Home rule for the Highlands
THERE is a proposal afoot by the MP and MSP for the West Highlands to break up the Highland Council’s huge administrative area and to establish a new authority to cover Skye, Lochalsh and Lochaber.
With some careful thought and not too much consultation, this has merit provided it is given a realistic budget, sticks to an achievable agenda and can rise above community council-like parochialism. The truth is that the Highlands and islands would be far better off if they were devolved from Edinburgh.
Historically folk in the central belt have not always understood the Gaelic culture or the way of life which still exists in rural communities west of Perth and Loch Lomond. This has resulted in a certain wariness at times, one well expressed by Lord Macleod of Fiunary, founder of the Iona Community and latterly domiciled in Edinburgh, who, shortly before his death in 1991, counselled his eldest son never to do business north of Crianlarich!
Generations before, the MacDonald Lords of the Isles sitting in Ardtornish Castle overlooking the Sound of Mull, believed they were kings in their own right, heading up an independent state.
One of them, John of Islay (1434-1503), ignored the Scottish Government in Edinburgh and did business directly with Westminster. On being invited on one of his visits to London to dine at a banquet given by the Lord Mayor who, to his horror realised he had wrongly placed MacDonald at the foot of the table and sent a footman to make amends, was told, ‘Tell the Lord Mayor not to worry, wherever MacDonald is sitting that is the head of the table’. One can only but admire the man’s independent spirit.
Iain Thornber firstname.lastname@example.org
ARDTORNISH CASTLE: home of the Lords of the Isles.