All posts by Tony Gosling

Beginning his working life in the aviation industry and trained by the BBC, Tony Gosling is a British land rights activist, historian & investigative radio journalist. Over the last 20 years he has been exposing the secret power of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and élite Bilderberg Conferences where the dark forces of corporations, media, banks and royalty conspire to accumulate wealth and power through extortion and war. Tony has spent much of his life too advocating solutions which heal the wealth divide, such as free housing for all and a press which reflects the concerns of ordinary people rather than attempting to lead opinion, sensationalise or dumb-down. Tony tweets at @TonyGosling. Tune in to his Friday politics show at BCfm.

Guardian editorial: make water available for free on tap [and food, clothing, shelter]

Great start Guardianistas…. but

Water is a human right under Article 25 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights

Therefore NOBODY should have to pay ANYTHING for it

We got the post WWII welfare state wrong – everyone should have been given these things as a RIGHT – not just to be given enough money to buy them through ‘social security’.

Other basic needs under Article 25 are
– provided for all in Britain until the 1979 Thatcher government

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

The Guardian view on plastic bottles: make water available on tap

Editorial Thankfully the campaign to cut our plastic habit by making free fresh water widely available is gathering momentum

Friday 8 December 2017 19.00 GMT

Like a wave building far out at sea, the momentum behind universally available cool fresh water is growing steadily. It is driven by the realisation that the world’s plastic habit must be broken, quickly. It;s reckoned that a million plastic bottles are bought worldwide every minute; the meaning of this number is best expressed in the images of mountains of litter made of this virtually indestructable material piled by the tides on to otherwise deserted beaches in remote corners of the globe. It is an unnecessary disaster. There is no reason why water has to come wrapped in its own environmentally lethal packaging.

This week, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan pledged to develop a city-wide network of water fountains and refill stations. A Bristol-based campaign to set up refill stations in city centres and seaside resorts is flooding across Europe. Australian cities such as Melbourne have digital maps showing where drinking fountains are available.

There could be so much more – airside refill stations in every international airport to slash the thousands of bottles jettisoned at security would be a good start.

A refill station on every platform in every railway station would be even better. The choice between income from retail outlets or a low-cost move to help end plastic pollution is really no choice at all.

Plymouth’s ex-Barclays Bank squatters evicted from Mutley Plain

An enforcement officer served the squatters with a possession order from the landlord

A group of squatters who have been living in different empty buildings along Mutley Plain for months have been kicked out.

Most recently Phil Northmore and Ryan Roberts had been squatting in the vacant former Polish shop, after being moved on from the Barclays bank building next door.

But now the friends, along with a few other squatters, have been told to leave and not come back.

On Wednesday an enforcement officer visited the squat and served them with an ‘Interim Possession Order’, giving them 24 hours to leave.

A spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police said although it is not a criminal matter, they were made aware of the situation.

“They [the squatters] left without any trouble,” the spokesperson confirmed.

The Herald went inside the squat in the former Barclays bank branch in October and met Phil and Ryan, who had climbed in through an open window.

They can squat in the former bank until they are evicted
They were squatting in the former bank before they were evicted

Phil, who is now living in York, said they gave the enforcement officer “no problems” and gladly moved out within the deadline.

“There is a lot of stigma behind squatting,” he said on the phone from York. “People just don’t understand.”

The local neighbourhood beat manager for Devon and Cornwall Police said many squats are attached to anti-social behaviour, and it is then the police will get involved.

But they said at the time both Phil and Ryan had always been cooperative.

“We are unable to go in and evict them,” the beat manager explained at the time, “that is not our role.

“But if they are causing anti-social behaviour and we get complains then we will deal with those issues.

“We make the landlords aware of the issue, and it is their job to go through the courts and attempt to obtain a court order.”

Mike has somewhere to live but likes to visit his friends in the squat
Their friend Mike has somewhere to live but likes to visit the squat (Image: Paul Slater Images Ltd)

Although it has been widely reported that recent changes to the law make squatting in residential premises a criminal offence for the first time, this is not strictly true.

Plymouth-based solicitors Thompson and Jackson explain: “Refusing to leave a property when requested by a ‘displaced residential occupier’ has been a criminal offence for more than 30 years,” they say on their website, “and the theft of someone else’s electricity etc and causing damage to a property are also criminal acts.

“The new laws on squatting only apply to residential buildings, not land in general, and they only apply to those who are living or intending to live in the property in which they squat, not to transient occupiers.

“If a property you own is occupied by squatters, persuading the police to take action can be a difficult job and it is crucially important to be able to demonstrate conclusively your right to take action to recover your property. Do not be surprised if the squatters claim that you have entered into a lease with them, and be prepared to refute such claims and have the necessary proof available at the beginning.”

Phil says there are golden rules to squatting and his own rules too
Phil says there are golden rules to squatting and his own rules too

Because of this, Phil and Ryan have no problem entering an empty building – of which there of many on Mutley Plain – and making it their home, however temporary.

When they were squatting in the former Barclays bank branch they pinned up bunting and fairy lights, created makeshift bedrooms and even had a table and chairs.

Phil, who has served a tour in Afghanistan in the military, said: “Most [of the empty buildings a squatter would make their home] are insecure with windows open, and that’s how we get in. No one comes round to check them, they just leave them.”

Talking about their eviction, the police spokesperson said: “The squatters had been evicted from another property on Mutley Plain [Barclays] and on Wednesday we got a call from the enforcement officer making us aware he was attended the property [Polish shop].

“This is a civil matter, not a criminal matter, so we didn’t actually attend.

“They [the squatters] without any trouble. There were six people in the property at the time.”

Guardian: House prices aren’t the issue – land prices are

House prices aren’t the issue – land prices are

Timely revisit of what will for many be an old cookie

There’s a simple solution that will give us cheaper homes – if only the chancellor would listen Winston Churchill in 1910. He promoted the ‘people’s budget’ and lamented landowners’ profits.

Patrick Collinson Saturday 18 November 2017 07.00 GMT

While reporting on the recent court case where controversial landlord Fergus Wilson defended (but lost) his right to refuse to let to Indians and Pakistanis, I learned something about how he’s now making money. He is now far from being Britain’s biggest buy-to-let landlord. He’s down to 350 homes, from a peak of 1,000. And what’s he doing with the cash made from sales? Buying agricultural land close to Kent’s biggest towns. One plot he bought for £45,000 is now worth, he boasted, £3m with development permission. And therein lies the reason why we have a housing crisis.

As long ago as 1909, Winston Churchill, then promoting Lloyd George’s “people’s budget” and its controversial measures to tax land, told an audience in Edinburgh that the landowner “sits still and does nothing” while reaping vast gains from land improvements by the municipality, such as roads, railways, power from generators and water from reservoirs far away. “Every one of those improvements is effected by the labour and the cost of other people … To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist contribute, and yet by every one of them the value of his land is sensibly enhanced … he contributes nothing even to the process from which his own enrichment is derived.”

