Land grabbed

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I share the concerns expressed by John Black (Letters, 30 June) for the loss of the common 
good land at Portobello setting a precedent.

The people of Dunfermline have been fortunate over a long period of time in being gifted money, land and buildings, by local benefactors.

The first such gift that I am aware of, a large tract of monastic land, was gifted them by the Abbot of Dunfermline, Robert of Crail, in about 1322.

The terms of the gift were that many acres of pasture land were gifted to the ordinary people of Dunfermline in perpetuity, to do with as they wished in return for a token annual fee – six pence, or a pair of white Paris gloves.

This fee, of course, was nominal; the good abbot was simply gifting the land to his townsfolk.

This gift has the uniquely Scottish title, and legal distinction, of being a “heritable common good” asset, and as such is supposed to be protected.

Due to various factors – human error, malfeasance, bad stewardship and even corruption – very little of Dunfermline’s heritable common good land is left, and our story is replicated throughout Scotland. Once precedents are set by 
ingenious lawyers acting for those with deep pockets – be they property developers or their chums in the council – the safeguards to the poor, who have no lawyers, are eroded and their inheritance is in danger.

It would seem as if the present government is set to outdo even the good Robert of Crail in its benevolence – but not towards the people, instead to the City of Edinburgh Council.

Cash-strapped by its ineptitude in stewarding the public purse, this profligate authority is being allowed to filch the assets of the people.

The same Nicola Sturgeon who fought so hard to oppose the Go Ape project on common good land in her own Pollock constituency supports a new law in order to give the people’s inheritance away in someone else’s.

Hypocrisy or what?

Tom Minogue

Victoria Terrace