Government Must Help Fisherman And Farmer
From a Correspondent
A romantic place the Scottish Highlands: every other person when speaking of holidays says: " But of course I must go to Scotland one year "; and if you're sufficiently interested you'll find that Scotland means somewhere north of a line drawn from Perth to Glasgow.
pleasant if prevaricating railway posters have done their work.
It is a pity decay can look so romantic: if it did not the tired city workers who go on holiday to the dying lands north of the Tay might be more interested in restoring life to these lands. (But then if the decay was in the Jarrow manner, tired city workers would avoid spending their holidays amongst it and so would be even less interested in the well-being of the place. So—well work it out yourself.) A Town With 65 per cent. Unemployed
But if the appearance of decay is not so bad as in Jarrow, in actuality it is far worse; 24 per cent, of Jarrow's population is unemployed, but what of these Highland towns?
Stornoway has 65 per cent. unemployed, Wick, 36 per cent.; Buckie, 43 per cent.; Peterhead, 37 per cent.; Fraserburg, 36 per cent.; Shetland, 38 per cent.
Glamorgan, with 25 per cent. of its population unemployed is our worst county, but there are at least five counties in the Highlands with as much or more unemployment. Ross and Cromarty has 56 per cent. unemployed, and Banffshire 38 per cent.
The population of the Highlands is now about 300,000. In 1891 it was over 370.000. By the 1931 census every part of the Highlands shows a serious decline. .Ina few places like Fort William extra industrial activity has at least prevented the fall in population from being catastrophic, but has not halted it.
Recently the London Scots Self Government Committee published Plan for Scotland, in which the life of the average Scotsman today was outlined in the grim humour of statistics.
His career was contrasted at every point with the similar career of an Englishman.
When he first comes into the world it is 50 per cent. more likely for his mother than for an English mother to die in giving him birth.
As an infant he is 25 per cent. more likely to die than an English infant.
As a growing child, if his father is a proletarian, he is certain not to have enough to eat. According to the estimates of Sir John Orr and the Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Walter Elliot) two million Scots suffer from malnutrition. The total population is under five million and the ordinary working class population is 1,400,000 (insured workers).
As a schoolboy he will not be as fit as the English schoolboy. Of the 100,000 schoolboys examined in Glasgow in 1935, 93,000 were defective.
As a young man his health does not improve. In 1936, 80,000 Scots wished to join the Army and 54,000 were rejected on medical grounds.
Finding work is difficult. In Scotland one in five is unemployed, while in England the ratio is one in eleven.
There is something grotesque in this use of figures, which, by the way, apply to the whole of Scotland and not to the Highlands only, though the Highlands have more than any other part of the country sent up the general poverty level, but it is at least no more grotesque than the story that the figures tell.
There is no facile panacea for this bizarre death of Scotland, but one can make suggestions as to practical means of saving at least parts of this land, In the United States Mr. Roosevelt has had great success with the Tennessee Valley Authority, which took over the planning and development of a whole area.
The Highlands would benefit from a Highlands Development Board strong enough to claim the serious attention of the Government.
It could plan transport and reduce the heavy charges that such local industries as Thurso paving-stone industry must bear, often to their ultimate ruin.
Better transport is needed to help farmers and fishermen to reach the market towns.
You Can't Farm Barren Soil
The Herring Board must cease its terrific attacks on the Scottish herring fishermen. Its restriction plans and the neglect of the Governments of the past years have produced a decline in the Highland section of the fishing industry as deplorable as this 1926-26,000 fishermen, including 6,000 crofter-fishermen. 1936-21,000 fishermen, including 5,000 crofter-fishermen.
1937-19,000 fishermen, including 4,000 crofter-fishermen.
Some effort must be made to guarantee to the fisherman a minimum wage. How? Perhaps insurance, perhaps subsidy. Perhaps co-operative efforts on the lines that saved the Nova Scotia lobster fishermen. This famous work, led by priests from St. Francis Xavier University at Antigonish, could be studied by the Scots.
There might be, as some suggest, justice in dividing up among the people some of the land used at present for the rich man's shooting. But this land is not good for much else. You can't establish subsistence farms on barren soil. Your drastic methods of land socialisation would only put out of employment those men who still can live as gamekeepers and ghillies—and they are 10 per cent. of the Highland rural population.
Afforestation should be seriously undertaken. Experts claim that at least a million and a half acres of land could be planted. Much of what is at present forest is useless. The trees could well be pulled down and the areas replanted by the Forestry Commission.
Better roads and open access to the mountains would encourage greater tourist traffic.
What of the Wickmakers?
Electricity could be developed with the vast water supply available.
The last suggestion is most tentative, and put down in deference to a convention by which any article describing any means to prosperity anywhere must inevitably advise the establishment or extension of electricity services.
Apart from convenience, it is difficult to imagine any advantages an electricity supply can bring to a sparsely populated countryside. The sales of imitation marble bowl lamps would go up, of course, but any increased employment this might give would be more than offset by a decrease in the number of wickmakers, metal lamp standard makers, metal polish manufacturers, oil distributors, and whalers.
But there is a land dying, and it is unseemly to jest around the weakening body. We, however, arc more easily excused for it is not in our power to do anything else. Perhaps those politicians who stand around also, saying nothing, doing nothing, are more to be condemned, for they have the power of attempting cure. It is no use for them to close their eyes and pretend the dying body is not there; soon the stench of corruption will be in their nostrils.