Landowners pocketed £9bn in profit from land they sold for new housing in 2014-15

When Britain’s post-war housebuilding boom began, it was based on cheap land. As a timely new book, The Land Question by Daniel Bentley of thinktank Civitas, sets out, the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act under Clement Attlee’s government allowed local authorities to acquire land for development at “existing use value”. There was no premium because it was earmarked for development. The New Towns Act 1946 was similar, giving public corporation powers to compulsorily purchase land at current-use value. The unserviced land cost component for homes in Harlow and Milton Keynes was just 1% of housing costs at the time. Today, the price of land can easily be half the cost of buying a home: £439,999 is the cost of land with planning permission for one terraced home in a less salubrious part of London such as Peckham.

What happened? Landowners rebelled and Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government introduced the 1961 Land Compensation Act. Henceforth, landowners were to be paid the value of the land, including any “hope value”, when developed. Today a hectare of land is worth 100 times more when used for housing rather than farming. Yet when a bureaucratic pen grants permission, all the value goes to the landowner, not the public. Bentley says landowners pocketed £9bn in profit from land they sold for new housing in 2014-15. For each new home built that year, £60,000 went as profit to the landowner. Major infrastructure projects such as Crossrail 2 and the Bakerloo tube line extension are estimated to cost the public purse £36bn. Landowners, meanwhile, will pocket £87bn from increased land values nearby.

In the Netherlands, the only sizeable country in Europe more densely populated than England, the Expropriation Act allows local authorities to buy land at current-use value. They prepare it for development, use part for social housing and sell the rest for commercial use, often at a large profit.

Think of it. Councils take all the financial uplift from planning permission, using potentially huge profits from land sales to build social housing almost at no cost to the public purse. Developers focus on making profits from building high-quality homes, not from hoarding plots. Land speculation is killed off almost overnight.

Instead, the chancellor will tell us in this week’s budget that the solution is billions more for help to buy. All that does is raise property prices and landowner profits. If only Philip Hammond could be more like Churchill.

Dukes of Westminster pumped millions into secretive offshore firms and avoided billions of pounds in tax

Duke of Westminster’s five main estates: 11,500 acre Eaton Estate in rural Cheshire; 23,500 acre Abbeystead Estate in rural Lancashire; 96,000 acre Reay Forest estate in rural Sutherland, the La Garganta Estate in rural Spain and 300 acres of prime central London land in Mayfair and Belgravia worth c. £10bn.

Hugh Grosvenor became Britain’s youngest billionaire following his father’s death in 2016. Most of the father-of-four’s personal estate was left in trust with the income going to his widow Natalia but trustees were given the power to transfer all or any of the capital to her. The UK’s inheritance tax of 40 per cent of any assets worth over £325,000 is not payable on anything left to a spouse or on charitable donations. If it had been applied to the late Duke’s entire wealth, the liability would have been around £3.4 billion.

Paradise Papers bring to light key parts of structure used to manage £9.5bn fortune inherited last year by Hugh Grosvenor, 26

Juliette Garside @JulietteGarside Tuesday 7 November 2017

The international property empire of the dukes of Westminster pumped dividends worth millions of pounds into secretive companies in Bermuda and Panama, the Paradise Papers reveal.

Hugh Grosvenor became Britain’s youngest billionaire after his father’s death last year. Thanks to careful planning by his predecessors, the 26-year-old inherited the sprawling Grosvenor Group without having to pay the 40% death duties imposed on most British taxpayers.

A leak of 13.4m files, including documents from the archives of the offshore law firm Appleby, combined with public information from the UK companies register, has brought to light key parts of the structure used to manage the seventh duke’s fortune – estimated at £9.5bn in the Sunday Times rich list.

What are the Paradise Papers?

The Paradise Papers is a special investigation by the Guardian and 95 media partners worldwide into a leak of 13.4m files from two offshore service providers and 19 tax havens’ company registries. The files reveal the offshore financial affairs of some of the world’s biggest multinational companies and richest individuals, and set out the myriad ways in which tax can be avoided using artificial structures

They reveal for the first time the names, settlors and creation dates of the five UK trusts that have been used, for generations, to keep in the hands of a single family an estate that includes much of Belgravia and Mayfair in London, 165,000 acres of British countryside, hundreds of developments in North America, Australia and Hong Kong, and an island in Vancouver.

The trusts established by successive dukes to control Grosvenor are UK resident and subject to British tax – they pay a 6% charge on the value of many of their assets every 10 years. Assets worth £600m belonging directly to the 6th Duke, which were not held in trust, were inherited by his wife exempt from tax, as is normal for married couples. Death duties will be payable in the UK when her children inherit.

But the papers show that not all the family’s wealth was managed onshore. Until 1999, about half of the shares in a subsidiary that ran Grosvenor’s North American and Australian operations were controlled by tax haven companies.

Managed from Canada, the international wing of Grosvenor was created in 1953 when the estate made its first big expansion outside Britain by acquiring the 485-hectare Annacis Island in the middle of the Fraser river in Vancouver.

By the turn of the century, Grosvenor International Holdings Ltd (GIHL) had assets worth more than C$1bn (£600m), with 42% of its shares held by screen companies in Bermuda and Panama.

Vesta Ltd, incorporated in Bermuda in 1964, controlled Trumpet Company Ltd, another Bermuda company, which in turn held shares in GIHL. Alongside it was a parallel Panama structure: Nakar Holding SA, incorporated in 1977, owned shares in Compact International Inc, which in turn held part of GIHL.

The identities of the owners of these four companies have never been publicly disclosed by Grosvenor. However, Appleby’s internal database listed Vesta and Trumpet as belonging to the “Grosvenor Family Trust”.

Grosvenor’s annual reports show millions in payments collected in Panama and Bermuda: a combined £1m in 1999, direct from GIHL, and a similar sum the year before. Eventually, the offshore companies swapped their shares in GIHL for a 6.5% holding in the overall Grosvenor Group, collecting £3.7m over a seven-year period.

In March 2007, Grosvenor announced it was buying out Vesta and Nakar for £40m. The reason given was to “better align the shareholders’ interests with the group’s activities”. The companies were dissolved later that year.

A spokesman for the Grosvenor estate said: “Two small overseas trusts were established over 50 years ago, when it was accepted common practice to facilitate the acquisitions of some non-UK assets. No family member has received any benefit derived from these but, as UK residents, if they ever did then they would be fully liable to tax in this country.

“Our policy is to uphold the highest standards of business practice. We are careful to ensure that our ownership of overseas property is through vehicles incorporated in the same country as the asset. Where the group occasionally has entities in offshore locations, it is typically as a result of the requirements of joint-venture partners.”

The papers reveal a number of other offshore entities, some of which held investments in Asia. By 2009, the sixth duke’s trustees appear to have become wary of transacting too much of his business via tax havens.

