Knoydart Land Seizures

The following is the text of an article by Hugh MacDiarmid first published in The National Weekly [vol. 1, no. 10. 20th November 1948]

It used to be at http://www.yfinnie.demon.co.uk/contents2/knoydart.html but that site now appears to be defunct so I have reproduced it here.

There was widespread disappointment throughout Scotland, and in Scottish communities abroad when it was announced on Friday, that following the receipt of formal notices from Edinburgh notifying them of the interim interdict granted against them in the Court of Session, Edinburgh, six of the men involved had quietly left the farmlands of Kilchoan, near Inverie, which they had seized a few days earlier. After the solemn assurances given earlier in the week that the men would submit to arrest for their continued occupancy of the land, this unexpected development was in the nature of an anti-climax.

It is not too much to say that real fight at long last had been widely anticipated. As soon as the seizure of the land was made public, expressions of support and eagerness to help, financially and otherwise, flowed in from far and near. The Clann Albainn Society suggested to Father Colin Macpherson , the Roman Catholic Priest at Inverie who has supported the men's claims, that a meeting of all organizations in favour of the men's demands be convened immediately to decide on further action. A student's organization in Edinburgh forwarded a sum of money to help to meet the men's expenses. The Scottish National Party set up a fund for the purpose of supporting the men, and it was stated that contributions to the fund which had been opened "in response to a widespread demand" were being received by the Party Treasurer, Glasgow. It was also stated that the Party had sent a letter to the Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr Arthur Woodburn, on the subject of Knoydart. The men themselves had sent a letter to four Crofter Unions in the Highlands and Islands, and also to the Fort William branch of the British Legion, asking for support in representations to the Secretary of State for Scotland and members of Parliament.

There were accordingly good grounds for hoping that a big fight would eventuate. Such a fight on a national scale - and involving the big Scottish populations overseas - is, of course, long overdue, and it seemed likely that it could not be initiated under better auspices. The Knoydart land wastage is a particularly flagrant one. The type of landlord involved made the case a particularly likely one for bringing to a head at last all the subterranean anger at the way in which vast areas of Scotland have been depopulated adn turned into private preserves by alien owners. Sooner or later the whole issue must be forced into the arena of practical politics. Why not now? It was assumed that the men involved were likely to be the best type to fight the issue. They were all ex-Servicemen and family men, of mature abe and experience.

Hope centred in particular on the type of land lord concerned. A neighbouring landlord puts the matter very mildly in saying, "I am afraid Lord Brocket is very unpopular. He does not seem to understand our people at all."

Perhaps, on the other hand, the trouble is that our people understand Lord Brocket only too well - and have no use for him. It is impossible to regard the possesion of this 52,000 acre estate by the millionaire Lord Brocket as other than a peculiarly ugly example of the way in which great tracts of Scottish land were acquired by all manner of foreigners while our own men were fighting overseas. It is appalling that a man of Lord Brocket's type should have been permitted to purchase land in Scotland at a time when all our resources were mobilized against an ideaology with which he was actually to some extent identified as a member of the notorious 'Link' and the German Fellowship. It is not clear how Brocket secured admission to Inverie at that time, since it was a confined area; but once there, he seems not to have been allowed out. It will be remembered that the late Mr Neville Chamberlain of unhallowed memory holidayed at Knoydart whihle Prime Minister. It is intolerable that a person of this description, using Knoydart as a funk-hole during the war, should be in a polition to deny the means of livelyhood now to ex-servicemen who are natives of the area in question. Certainly it is in the public interest that the utmost light should be concentrated on the motives of such a man as Lord Brocket - and that enquiry should not stop short of ruthlessly illuminating the reasons for his ennoblement. There are far too many of these "business peers" swanking about, who are not worthy of a lance-corporal's stripe let alone a peerage - and far too many of them seem to have acquired vast Scottish estates in recent years. They ought to be expropriated.


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