Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Angus Peter Campbell: Islands Bond scheme won’t save our isles but real change could

More affordable housing for residents would make a big difference on Scotland's islands (Photo: Doug Berndt/Shutterstock)
More affordable housing for residents would make a big difference on Scotland's islands (Photo: Doug Berndt/Shutterstock)

I see the Scottish Government are offering individual handouts of £50,000 to 100 lucky people willing to go and live and/or set up business in our islands.

It’s like a wee lottery win for the fortunate few, and my application is already in the post. Along with those of my six children who have all failed to buy or rent any place in their ancestral homeland because of the extortionate price of land and housing. So that’s £350,000 gobbled up already by my poor family, which doesn’t leave that much for the rest of you, once I call my cousins and all my Uist pals exiled for years in places like Grimbsy and Guadalajara.

Angus Peter Campbell

My dear good friend, the late, great Dr John MacInnes, always used to tell me that the (Scottish) state’s official assault against Gaelic began in the 11th century, when (Saint) Margaret of Scotland moved away from the Celtic Church to the Roman Church, setting the compass eastwards from its Gaelic roots. It’s a miracle we’ve survived.

The Gàidhealteachd curries no exceptionalism. The rampant capitalism that is ravaging the earth, from the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest to the climate change which sees Greece on fire, doesn’t stop at some sort of mythic Highland line.

Just like Covid, the pursuit of land and profit doesn’t suddenly cease at any given geographic or linguistic border. Unfortunately, “Perth and no further” is not a language that a raging materialist fire obeys. Cambo continues. I can shout “stad” (stop) until my voice fails, but I might be better to use the fire extinguisher, or flee. Except there’s nowhere to escape to, mostly because those fleeing from the south are buying out the natives.

Whatever is given can always be reimagined

So the problems that the Scottish islands face are particular, though not unique. We are not (as yet) refugees. Problematic as getting a CalMac ferry is, we are not fleeing on rickety dinghies across the Minch, filmed by the reptile that is Farage. Hundreds of thousands of our ancestors bore that sacrifice for us, sailing on all those emigrant ships from Lochboisdale and Stornoway, never to return.

There have been increasing issues with CalMac ferry services (Photo: Sandy McCook/Press and Journal)

But our pain is sufficient. House prices which make it next to impossible for any local young person to buy or rent. An over-reliance on tourism. The scourge of Airbnb. A ferry service not fit for purpose. An infrastructure which is totally inadequate. A Gaelic language in communal decline. An ageing population. Lack of jobs. The list goes on, each sentence adding gravity to the next.

The good news is that it does not need to be like this. A thousand years of oppression has its consequences: it beats any confidence out of you. What’s the point of draining that ditch, because the next downpour will fill it up again anyway? What’s the point of ploughing that field, because nothing will grow in it anyway? What’s the point of booking a ticket on the ferry, because it will break down? What’s the point of speaking Gaelic to the children, because they will just answer in English? What’s the point of…

Our islands have that potential. They are amongst the most beautiful, green places on earth. The people are good and kind and capable

Well, the point is that things can change. Whatever is given can always be reimagined, as Seamus Heaney counselled Ireland. Look at Germany, ravaged after two world wars, to become the most developed industrial nation in Europe. At Japan, destroyed after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, rising from the ashes. Look at Finland, with the worst health statistics in Europe a generation ago, now one of the most advanced, healthy societies in the world.

We have an opportunity to forge a changed culture

Our islands have that potential. They are amongst the most beautiful, green places on earth. The people are good and kind and capable. Indigenous Gaelic is still spoken beautifully, even in Lewis.

Give joiners and builders and electricians and welders and fishers and potters and painters and poets and musicians and filmmakers and jewellers and sustainable seaweed collectors and heather honey makers low rent or free rent premises to develop their businesses. Severely limit Airbnb. Tax second homes to invest in local housing. Build ferries that work. Give our young local people land (there’s plenty of it) and crofts (half lying abandoned, the rest sold for English and Scottish gold) and homes and they will make a success of it.

Who wouldn’t want to move to Western Isles? (Photo: Helen Hotson/Shutterstock)

Not by giving £50,000 to the lucky few, which is like flinging paraffin on to the embers of a peat fire, but by embedding transformational environmental, social, cultural, linguistic and structural changes.

Instead of perpetuating a hopeless system where folk cry: “What’s the point?”, we have an opportunity to forge a changed culture which declares: “Let’s do it. An-seo. An-drasta. Here. Now.”


Angus Peter Campbell is an award-winning writer and actor from South Uist

Read more by Angus Peter Campbell:

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]