That year, a member of the Appleby marketing team visited Jeremy Moore, the head of tax at Grosvenor Group, and another colleague. He took a few notes on their conversation. Grosvenor liked working with the firm but was wary of giving it too much to do. Appleby’s officer noted: “They do not have too many offshore holdings as they have to be very careful reputationally, as the property group is owned by trusts for the Duke of Westminster’s family.”

Documents from 2012 show Grosvenor’s shares were held by five trusts and by the sixth Duke of Westminster in his name. The oldest trust, simply referred to as ADWSLF in the data, was settled, or created, in 1953 by the second duke upon his death. The family’s enthusiasm for trusts may be explained by the fact that death duties of £17m swallowed much of the second duke’s £25m fortune.

The next oldest was the Fourth Duke of Westminster’s Settlement, which dates from 1964, three years before his death.

There is a Fifth Duke of Westminster’s Settlement, created in 1965, and the sixth duke, who died last year, created two more. The first was settled in 1971, the second in 1974. His will, published recently, suggests he created yet more trusts before his death.

The tax advantages of UK trusts such as these have been gradually whittled away. Since 1984, they have been subject to a 10-yearly tax charge, although there are exemptions for agricultural land and trading businesses.

Nimesh Shah, a partner at the accountants Blick Rothenberg, said: “Nowadays, trusts are used for a variety of reasons and tax is only one of those reasons. These trusts are about trying to keep control of the assets within the family unit.”

There is no public register listing the names, beneficiaries or holdings of any UK trusts, despite the fact such vehicles control vast tracts of land and property in Britain. HMRC has a register of trusts that pay tax, but this is not available to the public. In Europe, MEPs have been pushing for each member state to improve transparency by introducing public registers of trusts. The papers reveal how reluctant Grosvenor employees were to share trust details.

On one occasion, when tasked with setting up a Bermuda company in 1999, Grosvenor representatives asked Appleby to “seek dispensation” from the normal rules for declaring who the trust beneficiaries were.

The information was required by the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) before the company could be incorporated. Because the Bermuda company was to be controlled by trusts, Appleby would need to follow standard procedure and disclose the names of their beneficiaries and other basic information to the regulator.

Grosvenor did not want to share this data. In a fax dated 9 November, Appleby promised to “revert to the BMA to determine what they will give in on”, saying it had already obtained from the BMA that “they have indicated they will not require a personal declaration from the duke”.

The Bermuda entity, eventually called Grosvenor Land Property Fund Ltd, would go on to invest $30m in developing luxury homes in some of Hong Kong’s most desirable neighbourhoods, in a joint venture with another wealthy family, the Keswicks, through their Jardine Matheson Group.

The man from Appleby warned that “it raises ‘alarm bells’ when persons decline to disclose such information fully” and disclosure of ownership was a longstanding policy “designed to preserve Bermuda’s relatively clean image in the offshore world”.

He then proposed an unusual arrangement: “Would it make a difference if the information requested was placed in a sealed envelope and marked for the eyes of the CEO of the BMA only so that such information does not pass through the hands of intermediaries such as ourselves?”

The Grosvenor spokesman said, after checking the records, no evidence had been found “to suggest that the trustees asked for any such dispensation from the Bermuda Monetary Authority in 1999”. He said investors in the property fund would have paid tax in their own countries and the use of jurisdictions such as Bermuda was common for these types of funds, in order to avoid investors being taxed twice.

The information supplied, whatever it was, appears to have satisfied the Bermuda authorities, because the company was successfully incorporated on 16 December.

The seven dukes

First duke: 1825-1899. Hugh Lupus Grosvenor was MP for Chester and died the richest man in Britain.

Second duke: 1879-1953. Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor, grandson of the first duke, was known to family and friends as Bendor and was a lover of Coco Chanel. He left no son.

Third duke: 1894-1963. William Grosvenor was brain damaged at birth, and died unmarried and childless.

Fourth duke: 1907-1967. Gerald Hugh Grosvenor, cousin of the second duke, left no son.

Fifth duke: 1910-1979. Robert George Grosvenor, brother of the fourth Duke, lived in Northern Ireland at Ely Lodge on an island in the middle of Lough Erne.

Sixth duke: 1951 to 9 August 2016. Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, son of the fifth duke, mentor to Prince William, served in the Territorial Army for 40 years.

Seventh duke: born 1991. Hugh Richard Louis Grosvenor is Britain’s youngest billionaire.

From a dowry of swamp land to a multi-BILLION pound property portfolio: How Duke of Westminster’s family business started with a 17th century marriage and turned 300 acres of bog into an empire 

Marion Shoard – Power In The Land (1987) – LWT production for Channel 4


Marion Shoard was born in the west of Cornwall in 1949 and spent most of her childhood in Ramsgate, East Kent. She read zoology at Oxford University and, in order to work in countryside conservation, spent two years at the then Kingston-upon-Thames Polytechnic, studying town and country planning.

She then worked for four years at the national office of the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), campaigning in topics ranging from national parks to forestry, and rural public transport to wildlife conservation. However, she had become more and more convinced that the main threat to the beauty and diversity of England’s countryside was the expansion and intensification of agriculture and, with the help of a grant from the Sidney Perry Foundation, she left CPRE to research and write The Theft of the Countryside (1980).

This book struck a chord with the public and sparked off a lively debate, with thirty letters published in The Times, for example. During the following few years she wrote articles and gave talks on the book’s theme, lobbied on rural issues in Parliament and helped set up countryside action groups. The Theft of the Countryside included proposals to establish new national parks in lowland England.

A second book, This Land is Our Land (1987), examined the history of the relationship between landowners and the landless, and suggested it should be placed on a new footing. This book also attracted attention. Channel 4 Documentary: Power In Land I presented a one-hour documentary on its subject matter made by London Weekend Television for Channel 4 and called Power in the Land. During the next few years, she wrote numerous articles and gave many talks about a wide range of rural issues. She also taught countryside planning and land management to students at universities, including Reading and University College London. Gaia Books reissued This Land is Our Land, expanded and updated, as a Gaia Classic in 1997.

One element of the arrangements she had put forward in This Land is Our Land was the replacement of the UK’s trespass régime with a general right of public access to the countryside, providing much greater freedom to roam.

With the help of grants from the Nuffield Foundation and The Leverhulme Trust, she set to work out how such a right could operate on the ground, after making trips to Scandinavia, France and Germany to see for myself the very different access systems operating in those countries. Her conclusions on access were published in A Right to Roam (1999), which was acclaimed as Environment Book of the Year in 2000 by the Outdoor Writers Guild.

She has recently supported Jean Perraton’s call for a right to swim in inland waters in the UK, through penning the foreword to her book Swimming against the Stream: Reclaiming Lakes and Rivers for People to Enjoy Swimming against the Stream: Reclaiming Lakes and Rivers for People to Enjoy.

