Brian Wilson: Ian Blackford needs remedial class in his adopted home’s history

Ian Blackford suggested the loss of 18 call centre jobs was the 'New Highland Clearances' (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA)
Ian Blackford suggested the loss of 18 call centre jobs was the 'New Highland Clearances' (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA)
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Never mind shouting “liar” at the Prime Minister and thinking it the height of Parliamentary wit and wisdom. It was another of Ian Blackford’s bons mots that troubled me more this week, writes Brian Wilson.

In response to news that Abellio intend to transfer 18 call centre jobs from Fort William to Glasgow, he declared this to represent “the new Highland Clearances”.

Perhaps Holyrood could introduce legislation to ban offensive metaphors. Anyone using the cliché “new Highland Clearances” to describe some minor economic upset in the crofting counties could be sentenced to eviction, destitution and forced emigration. That would soon stop it.

When next Mr Blackford requires calming therapy, he might take refuge in the House of Commons Library and request Volume One of “Evidence Taken by Her Majesty’s Commissioners of Inquiry on the Condition of Crofters and Cottars in the Highlands and Islands” (aka the Napier Commission, 1883).

READ MORE: Brian Wilson: Highland Clearances must not be erased from history

Pages 362-437 contain evidence heard when the Commission sat in Glendale which is Mr Blackford’s adopted home since retiring from investment banking. I feel sure that, after reading first-hand accounts of wholesale evictions, starvation and gross over-crowding, he will never devalue the term again.

The Abellio issue reminded me of a great public meeting Charles Kennedy and I addressed in the old Town Hall in 1995 when the Fort William sleeper was under threat. The Highland Clearances were never mentioned but by working across party lines, the campaign succeeded in de-railing the proposal, under a Tory government.

Mr Blackford does not even have these lines to cross. Abellio is in situ purely on the grace and favour of his own colleagues in Edinburgh. Perhaps he should put down the megaphone and pick up a telephone.

READ MORE: The last township that survived the Highland Clearances