Chan eil na sgìrean aig an iomall a’ faighinn èisteachd, le Murray MacLeòid

Smaoinich air an fhacal “Alba” agus dè an dealbh a tha a’ tighinn a-steach nad inntinn? Beanntan is glinn; ‘s dòcha iolaire a’ sgèith gu h-àrd. ‘S dòcha cuideachd Caisteal Dhùn Èideann agus an ìomhaigh eachdraidheil is culturail a tha aig sin.

By Murray Macleod
Friday, 8th April 2022, 4:55 am

Ged a tha an seòrsa dealbh sin fhathast bicheanta, agus gu cinnteach, ‘s e an seòrsa ìomhaigh a tha na buidhnean turasachd airson a sgaoileadh, tha e fada bho bhith fìrinneach.

An-diugh, ‘s e dùthaich a tha ann an Alba a tha freumhaichte anns na bailtean mòra, nas coltaiche ris a' Chaisteal Nuadh no Manchester, no bailtean meadhan Shasainn. Tha raointean dùthchail na h-Alba, mar a dh’aithnichear iad, a’ sìoladh às.

Leis cho mòr ‘s a bha gnìomhachas na phàirt de Ghlaschu, agus Dùn Èideann mar bhaile mòr rianachd is ionmhais, bha e riamh caran ceàrr a bhith a’ smaoineachadh air Alba mar àite dùthchail.

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Ged is e seo an seorsa ìomhaigh a tha aig a’ mhòr-chuid de dh’Alba, ‘s e firinn na cùise gu bheil an dùthaich nas freumhaichte sna bailtean mòra.

Ach, bha raointean na Gàidhealtachd, Siorrachd Pheairt agus nan Crìochan cho mòr nam pàirt de fhèin aithne na dùthcha ‘s a bha gàrraidhean togail a’ Chluaidh.

Ach, dh’fhaodadh g’ eil sin ag atharrachadh.

Tha figearan ùra a thàinig a-mach bho Bhuidheann Clàraidhean na h-Alba a’ sealltainn mar a tha an sluagh a’ gluasad gu bailtean mòra.

Tha 91% de shluagh na h-Alba a-nis a’ fuireach air 2.3% dhen fhearann, le 4,974,670 de dhaoine ann am bailtean far a bheil nas motha na 500 duine, agus 491,330 a-mhàin nach eil.

Ach a bheil seo gu diofar?

Uill, tha, bhon mar as motha de dhaoine a tha air an tarraing chun a’ mheadhain, ‘s ann as motha a bh’ air e buaidh air poileasaidhean is seirbhisean aig an iomall agus, le sin, ‘s ann as luaithe a bhios an crìonadh fhathast.

Bho bhann-leathann nach fhiach, gu aiseagan, gu bhith a’ dùnadh bhancaichean is oifisean-puist, gu seirbhisean nam busaichean nach eil cha mhòr idir ann, chan eil fianais a dhìth mun ana-ceartas a tha a’ tachairt anns na coimhearsnachdan dùthchail.

Dh’fhaodar a ràdh gur e roghainn dhaoine fhèin a tha ann a bhith a’ fuireach far na thogras iad, ach dè tha seo ag ràdh mu dheidhinn Alba an-diugh agus a bhith cothromach dhan a h-uile neach?

Seall an-dràsta, mar eisimpleir, air na riaghailtean ùra timcheall sgeama ionsulaideadh nan dachaighean aig Riaghaltas na h-Alba. Thathas a-nis ag iarraidh beàrn mu leth òirleach fhàgail aig bonn dhorsan staigh an taighe agus an eadhair a' leigeil a-steach air na h-uinneagan.

Nam biodh duine air bruidhinn ris na h-ùghdarrasan ann an Arcaibh, Sealltainn agus sna h-Eileanan an Iar, thuigeadh iad gu math luath cho gòrach ‘s a bhiodh sin ann an sgìrean fuara le gèiltean.

A dh’aindeoin iarraidh gu leòr airson sùbailteach a thoirt air an sgeama agus beagan ciall, chan eil am ministear, Patrick Harvie, airson èisteachd.

Tha 9% de shluagh na h-Alba a’ fuireach anns na sgìrean dùthchail agus 's e àireamh nach beag a tha sin fhathast.

Ach ‘s e aon mion-shluagh nach eil a’ faighinn èisteachd agus leis na h-àireamhan a’ sior dol sìos, tuigidh tu carson.

‘S dòcha gum bu chòir leasan a ghabhail bho na buidhnean beaga eile ann an Alba a tha a’ dèanamh èigheach mòr agus as urrainn, a-rèir choltais, buaidh a thoirt air poileasaidh nàiseanta mar a thogras iad.

Ach, a bheil sgìrean dùthchail na h-Alba cudromach gu leòr ‘s an là a tha ann? Chan eil càil a’ choltas gu bheil.

Translation:

Think of the word “Scotland” and what immediately springs to mind? Hills and glens, a soaring eagle perhaps. Maybe even Edinburgh Castle, with all its historical and cultural resonance.

While that kind of stereotypical imagery is still somehow in vogue, maybe through its enthusiastic promotion by tourism bodies, it’s far from the reality on the ground - and becoming increasingly less so.

The truth is that Scotland is now an urban society, more in line with Newcastle and Manchester and the industrial heartlands of the Midlands. Rural Scotland, as we understood it, is disappearing.

Glasgow’s industrial past and Edinburgh as a centre of civic administration and finance meant the reputation of Scotland as this land of countryside idyll was always a bit of a misnomer.

But the open spaces of the Highlands, the Borders and Perthshire were intrinsic to its sense of identity, as much a part of society as the shipyards of the Clyde.

However, that may all be about to change.

Recent statistics released from the National Records of Scotland confirm a population drift towards urban living.

A total of 91 per cent of the population now live in just 2.3 per cent of the land area, with 4,974,670 living in settlements of more than 500 people and just 491,330 who are not. This is a two per cent swing in the space of 10 years.

But why does any of this matter?

It matters because as more congregate towards centres of population, policy will follow as will services and, as night follows day, the disintegration of rural communities will continue apace.

From lack of proper broadband provision, to ferries, to bank and post office closures, to almost a complete absence of bus services, there is no shortage of evidence on the discrimination suffered if you happen to live out in the sticks. It’s a personal choice, you might well argue, but it’s hardly indicative of an inclusive Scotland.

Take the new rules on insulation introduced by the Scottish Government as the most recent example. The standards now require 2cm gaps under internal doors, fixed mechanical ventilation, and window vents.

Had anyone had the foresight, or cared enough, to check with the authorities in, for example, Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides they would have realised that due climatic conditions conditions this is completely unsuitable.

Despite desperate pleas for some kind of flexibility and common sense, Patrick Harvie, the minister responsible, remains unbowed. Maybe he realises the vote of conscience for the Greens is in the cities where pollution is at its highest.

As it stands, Scotland’s rural population comprises just under nine per cent of the Scottish total, which is still significant.

Yet it’s a minority that is being all too easily ignored and with its numbers dwindling you can see, from a perspective of pure political cynicism, exactly why.

Maybe we should take our lesson from all these other minorities who dominate the airwaves and the national debate and, seemingly, are able to influence national policy at whim.

But is rural Scotland important enough? Not if recent experience is anything to go by.

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