A few weeks ago I went to a reading of Norman MacCaig's marvellous poetry. One of the readers made a point about the political effect of poetry, about poetry making things happen - she said that Norman's poetry influenced Scottish decision makers and helped create the situation through which tenant communities had been allowed to take over the land they rented from big landlords (as in Assynt) and this was a major political advance. I wondered if such an advance had actually taken place - my feeling was that Norman MacCaig would have cast his sharp and unblinking eye over contemporary Scotland and perhaps concluded that it doesn't really matter how many craft shops and crofters were living in harmony, the Big Boys were still calling the shots.
Indeed, I sometimes wonder if the Big Boys aren't getting away with rather more than they would in the 1960s.
On 16 October 2010, the Save Otago Lane group held a march to demonstrate against a planned housing development which would destroy the wee lane community. For details of the campaign see
and for some pics of the inaugural public meeting see
Will the campaign work? Many of us fervently hope so - city lanes such as Otago Lane and Ruthven Lane (also under threat) may not be big arteries but they are veins nonetheless - essential to the health of any city.
Money will probably dictate what's going to happen. The day after the march, with intriguing synchronicity, Scotland on Sunday reported that Donald Trump now claims to have got an assurance from the Scottish government at Holyrood - 'You'll win' - he claims to have been told, after his golf course plan was rejected by a planning committee -
Said Trump: 'I have a lot of respect for Alex Salmond. He's a strong man who loves Scotland above all else. I know he wanted the project to happen because it was good for Scotland'.
Scottish Government officials have 'strongly denied' Trump's claims, say the papers, but somehow one suspects that Trump will not be challenged too much on his claim. This is the way big business is increasingly done in Scotland. As I said above, it seems it may even be easier in modern Scotland for the big capitalist guns to get their way than it was in the 1960s. No need to own the land when you cna control its use - and quietly pocket the revenue.
The Save the Otago Lane campaign is a fine example of the people striking back - whether or not our masters listen is another matter of course, but we can at least show them what we think.
|The lane entrance from Otago St|
|Voltaire and Rousseau on the left, one of Britain's most famous second-hand bookshops|
|Sandra White SNP MSP at front. Ms White does not approve of the amount of cricket on Scottish television - see|
|Keeping a watchful eye: at the inaugural meeting (go to link above) there was a bossy cat takling a whack at nice dogs like this collie|
|Seven local politicians rightly lead the parade: note that they make up a perfect Hogarthian Line of Beauty - not often you can say that about politicians.|
|Pauline waving at someone: the Clintons often do phony waves as it makes for good pics, but Pauline was actually waving at someone - honest|
|Piper about ready. . .|
|. . .and we're off|
|Turning right from Otago St into Gibson St|
|Up University Avenue|
|Idiot with placard. If bored, I chant 'Great is Diana of the Ephesians'. No one ever notices|
|Turning into Byres Rd|
|Turning into Ruthven Lane, which is also under threat (see link above for some nice pics of the lane)|
|Now crossed Byres Rd heading for Ashton lane|
|In Ashton Lane|
|Heading back into Byres Rd|
|Note MG behind polis|
|Nice chap - he took a leaflet|
|Turning into Gt Western Rd|
|A lovely old Macbrayne's bus|
|Turning right into Otago St|
|One of Otago St's antiques shops|
|Patrick Harvie summing up the afternoon|
|End of the event - it was an excellent afternoon|