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Glen Catacol, on the Isle of Arran. © allan wright / Alamy Stock Photo

Glen Catacol, on the Isle of Arran. © Allan Wright / Alamy Stock Photo

Our land

Inside Scotland’s inspiring struggle to give everyone a stake in the ground beneath their feet—and the lessons for confronting inequality everywhere

By David McAllister  

Let’s begin with a story about a man called Lord Rossmore. Rossmore was an Anglo-Irish aristocrat and MP who, in 1820, inherited an estate on the Isle of Arran off Scotland’s west coast through the dowry of his wife, the illegitimate daughter of the eighth Duke of Hamilton. One day, the new patriarch invited the village of Catacol, on his estate, to a party at his residence down in High Dougarie. Rossmore’s benevolence was soon thrown into doubt, however, when his servants barred anyone from leaving the residence early. When the villagers were eventually released, they returned home to find their cottages and runrig farmland had been set on fire and razed to the ground by Rossmore’s agents.

It turned out that Rossmore, who walked past the dry-stone and thatch cottages on his way to hunting trips in Glen Catacol, had found these “blackhouses” unsightly, particularly when in…

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