I am really trying not to be political. All the marketing advice tells me to stick to the same style and tone as my books.
For my English books this would be light-hearted and fun with a bit of folklore, quirky characters, and ok the odd challenges that come with living and working in the rural Highlands of Scotland.
However, the last few weeks have seen the subjects I write about come under attack. Firstly it was the shenanigans with Argyle and Bute and their dumping of Gaelic books. These resources valued at a considerable cost should have been handed out to Gaelic Medium primaries, parents, and learners. Instead, they found their way into two skips for trashing.
Now I see we are giving away some of our titles and land in a ‘goodie bag’ at a party. A very high-profile party I’ll grant you but how incredibly insensitive. Given the history of the clearances and the high prices of land and houses, it shows a total lack of understanding about the country and its history.
In the few streets around me, we have six houses now let out to holidaymakers. These dwellings would have normally been sold to young families or available for long-term renting. Our young cannot compete with the market forces either for buying or renting. Local jobs don’t pay enough to even consider these as options.
We are forever being told how much money and jobs tourists bring. They do and the area does benefit from that. But these jobs tend to be seasonal and low paid. The locals doing this work could not afford to buy a two-bedroom family home that can be rented out to six holidaymakers for sleeping.
In a time when folk are finding it difficult to pay heating bills and put food on the table, the super-rich are being given our land as a wee token gift and a light-hearted joke. To families that are struggling and will never be able to afford their own home in Scotland, this is an insult.
Scotland does not need this ill-thought-out gimmick. We already have an abundance of holidaymakers seeking out our bonnie landscape and amazing wildlife. In fact, it could be argued that we are already suffering from over-tourism.
Some of the very things that bring tourists here in the first place are in danger of being destroyed. Roads need to be made wider, car parks bigger, and what of the hidden places that are no longer hidden or secret. Take a walk down Inverness high street and what do you see now these days? Not the individual shops and a variety of merchandise. It has turned into the Princess Street of the Highlands and not in a good way.
I’ve decided that the tone of this blog does reflect the voice at least of one of my characters and that is the Gàidhlig Grumpa I write about for children. He groans and grumbles but his heart is in the right place. He is aware if he is in the wrong and is willing to learn and put it right.
I can only hope that those who thought of this ill-considered gift also have that ability to take a step back and reflect on what it means to carelessly hand out pieces of this land as a ‘cute novelty’.
This land is nothing without its people and without land or houses, the people have nowhere to live.