November 7, 2012
Hope on horizon for hutters
Back in the 1920’s, a group of shipyard workers on the Clyde would escape their grim conditions by cycling out to the Carbeth estate on the north of Glasgow, pitch their tents and enjoy the fresh air of the countryside. Wooden huts eventually replaced tents, but the tradition of escaping to the country has endured for the hutters of Carbeth. Some years ago, relationships with the landowner soured to the point of rent strikes and talk of modern day clearances. Fingers crossed, a happy ending may be in sight.
by Gerry Loose, bellacaledonia
In Alaska, I’m told, folk can walk off into the forests and just build themselves a cabin. In Brazil, the Landless Workers’ Movement occupies unused land. In Nordic countries, people expect to be able to enjoy wee huts and summer cabins: Finland for example has more than half a million dotted about by lakes and in woodlands, where city folk can enjoy the simple, natural things their country has to offer.
Scotland, however has inherited a different set of values towards land. Inherited being an operative word in a country with enormous tracts of land owned (& now dealt in like any commodity) by a very few, while the majority of citizens are denied all but token access.
If ordinary people in Scotland wish to make use of land, then it’s necessary to wait, cap in hand, until a landowner somewhere decides some or all of her land can profitably be sold off. Scotland’s community buy-outs have all followed this pattern of anxious uncertainty over ownership (Eigg being a famous example) before communities are (sometimes graciously, mostly grudgingly) given the opportunity to raise large sums of money to buy land they have used and worked for generations.
Carbeth is no exception. After 13 years of dispute and rent strike and what some termed New Clearances, Carbeth folk were ‘offered’ the chance to buy the land that their small wooden huts stood on. Hutters had been using huts here since the early 1920s, paying small rents to a landowner for the privilege; escaping the grim working conditions of Clyde shipyards and schemes. A refuge for adults and children; a place to breathe in a country owned by others.
Three years to raise a large sum. Three years of forming a legal entity: a Community Company. Three years of community meetings, of settling how we raise money, of how much we can each afford to pay, of how much help we need. The determination of the descendants of those early socialists who roamed the nearby hills, who met at firesides, who danced and attended local Sunday Schools; the Red Clydesiders who debated politics and trained to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War – Carbeth Hutters – are about to make history. Nearing the end of three years to find £1.75 million to buy 98 acres of wooded, gently sloping land between the Kilpatrick Hills and the Campsies, ten miles from Glasgow and Clydebank, Carbeth Hutters are on the brink of handing over that huge sum of money to be in control of their own destiny: secure in the knowledge that in community hands there will be huts and breathing places for their children and grandchildren and all of Scotland’s children – welcome visitors all. The first community buy out in Central Scotland, giving Carbeth folk the right to breathe easy, never again to fear eviction or rent hikes.
Hutters are claiming that right and making news. We don’t live on the Carbeth land, we are not crofters nor do we live in rural places. We are however, trailblazing the right to enjoy our own Scottish land. If that means we need to buy it, then we’ll buy it.
£1.75 million is a lot of money. We have raised a lot, but need more. On 10th November, Carbeth folk will be walking the old Hutters Trail over the Kilpatrick Hills from Faifley by Clydebank. This is the trail that hutters walked in the 1940s to escape the Clydebank blitz. The trail that’s still used today to get to Carbeth.
It’s a fundraising hike, yes (and your sponsorship would be gratefully accepted), but it’s also a celebration of the spirit of those old hutters, who took a day’s heavy work in the yards then tramped over the hills to be with families sheltering in wooden huts from bombs; that same spirit that took on a landowner and the Scottish courts, who struck and stuck it for 13 years to retain their rights to claim what should be taken for granted: the right to breathe, the right to light a fire, the right to discuss, debate and dance without duress or pressure of being told to leave the land.
You can read more of the story at Carbeth Huts website and at the Hutters facebook page. See also a recent Herald article. If you would like to sponsor the Hutters Hike on 10th November, there’s a PayPal button on the website; if you’d like sponsor an individual to walk, or just to walk with us, please get in touch via email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to visit Carbeth at any time, you’ll be made welcome.