Her activities in the environment sphere were profiled in two articles which you can read here: The Essential Marion Shoard The Essential Marion Shoard by travel writer Jim Perrin Accessing All Areas Countryside Access by environment journalist Caron Lipman.

What next for young people in Zimbabwe’s land reform areas?

What next for young people in Zimbabwe’s land reform areas?

As discussed in the blog series earlier this year, we have been investigating inter-generational questions in land reform areas. 17 years on, young people born after the land reform are leaving school, and thinking about what next? Will this be farming, or other occupations? In the context of a declining economy what prospects are there?

We wanted to hear from those currently in secondary school (Form IV, mostly aged between 16 and 18) and undertook an exercise with school students asking two questions in sequence: What do you think you will be doing in 20 years’ time? And, what are the constraints to getting there?

It was a fascinating set of interactions held in three schools in our study areas – in high potential Mvurwi, in dryland Wondedzo near Masvingo and in the deep Lowveld in Chikombedzi. We used the Q sort methodology, which analyses subjective viewpoints using both qualitative and quantitative methods. A first step is to decide on the statements that are going to be sorted. We did this in a separate exercise with a number of young people and ended up with 49 statements (a list of envisaged occupations) related to the first question and 36 statements (on constraints) for the second question. You can have a look at what young people chose as the full set for sorting, here and here.

In the Q sort sessions,  participants are asked to rank their opinions along a continuum from agree to disagree against a set of statements about a subject. In the end we had 61 valid responses across the sites, with 39 males and 22 females. The Q sort method has been used in several other studies on youth and agriculture in Ghana, including exploring perspectives on desirable work and on young people’s perspectives on farming. We wanted to see if the setting of land reform areas in Zimbabwe threw up different results.

The statistical analysis of the sorts (using the PQMethod software – thanks to Jim Sumberg for helping navigate this) revealed a number of factors for both questions, differentiated by gender but combining all the schools. The qualitative interpretation exploring what these factors mean is the interesting part of the analysis, and is hugely revealing on how young people imagine their futures, and what constraints they perceive as being in the way. This blog focuses on the question: “what do you think you’ll be doing in 20 years’ time?”, preliminary results of which were discussed before. The next blog focuses on the constraints.

Imagined futures

The analysis of the statements linked to the factors highlighted some potential narratives around each, including the role of agriculture. Some very brief summaries of these narratives are presented below. For male students, three factors emerge from the statistical analysis:

  • Factor 1 focuses on a future life in professional jobs, with mentions of being a lawyer, doctor, teacher, solider and nurse characterising this group. Some saw this happening outside Zimbabwe, including ‘working in the UK’. Imagined futures focused on agriculture were in management and business roles, such as being an irrigation dealer or an owner of an agricultural-related business, with less emphasis on actually producing.
  • Factor 2 focuses on being self-employed and owning a business. Being a bottle store owner was characteristic of this clustering. Commercial farming and agricultural marketing/input supply jobs were identified as important.
  • Factor 3 relates to wage work, and a number relatively low-skilled jobs, including being a conductor, driver, working in a factory. Given the employment situation in Zimbabwe currently, some in this group envisaged themselves working in South Africa. Agriculture was more prominent in characterising this factor, and involved a number of business ‘projects’, including vegetable gardening, poultry production, combining with off-farm wage work.

A rather different set of factors emerged amongst female students. Again, three are identified. These are:

  • Factor 1 highlights business ownership and entrepreneurship. The factor included mention of butchery, grocery, grinding mill ownership for example. This factor was also associated with professional jobs (but few cases), including mention of careers as lawyers and in the police service. Where agriculture was mentioned, if focused on a job, as an input supply dealer or an irrigation dealer, but also production for the market, with agriculture as a business, including commercial vegetable and tobacco production.
  • Factor 2 focuses on piecework – the casual sale of labour – as well as the trading of vegetables, food and clothes. By contrast to Factor 1, these are very low income options, but maybe a realistic vision for many. Some in this cluster combined these choices with a hope of escape, where fortunes would be made, and there were mentions of ‘working in the UK’ and ‘politician’ (in the Zimbabwe context perhaps seen as a route to patronage and the spoils of corruption). Engagement in agriculture was through markets and trading, selling vegetables and food, for example, but less focused on direct production.
  • Factor 3 by contrast emphasised service jobs (including hairdressing and tourism) and care (nurse, being a preacher, looking after kids). For this factor, agriculture was not part of an imagined future at all it seemed.

Future trajectories

As previous blogs have shown, young people’s imagined futures do not always pan out. The option of becoming a lawyer or doctor or migrating to the UK, for example, are available to very few. The conditions of schooling in the land reform areas are poor, and the opportunities for upward mobility constrained, perhaps especially so given the declining economic conditions in Zimbabwe more generally. Escape is an option, and migration to South Africa, the UK and elsewhere have been significant in the past, but again options are limited, and xenophobia and violence a concern in South Africa.

So it is not surprising that many young people imagine getting on through self-employment, piecework and small-scale businesses at home. Where agriculture is seen as central to future livelihoods, it is as a business, or through engagement with markets. Some saw themselves as focused commercial producers (vegetables and tobacco, mostly), but this was not a dominant theme in any factor. While in practice many young people end up focusing on agriculture ‘projects’ at home, on their parents’ or in-laws’ fields, this is not central to their future imaginaries.

The factors also differed by gender. While both male and female students mentioned professional careers, owning businesses and so on, it was noticeable that the male sorters were more aspirational, imagining futures in the professions or owning lucrative businesses. The female students by contrast had generally set lower targets, with self-employment and entrepreneurship being associated with piecework and trading, as well as owning a stores or grinding mills. Engaging with agriculture is also much less emphasised among women compared to men, who saw some options of commercial agricultural production, as well as engaging in agriculture-related businesses. Significantly both male and female sorters highlighted what Henry Bernstein would call the ‘fragmented classes of labour’, the array of informal, fragile and low paid jobs, some including wage work, but many simply casual piecework, perhaps combined with some part-time agriculture. For many this is, even now, envisaged as the future.

In the discussions that followed the sorts, the participants were very sanguine about the constraints, and these certainly affected their choices. The question was purposely focused on an ‘imagined self’ – what do you think you will doing in 20 years? – rather than simply open-ended aspirations, where the usual list of footballers, pop stars, astronauts and so on get added.

