by Colin Campbell
A ROSS-SHIRE reader with a long memory reminds us that Ian Blackford follows an honourable tradition in being “a simple crofter” seeking re-election in his constituency. He writes: “Regarding Ian Blackford’s quite outrageous claims about his ‘crofting lifestyle’ I draw to your attention to a revered political figure who legitimately discussed the trials and tribulations of regularly working outdoors. He was the late Alasdair Mackenzie, a Liberal MP for this area, a Gaelic speaker and among other things a member of the Crofter’s Commission. He farmed down at Fearn and had close links to Skye. He was one of the old school…well respected and liked and occasionally late for things when he had to attend to the lambing or harvest. He was a genuine man who fully understood the area and the environment he worked in.”
As an MP just before my time, Alasdair Mackenzie was followed in 1970 as Ross MP by Conservative Hamish Gray, a kindly and decent man who was liked and respected by people across the political spectrum. Mr Gray made a particular impression on me one festive afternoon when he appeared in the office of the paper I worked for in Dingwall to present me with a bottle of House of Commons whisky – on which we both made a fair impression that afternoon – but that perhaps is another story.
Hamish Gray was followed by the late and much lamented Charles Kennedy, as good an MP as ever served, and of whom further reminders are unnecessary.
And now the good folk of Ross-shire are saddled with “crofter” Blackford.
Alasdair Mackenzie was a native of Fearn, and went to Broadford Junior Secondary School on Skye. He became a farmer, was active in the National Farmers Union, being president of the East Ross branch for two years. He was elected to Ross-shire County Council in 1935 and served on it for 20 years. Thereafter he was a member of the Crofters’ Commission for five years. He was elected to represent the Ross constituency at the age of 61.
Firm credentials as a hard-grafting, gnarled-hands humble man of the soil who came from nowhere to be elected to serve at Westminster.
A description which in no way fits Blackford, who had the gall to declare in the House of Commons: “I am just a simple crofter with 10 acres.”
He acquired these 10 acres after a long career in the rather more lucrative world of investment banking.
Would Blackford know one end of a plough from the other? Would he know one end of a cow from the other?
And – even if they set aside the puce-faced blustering, the Westminster “walkout” stunts and the grievance-ridden, humourless tirades which are Blackford’s stock-in-trade, aren’t some nationalists even a little uneasy over his “humble crofter” charade?
He could reasonably describe himself in almost any way he wants, but isn’t “a simple crofter with 10 acres” pushing the charade too far.
Rival parties across the Kessock Bridge have united behind the Liberal Democrats in an effort to get rid of the paunchy “simple crofter”. They may well succeed.
And the seat would revert to having an MP representing the party of a genuine man of the soil from humble origins, Mr Alasdair Mackenzie.