndon, Derbyshire


If over a million people had gathered in the Paris streets to protest the execution of gay people by Islamic fundamentalists, or the murders by Isis, I would have stood with them.

A mass defence of pornographic cartoons of Mohamed, which serve to do nothing except humiliate and alienate Muslims, was mass lunacy.

Islamic extremism can only be truly defeated by education; by winning hearts and minds. To do this the West must start with a basic respect for the founder of Islam. The damage done by the “Je suis Charlie” approach is already in evidence around the world.

Daniel Emlyn-Jones


No mountains  in Denmark

Married to a Dane these past 45 years, I have a little knowledge of Danes and Danish geography. Neither of the writers of your feature “Oh, happy Danes?” (15 January) mentioned the co-operative working practices that make the workplace in Denmark very different from that in hyper-competitive London.

However, it’s geography that makes me write. Surely the mountains in the picture at the top of the page are in the Faroe Islands? The Faroes are an autonomous country within Denmark, and if you want to upset the calm exterior of the average Dane, just raise the question of Danish subsidies to the Faroes, or Greenland. Then you can find unhappy Danes.

Chris King
London N3


In “Oh, happy Danes” we are told at some length about the psychological effects of the long, dark winters. Relative to where, exactly?

Denmark’s average latitude is less than one degree north of the UK’s, insignificant in terms of daylight hours, and its most northerly point is well south of that of the British mainland.

Colin Duncan
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey


Editor bullied by Pharisees

I was surprised that a small minority of readers demanded that you stop using the opening phrase “Morning all!” in your weekly “Letter from the Editor” column in the Saturday edition of The Independent. I was also surprised that you felt obliged to carry out their demands.

Now is not the time to back down to a small group of people and their ideologies, so I would like to be the first in the obviously successful campaign to bring back “Morning all!” Long live Richie Benaud.

Nick Hodgson
Gosport, Hampshire


Morning Sir. I do not want “my” editor to be bullied, particularly by grumpy old people who get “very irritated” by trivia, can’t spell or use the plural “all” incorrectly.

I guess you can’t please them all. Like Dr Ann Kendell, I’ve bought The Independent every day since the first issue and enjoy your Saturday Letter. I like “Morning all” and agree that it conveys an informal, inclusive tone which I appreciate. We should definitely celebrate affable eccentricity.

Please don’t let them bully you. Restore “Morning all” this week!

David Small


By giving in to those boot-faced Pharisees over your cheery greeting, you have left yourself vulnerable to green-ink criticism from self-appointed purists everywhere. Prepare to be inundated!

Norman Foster
Duxford, Cambridgeshire


A manifesto for the victims of cats

May I add a couple of items to the Cat Manifesto (16 January) which could possibly increase the popularity of cats even among cat non-owners:

A collar to be worn with a bell or some electronic device to warn their potential victims, in particular songbirds.

Encouragement to use a litter tray on the owner’s premises to lessen the fouling of neighbouring gardens.

That would be a start.

Mary Evans
Heathfield,  East Sussex