Constraints impinging on futures are very real for young people in Zimbabwe, creating stress and anxiety and a resort to drink and drugs for some. The post-land reform intergenerational question is simply not being addressed by policy, development programming or government services. The next blog, focuses on the array of constraints young people identified, and explores the implications.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland

​Prince Charles has millions in off-shore tax havens: Royal is latest to be dragged into Paradise Papers cash scandal

Prince Charles has millions in off-shore tax havens: Royal is latest to be dragged into Paradise Papers cash scandal

It is claimed the royal campaigned to change two climate change agreements even though he could benefit from rule change

Andrew Gregory Political Editor 23:27, 7 NOV 2017

Prince Charles has become embroiled in the tax scandal as leaked documents revealed he has millions of pounds stashed offshore.
And the royal was tonight accused of a “serious conflict” of interest over a secret investment he made in a Bermuda-registered firm run by a pal.
It came to light in the Paradise Papers, which also showed MPs have millions of pounds offshore.
And it followed claims that £10million of the Queen’s own fortune was invested in a tax haven . There is no suggestion those involved acted illegally.
The Prince of Wales faced accusations that he campaigned to change two climate change agreements while his private estate had an offshore interest that would benefit from the rule change.
The Paradise Papers show that in 2007 the Duchy of Cornwall, which provides Charles with an income and which he is said to be “actively involved” in running, bought shares worth £58,000 in Sustainable Forestry Management Ltd. He was a close friend of Hugh van Cutsem, a millionaire banker, the firm’s director.
SFM traded in carbon credits, a market created by international treaties to tackle global warming. It was hampered by the two agreements.
Mr Van Cutsem had lobbying documents sent to the prince’s office. Charles later made a speech criticising the agreements. In 2008, the Duchy sold its stake in SFM, which almost tripled in value. Despite Charles’ campaign, the environmental agreements were not changed. SFM is no longer in existence, and Mr Van Cutsem died in 2013.
The Duchy of Cornwall said the prince has no direct involvement in its investments. Clarence House said Charles had “never chosen to speak out on a topic simply because of a company that it may have invested in”.
But Sir Alistair Graham, ex-chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said: “There’s a conflict of interest between his own investments of the Duchy of Cornwall and what he’s trying to achieve publicly. I think it’s unfortunate somebody of his importance, of his influence, becomes involved in such a serious conflict.”
The 13.4 million leaked papers, held by law firm Appleby, show the Duchy also made investments worth £3million in the Cayman Islands in 2007. This is legal, there is no suggestion of tax avoidance. It came as Duchy of Lancaster chairman, Sir Mark Hudson was knighted by the Queen days after it emerged the Duchy inv­ested about £10million of the £500million estate offshore.
He joined the Duchy Council in 2006, a year after an initial £5.7million investment was made in a Cayman Islands-based fund.
The papers also show the late Duke of Westminster’s estimated £9.35billion Grosvenor Estate has included offshore holdings. There is no suggestion rules were broken. A spokesman said: “No family member has received any benefit derived from these but if they ever did, they’d be fully liable to tax [here].”
And it emerged the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund, worth £621million last March, has £6.6million invested in Jersey-based BlackRock UK Property Fund and another £6million in firms accused of tax avoidance.
The 2015/16 annual report lists Google, Apple and Amazon among its 20 biggest individual shareholdings.
A Commons spokesman said: “Some funds are domiciled offshore to enable investors from different countries to invest in the same fund, and also to prevent double taxation.”
Dame Margaret Hodge blasted a scheme Formula 1 ace Lewis Hamilton used to avoid paying VAT on a jet and said he should not be knighted. She added: “[He] should hold his head in shame at his contrived refusal to pay the British taxes he should.”

Brazil: Unemployment, rent drive housing occupations

Brazil: Unemployment, rent drive housing occupations

It is here where squatters have built a teeming tent city, named the People without Fear Occupation, in the industrial city of Sao Bernardo do Campo, next to Sao Paulo.

The occupation sits on a fenced-off 70 square-kilometre lot – roughly the size of eight soccer pitches – and is overlooked by middle class condominium blocks.

The squatters say they are driven by expensive rents and Brazil’s current economic crisis. Unemployment is the highest in decades at 12.4 percent. More than 13 million are unemployed.

Almost all of those living here survive precariously day to day from odd jobs. Many have racked up debts.

They are occupying the land to pressure the government to build more low-income housing.

Hundreds of similar occupations have sprung up in recent years, on the edges of Sao Paulo, South America’s wealthiest city, and across Brazil.

“I used to reject jobs if the money or the conditions weren’t right. Now I’ll take anything,” Helio da Conceicao dos Santos, a 25-year-old professional bricklayer, told Al Jazeera.

Adelino de Lima Silva, a 34-year-old construction worker unemployed since 2015, said that sometimes only manages two or three odd jobs a month.

Douglas Souza Ferreira, a 27-year-old father of one, lost his job at a soft drinks factory three years ago.“Jobs which used to pay BRL$150 [$47] now pay BRL$100 [$31] or BRL$80 [$25] it’s really competitive. We used to live well employed full time, now it’s barely enough to eat,” he added.

“You chase after jobs, spending your own money. Then when things don’t work out, you come home upset because you can’t provide for your family,” he said.

More than 7,500 families lived int he occupation by early October [Tommaso Protti/Al Jazeera]

Organisers say on the first day of the occupation in early September, 500 families occupied the empty land. But within a week, that number grew to 5,000 families, and by early October more than 7,500 families were set up there.

“This shows the worsening social crisis in Brazil and the deepening housing deficit,” Guilherme Boulos, national coordinator for the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) that organised the occupation and commands dozens of others across Sao Paulo state and more nationwide, told Al Jazeera.

‘The perfect storm’

Brazil’s housing deficit stood at 6.2 million homes according to a study by Joao Pinheiro Foundation using the last available data from 2015.

Sao Paulo state, Brazil’s most populous, was the most affected, with a total deficit of 1.3 million homes.

Even in Sao Paulo’s far-flung neighbourhoods, which lack infrastructure, are often crime ridden and can require two hour commutes downtown, apartment rentals usually cost between $150 and $240. Minimum wage is about $285 a month.

Boulos said the housing deficit worsened since 2015 as Brazil plunged deeper into recession, the result of falling commodity prices, economic mismanagement and political crisis. The economy contracted 3.8 percent in 2016.

In 2016, 37,000 housing units for low-income families were built [Tommaso Protti/Al Jazeera]

The Sao Paulo ABC region where the occupation is located was once the country’s booming industrial hub. It has lost 80,000 jobs since 2015 according to data by the Brazil Institute of Geography and Statistics.

“The majority of workers on the urban peripheries don’t own their house; they rent and are totally vulnerable – if family members lose their jobs and income falls drastically, they lose their home,” Boulos said.

“This is the drama being lived by millions of families across Brazil today and is causing occupations to increase across the country.”

He added that cuts to the federal social housing programme “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” have exacerbated the crisis.

“It’s a perfect storm – increased demand and reduced supply of low-income housing,” Boulos said.

Data given to Al Jazeera by Brazil’s Ministry of Cities confirmed that the number of low-income housing units built to attend families with a monthly income is less than $550 dropped from 537,000 units in 2013 to just 17,000 units in 2015 and 37,000 units in 2016.

The Sao Bernardo occupation has community kitchens, bathrooms and meeting rooms where tasks are allocated such as cleaning and cooking. Many spend their time divided between the camp and friends or relatives houses.

