Clarification: The Nova Scotia Clearances

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The following "chat" clarifies the Nova Scotia Clearances

Date: Sat, 6 Apr 1996 12:15:02
From: Alasdair McKay
To: Neil McEwan

Neil McEwan quotes the following statement by Janet MacKay

> : > Consider the economic difficulties, the many massive lay-offs
> : > from the larger corporations for increase in corporation profits
> : > and money for shareholders, etc. Is this not similar, in modern
> : > form, to what led to the Clearances?
> : >
> : > Is it not the Clearances?

Neil McEwan then comments:

> : I'm sorry, but this comparison is ridiculous at best and dangerous
> : at worst.

Alasdair McKay responds:

It seems a very rational analogy to me....not even just an analogy,
really ---- it is exactly the same thing, unless you wish to argue
that the 1990s clearances are being carried out in an even more
severe and more heartless manner than those of 200 years ago.

The only danger in the comparison lies in having people believe
those like you who wish to ridicule it.

The Highland Clearances were unquestionably a "downsizing"
process which was intended to improve productivity and the economy
in general. In many cases the 18th century landowners made provision
for resettlement and retraining on other parts of their own lands.
In this aspect they were arguably more concerned and more involved
with the longterm wellbeing of the displaced persons than are
present-day corporations, whose "settlements" are intended only to
get people out of their hair for long enough that the downsizing
event can be relegated to 'past history' and the downsized people
made someone else's problem.

Even the infamous Duke of Sutherland tried to make provision for
those displaced from Strathnaver by establishing settlements and
retraining in fisheries in the neighbourhood of Bettyhill. That
some of the displaced persons took advantage of these possibilities,
meagre though they may have been, is testified to by the fact that I
am annoying you with this very posting - for they are my ancestors.

(I was nearly 200 years late in getting to North America....the
family spent several generations within 50 miles of Strathnaver and
a couple of generations in central Scotland. ) Some relatives, not
so very remote, still farm in Caithness and are probably better off
financially these days than any other branches of my extended
family, which is scattered far and wide.

I do not seek to speak kindly of the Duke of Sutherland and his
like, but it is nonsense to make out that what he and his like were
up to was any more nefarious than the corporate antics of the 1990s.

To the following comment by Neil MacEwan,

> : make your statement any more effective and comes dangerously close
> : to trivializing a major event in Scottish history.

Alasdair McKay replies:

What you are doing is trivializing a far more major event in global

To the following comment by Neil MacEwan,

> : I'm sorry if my reaction seems a little heated -- but having
> : already here in Ontario heard Adolf Hitler and the entire
> : Holocaust used as points of comparison to (premier) Mike Harris
> : and his spending-cut programme, I would like to safeguard the
> : remaining catastrophes of history from similar appropriation.

Alasdair McKay replies:

To equate the genocidal atrocities of the 20th century ( whether by
Nazis against Jews, Turks against Armenians, Tutsis and Hutus in
Rwanda, Pol Pot in Cambodia ) with either the Highland Clearances
or with the downsizing antics of the 90s is utter claptrap.

The Clearances were downsizing and nothing more nor less.
The downsizings are Clearances and nothing more nor less.

Kindly waken up to reality.

Alasdair McKay

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