Nine months ago I spent a morning with the owner of a Scottish grouse moor. He was depressed: should he try and sell, or wait and see what transpired? Neither option was appealing.I suspect he's even gloomier now. I'm sure he would agree with the 4th Viscount Astor, who writes in The Spectator that families like his, which own land in Scotland, are going to find themselves "regarded as foreigners" in their owncountry (even if they're Scottish).
Nicola Sturgeon, argues Lord Astor, is attempting a "Mugabe-style land grab" against the owners of country estates.Lord Astor's outspoken attack is interesting, because he is Samantha Cameron's stepfather and the prime minister has been stalking on his 20,000 acre estate on Jura (land bought from the Campbells of Jura 100 years ago by Lord Astor's American-born grandparents).
The SNP manifesto promises "to ensure Scotland's land reform debate focuses on how Scotland's land can best be managed in the public interest to ensure it is of benefit to all". Lord Astor says he finds this alarming. "Are we really going to have to defend owning so many acres of hill when 500 acres of hill may be only worth the same, or even less, than one acre of good farmland in the lowlands?" And will Sturgeon's proposals really benefit local communities, or just give more power to Edinburgh?
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Lord Astor's comments were dismissed as "pretty preposterous" by a spokesman for the first minister, but they don't sound preposterous to me: the SNP is shortly to unveil its Land Reform Bill, which is expected to include the power to force owners to sell property if it is deemed a barrier to development. The Sunday Times, meanwhile, reports that anti-SNP businessmen and academics are fearful of speaking out in what is becoming more and more like a one-party state. If I had thousands of acres in Scotland I would be worrying too.
Behind the Hollywood smile
Poor Omar Sharif. Once he seemed the most glamorous actor alive. But success unsettled him. He lost his wife,Faten Hamama, soon after David Lean turned him into a star divorcing her amidst the acclaim for his role in Lawrence of Arabia. Afterwards he always referred to her as the "love of his life" and he has been rootless and lonely ever since.
His two great consuming passions, says the Daily Mail, have been playing bridge and breeding racehorses and they led him into a life of debts, which in turn forced him to keep making films to finance his life in hotels and casinos. He didn't think he could live without "a deck of cards in my hands", he told Desert Island Discs in 1978. But cards and casinos always got the best of it.
After losing £750,000 in a night at roulette, he was forced to sell his house in Paris and said: "I don't own anything at all apart from a few clothes. I'm all alone and completely broke". Now he has Alzheimer's andcan barely remember his best films.We can remember them, though, and they deservedly made him famous, even if they never made him happy.
Tabloid money: the Beeb's licence to rob the British public
"Can you imagine what would happen if I began this article with the words: Kill All Muslims!" says Rod Liddle in The Sun. "I would be sacked immediately, and rightly so So consider the case of Bahar Mustafa. She is a diversity officer' (me neither) at Goldsmiths in London. She uses the hashtag killallwhitemen' on her odious tweets" and says she "cannot possibly be racist because she is an ethnic minority woman".
She dismisses the "killallwhitemen" hashtag as a joke. "It's how many in the queer feminist community express themselves,' this narcissistic mental case explained." Mustafa should be sacked and sent "where she won't have to worry about white men".
Perhaps "a nice Islamic country. Let's see how her queer' agenda goes down in, say, Saudi Arabia". We have too many third-rate universities "where half-wits like Mustafa thrive at our expense. Cosseted by taxpayers' money and turning out unemployable semi-literate graduates Close half of them down".
"Ex-Foreign Secretary William Hague has signed up as a highly paid speechifier," says Ephraim Hardcastle in the Daily Mail. "Once he got £10,000 for his droll anecdotes. Now he hopes for £25,000. Although he's never had a real job outside politics apart from a spell with management consultants McKinsey Yorkshireman Hague, 54, is well set up, with a £2.5m mansion in Wales. Good for him!"
"Now that anyone can access what the BBC produces without ever owning a television set, why the hell should the BBC still trouser an annual licence fee of £145.50?" asks Tony Parsons in The Sun. "It's just a licence to rob the British public. The licence fee belongs to another century, when we got our news, sport and entertainment from that magical box. Those days are gone forever and they are never coming back. Jeremy Paxman is right the BBC licence fee clearly cannot last'." It's "irrational, unfair and as relevant to our time as banana rationing."
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