‘We’re not looking for handouts’

Heloha dos Santos Silva,17, and her husband Marlon, 19, live at the occupation full time with their nine-month-old daughter Helena. Marlon does odd jobs working at a car wash, but rarely gets work.

“It’s a squeeze and sometimes water gets inside when it rains. What we dream of is our own home,” said Heloha.

Organisers say they want the land disappropriated and used to build low-income housing. This is legal in Brazil if the property has remained vacant and unproductive for some time.

In 2014 ahead of Brazil’s football world cup, squatters won the right to remain and build low-income housing on an abandoned lot in Sao Paulo’s East Zone, an occupation dubbed “Cup of the People”.

Brazil occupation [Tommaso Protti/Al Jazeera]

“We’re not looking for handouts, we want what we have the right to in the constitution: housing, decent healthcare, education,” said Andreia Barbosa, a single mother of five and one of the camp coordinators.

Organisers and local media say the Sao Bernardo lot belongs to construction company MZM Construtora and has been vacant for 40 years. They also allege the company owes hundreds of thousands of Brazilian real in back taxes to the local government.

Al Jazeera contacted MZM Construtora for comment but received no response by the time of publication.

Eviction ordered

Local government and a neighbourhood petition group say the occupation affronts property rights.

“It’s ridiculous, you can’t just invade someone else’s property, the land has an owner,” said Eneas Moreira, 54, a consultant for the automotive industry whose apartment overlooks the camp. He said he feared that the occupation would bring down the value of his apartment.

“It’s terrible to see each day, the conditions are appalling, there is no infrastructure there,” he said.

Brazilian media reported that one of the squatters was shot with an air-gun on the day of the protest.Moreira and about 2,000 others recently took part in a street protest against the occupation.

Sao Bernardo City Hall said in an official comment to Al Jazeera: “The administration is against any form of invasion, be it public or private land.”

It added that it has its own housing programme with “1,980 people on the waiting list”.

The eviction of the occupation has been ordered by a local judge.

The squatters, the judiciary, the owner of the land and local security chiefs are expected to meet on December 11 to negotiate the eviction.

Sao Bernardo Mayor Orlando Morando posted a video on his Facebook, welcoming the eviction but said he hoped it would be peaceful.

Evictions from similar occupations have been rough in the past.

In 2012, an eviction of a similar housing occupation Pinheirinho on the outskirts of Sao Jose dos Campos in Sao Paulo state ended in a pitched battle between military police and occupiers that lasted two days with scores injured.

On October 31, 10,000 housing movement activists marched 20km from the Sao Bernardo occupation to Sao Paulo’s governor’s palace to demand the disappropriation of the land.

Local media reported that authorities will meet with the squatters again next week to review their demands.

“Our rights won’t fall out of the sky, that’s why it’s important that we continue to mobilise,” said Boulos.

Occupying Brazil


Occupying Brazil


 2017 Al Jazeera Media Network


Royal Palaces and Castles in Britain – some barely used

Royal Palaces and Castles

The Queen’s Homes

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is the Queen’s official and main royal London home, although the Queen regularly spends time at Windsor Castle and Balmoral in Scotland.

Buckingham Palace

We have now created a special page with photographas and information on Buckingham Palace. Click here to go there

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is an official residence of The Queen and the largest occupied castle in the world. The castle was the inspiration for the Royal family’s surname.

image: Windsor Castle

William the Conqueror built the castle in 1080 and it has remained a royal palace and fortress for over 900 years. Windsor is the oldest royal home in Britain and, covering 13 acres, it’s the largest castle in the world that is still lived in.

Each year, the Order of the Garter ceremony is held at Windsor Castle, and the Queen occasionally hosts a “dine and sleeps” for politicians and public figures.

Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle is the private residence of The Queen. It has remained a favourite residence for The Queen and her family during the summer holiday period in August and September. The Castle is located on the large Balmoral Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.


Some 85,000 people visit Balmoral each year, and the estate maintains and restores footpaths throughout the property for visiting hikers.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse

Founded as a monastery in 1128, the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh is The Queen’s official residence in Scotland. It was also the home of many Scottish royals.


The Queen holds receptions, state functions, and investitures within its walls, and each year during Holyrood Week Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip invite 8,000 Scottish guests to the Garden Party.

Sandringham House

The Royal family’s private country retreat in Norfolk. Every Christmas is spent at Sandringham House, which has been the private home of four generations of sovereigns since 1862.

imag: Sandringham

Other Royal Family Homes

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace was the favourite residence of successive sovereigns until the death of George II in 1760.


When William III bought the Jacobean mansion in 1689 it was known as the Nottingham House.

Kensington Palace was the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria and her primary residence until she moved into Buckingham Palace.

Kensington Palace was the London residence of the late Princess Diana.

St. James Palace

St. James’s Palace was built between 1531 and 1536 and was home of kings and queens of England for over 300 years. The palace was built by Henry VIII on the site of the Hospital of St. James, Westminster.

St James

After the destruction by fire of the Palace of Whitehall in 1698, all monarchs until William IV lived at St. James’s for part of the time.

William IV was the last Sovereign to use St. James’s Palace as a residence. Since the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, the Sovereign has lived at Buckingham Palace.

St James’s Palace is the most senior royal palace in the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, although no longer the principal residence of the monarch, it is the ceremonial meeting place of the Accession Council and the London residence of several members of the royal family.

Clarence House

Clarence House, stands beside St James’s Palace. It is The Prince of Wales’s current official London residence and former London residence of the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

image: Clarence House

Past Royal Homes

Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster)

Edward the Confessor made the Palace of Westminster the first official London residence. It is now the seat of British democracy. It is where the UK government is. The Palace contains over 1,000 rooms, the most important of which are the Chambers of the House of Lords and of the House of Commons.

image: Palace of Westminster

The Banqueting House (Whitehall Palace)

In 1529, Henry Vlll got fed up with Westminster Palace and built himself another one which he called Whitehall Palace. It covered 23 acres and it was the official royal residence until it burned down in 1698. It was rebuilt as government offices.

image: Banqueting House

Hampton Court Palace

Residence of King Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey.

Tower of London

The palace was a residence for Mary I and Elizabeth I, Charles I, William III and Mary II.
Find out more about the Tower of London

Lambeth Palace

Residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Non-royal palaces

Blenheim Palace  is a monumental English country house situated in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom. It is the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough, and the only non-royal non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace. The palace, one of England’s largest houses, was built between 1705 and circa 1722.


The official London residences of the English Sovereigns, from Henry VIII to the present day, have been:

  • the Palace of Whitehall (to 1699)
  • St James’s Palace (to 1837) and
  • Buckingham Palace (1837 +), originally known as Buckingham House.

Interesting fact:
The only access to St James’s and Buckingham Palace before 1841 was through Horse Guards: The Mall was closed at both ends until the opening of Trafalgar Square in that year.

Crofting: traditional British land tenure enshrined in law after battles of the 1880s

BBC2 The World About Us: The Corncrake and the Croft (1977)

“The land under sheep and deer is my property and I can do with it what I like.” –  Lady Matheson

Crofters – A 1944 film showing life on Scottish crofts in wartime

“Treasa tuath na tighearna.” (The people are mightier than a lord)
Highland Land League slogan

The Crofters’ Wars

The common people of the Highlands and Islands had been cleared from large areas of their ancestral lands. The Highland Clearances had crammed the surviving remnants  into crammed crofting townships on very small areas of land where they were very vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by their landlords. Many lacked even crofts of their own and became cottars and squatters on the crofts of other people. Landlords turned most of the land over to use as sheep farms and deer forests. The creation of sheep farms, often comprising large tracts of empty, uncultivated and often fertile land, which hemmed in the congested townships on their boundaries, created social tensions, which unavoidably led to revolt among the disadvantaged. The farms established on Tiree in the 1840s and 1850s, having been forcibly cleared of their original occupants were but a few of the farms designated by crofters as suitable for resettlement by themselves.  In addition, in the 1880s, the Highlands and Islands were ravaged by a decade of severe, occasionally chronic, agricultural depression. As wool prices collapsed, sheep farmers‘ profits and landlords‘ rentals fell back sharply from the heights they had reached in the balmy years of the 1860s and early 1870s. The poor harvests of 1881-1882 plunged the crofting population to a level reminiscent of the potato famine. Then on 1st October 1882 after prolonged rain in August and September came a severe southerly gale that destroyed the unharvested grain. In addition, the storm damaged or destroyed some 1,200 fishing boats, their nets and fishing gear

A mass movement for the reform of land laws erupted in the 1880s. Links formed by radical crofters in the Highlands and industrial workers in the Lowlands worried the authorities: and the crofters leaders who attended conferences organised by the Labour movement in Edinburgh were followed and hounded by police officers. It has been argued that the the Crofters movement of the 19th century was a catalyst for the formation of various working-class organisations in Scotland and it has also been suggested that the influences were the other way, both describe the organic links between the struggles for land and workers rights.

The association between land reform and those movements claiming to be socialist  had always been more marked in Scotland. Before the emergence of Keir Hardie the principal workers organisation in Scotland, which was for a time affiliated with William Morris’s Socialist League, called itself the ‘Land and Labour League’. Far from wishing to be a carbon copy of the Social Democratic Federation, the Scots were keen to establish their own separate national identity. This was why they named  their organisation the Scottish Land and Labour League. In Scotland the Scottish Land and Labour League severed its connection with the SDF to join the break-away Socialist League.

“I was then a member of the Scottish Land and Labour League, in Edinburgh, Scotland. It must have been in the very early Eighties I guess in 1883. The Scottish Land and Labour League was the first body in Scotland to take up the “New” Socialism, that is to say, it was the first to study Marx. Das Kapital had not yet been translated into English; we studied it from the French translation. We had affiliated ourselves with the Socialist League in London.” describesThomas H Bell (the anarchist, not the later Communist Party Tom Bell)

John Mahon was a former engineer from Edinburgh and member of the Scottish Land and Labour League, who joined the SDF, served on its executive, and was to go on to be the first secretary of the Socialist League. Nevertheless the alliance between the “socialists” and the group interested primarily in the land question did not endure. They became involved in the same sort of conflict  the Socialist League as with the SDF.

In the early 20th century the land agitation had become a vital force uniting farmer and crofter, miner and smallholder, and Highlander and Lowlander. To understand why the land question was of even greater importance in Scotland than in England, we must direct attention to the strength of feudal legislation in Scotland. An old Act of 1621 was still in force, for instance, which penalised farmers, miners, crofters since no-one could kill game unless he owned a ploughgate of land (about 100 acres). Moreover, even a farmer could be convicted of being “unlawfully on his own farm at night for the purpose of killing game.” The 19th century Trespass Act and the various Game Laws that legitimised the rights of landowners to restrict the movement of citizens wishing to gain access to uncultivated moorland and mountain in Scotland created a powerful sense of public grievance. In addition to restricting many traditional rights that the rural population had enjoyed they created a great deal of resentment amongst the growing urban membership of amenity groups and recreational clubs. Climbing and hill walking clubs were particularly active in campaigning to have the concept of freedom to roam enshrined in law. In the 1880s and 90s members of these clubs in conjunction with key figures from the Land League spearheaded a public and parliamentary campaign to have the Trespass and Game Laws altered. The campaign for freedom to roam was unsuccessful but during the following decades the number of people going to the hills increased as did the membership of walking and mountaineering clubs. The tension between hill goers and sporting estates during the grouse and deer stalking seasons was a constant reminder of unfinished business.

At the 1885 and 1886 General Elections a group of candidates, The Crofters Party, who described themselves as representatives of the crofters contested some of the Highland constituencies of north-west Scotland with almost complete success. The group had varying degrees of links to the Highland Land League which had been established to independently promote the interests of crofters and their specific land rights. The League never seems to have made a clear statement of its ultimate objectives. Although, as will be seen, it made use of Henry George for propagandist purposes, it was not a ‘Single Tax’ organisation. While some of its leaders spoke at times of “the necessity of abolishing landlordism” and “the restoration of the land to the people” – stock phrases of Henry George advocates – they appear to have had peasant proprietorship more in mind.

The discontent of the crofters had mounted to the point of revolt in the early 1880s. Although the days of the notorious Clearances were over, they had no security of tenure, the rents of many of them had been raised several times during the preceding decade, not a few were living in extreme poverty, and evictions seem to have been frequent. Many had recently been moved to less fertile holdings to make way for sheep-grazings or sporting preserves; some were still in the process of losing common grazings to their landlords. While a large proportion did not hold written leases, but were entirely dependent upon the goodwill of their landlords, without even the protection of recognised custom,  many of the written leases that did exist appear to have been merely annual. One of their main grievances was their inability to increase the size of their holdings, most of the plots being quite insufficient for the support of a family. Bitterly resenting being dealt with according to commercial, profit-making considerations – with the growth of luxury in England due to the increase in industrial productivity, the shooting rights of Highland estates rose in value much higher than crofters’ rents – they accused the lairds of abusing a sacred trust in their management of the soil, which they claimed was really the traditional property of the clans. Predictably the problem of landlessness was most acute in areas where the crofting population was at its most dense. In Tiree and the Outer Isles, it was not uncommon, as the Napier Commission noted, to find “crowds of squatters who construct hovels, appropriate land, and possess and pasture stock, but pay no rent, obey no control, and scarcely recognise any allegiance or authority”.

An important source of disaffection, the first notable demonstration – the so-called ‘Battle of the Braes’ – took place in April 1882. It occurred at the foot of Ben Lee, in Skye. In protest, perhaps in part inspired by events in Ireland, the Crofters War began against an attempt by Lord Macdonald, their landlord, to deprive them of some pasturage to which they claimed a right, some of the crofters were refusing to pay their rents – a measure that was becoming widespread at this period. When an attempt had been made on 7th April to serve summons of ejection upon them, they had responded by burning the summonds and mildly assaulting the sheriff-officer’s assistant. Then, on 17th April, a force of fifty Glasgow police, sent to the area to effect the arrests of six ring-leaders, was set upon, when making the arrest,by some hundreds of crofters with sticks and stones. It succeeded in withdrawing the prisoners, no major injuries being suffered by either side. In February, two months previously, a gunboat had been sent to Skye to facilitate the arrest of three crofters in another district, Glendale, for their part in a similar instance of deforcing a sheriff-officer. One of these men, John Macpherson, known thereafter as the ‘Glendale Martyr’, became a leading figure in the movement, an impassioned speaker at Land League meetings throughout the Highlands.

Over the next few years there were numerous such incidents in various parts of the crofting counties. Invariably sympathisers in the towns and cities – Portree being particularly notable in this respect – found bail for imprisoned crofters or otherwise saw to their interests and comfort.  In November 1884 a number of gunboats were sent to Skye and a force of marines made several marches over the island; this action, however, had been taken as the result of some fabricated reports of disturbances sent to the press by a landlord’s official, and no disorder either preceded or followed this action.

The Napier Commission published recommendations in 1884 but  fell a long way short of addressing crofters’ demands, and it stimulated a new wave of protests. The ensuing Act of 1886 applied to croft tenure in an area which is now recognisable as a definition of the Highlands and Islands established the Crofters Commission which had rent-fixing powers. Rents were generally reduced and 50% or more of outstanding arrears were cancelled. The Act failed however to address the issue of severely limited access to land,

In October 1886 a further force of marines and police went to Skye to enforce the collection of rates: both landlords and crofters had been refusing to make payment, with the result that the schools were on the point of closing, and the banks were declining to meet cheques for the Poor Law Officers. On the landlords’ part this action was, of course, a demonstration in protest against the refusal of the crofters to pay their rents – and it was their default which had precipitated the crises, since their share of the arrears of rates formed by far the largest proportion of the total amount. As soon as the expedition reached the island the landlords gave way; but there were a number of ugly scenes when the authorities distrained the personal effects of crofters who professed themselves unable to pay. At about the same period two hundred and fifty marines and fifty police were sent to Tiree (Argyllshire) when the Duke of Argyll Greenhill farm was occupied by over 300 men who at once proceeded to divide the farm among crofters and cottars from nearby townships. Confronted at Greenhill by a force of men and youths armed with sticks and clubs, the police – outnumbered by about six to one – were obliged to withdraw to the relative security of the inn at Scarinish, their mission unaccomplished. On the morning of 22nd July, Scarinish Inn was surrounded by the men responsible for the seizure of Greenhill. The police contingent, it was demanded, should immediately withdraw from Tiree. They left that afternoon. With the police in full retreat and the Duke of Argyll complaining that Tiree was “under the rule of savagery”, military involvement became inevitable. On 31st July 1886, a detachment of fifty police escorted by five times that number of marines was landed on the island from the naval ships HMS Ajax and HMS Assistance. Eight crofters were promptly arrested and conveyed to the mainland where they were subsequently found guilty of mobbing and rioting as well as of deforcement – five being sentenced to six month‘s imprisonment, the others to four months.

In later years, there were still isolated cases of deforcements. Plus there were still demonstrations – at the ‘Pairc Deer Raid of Lewis’,  in November 1887 the crofters organised a deer-hunt (the venison distributed to the needy.) in protest at their treatment by The Matheson’s, landlords of the Lewis Estate. The authorities panicked and sent a contingent of police and marines to quell what they thought was a full-scale rebellion. Six were arrested and sent to trial in Edinburgh but all were acquitted. Today, most of Pairc is still a sporting estate in private ownership.

And then there was the ‘Aignish Riot’, also in the Lewis, in January 1888, crofters, despite the presence of a force of marines, drove stock from a large farm. It took the bayonets of the marines and the arrival of company of the Royal Scots, however, made them realise there was little more they could do and to keep them at bay. Eleven prisoners, were escorted aboard HMS Jackal, and taken to Edinburgh where they were  found guilty of the crime of mobbing and rioting and sent them to prison for periods ranging from twelve to fifteen months.”

In Glasgow, in 1909, a second Highland Land League was formed as a political party. This organisation was a broadly left-wing group that sought the restoration of deer forests to public ownership, abolition of plural farms and the nationalisation of the land. Also they resolved to defend crofters facing eviction by their landlords and they supported home rule for Scotland. During the First World War politicians made lavish promises about reform which would follow the war, and of course many croftsmen lost their lives in the war itself. After the war the words of politicians did not translate into action, but croftmen returning from the war were in no mood to accept government inaction. Land occupations began again. In January 1918 in Tiree a number of cottars from Cornaigbeg took possession of a 13-acre field on Balephetrish farm and at once proceeded to prepare it for a spring planting of potatoes. The Balephetrish raiders were all old men – two at least being in their seventies – and all had sons on active service. But none of that prevented them from being sentenced to ten days‘ imprisonment as a result of legal proceedings initiated by the Duke of Argyll.

When faced with new land seizures the government responded by giving the Board of Agriculture the money and powers to do something like what had been promised. The Board’s work was assisted by a downturn in the profitability of sheep farming and, by the late 1920s, perhaps 50,000 acres of arable land and 750,000 acres of hill pasture had been given over to establishing new crofts.

In August 1918 the new Land League  affiliated with the Labour Party, with four candidates for the 1918 general election being joint League-Labour. By the 1920s they had fully merged with Labour, under the unfulfilled promise of autonomy for Scotland were Labour to gain power in the forthcoming years. Land League members were then key to the formation of the Scottish National Party in 1934.

The Crofters Act of 1886 was not the remedy. It gave the remaining Highlanders security of tenure but froze the crofters on the marginal land to which they had been driven. In the forty years between 1891 and 1931, on the other hand, in a period in which it was virtually impossible under Scottish law to evict a Highland crofter from his holding but singularly easy to evict a Lowland farm labourer from his cottage, the population of the Highlands & Islands counties fell by 26%, that of the Lowland group by only 16%. The law seems to have done nothing to slow down the drain of men from the Highlands. Some twenty-three Not-for-private-profit organisations own, lease or manage by agreement around 5 percent of the Highlands and Islands’ land area – some 506,725 acres. The state sector (Forestry Commission , Scottish Natural Heritage, Dept. of Agriculture, etc) whose land holdings comprise just over 14 percent (1.4 million acres) while the private estate sector owns some 80 percent (8.1 million acres).

a Landrights campaign for Britain

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