Thursday, 9 December 2010

Article for Independence 5 by Highlands and Islands MSP Rob Gibson

As a candidate and MSP you can get into some campaigns that po-faced journalists love to ridicule. Back in 2002 I worked with a volunteer at the Strathnaver Museum to show that JRR Tolkien had pictured the Lonely Mountain and Middle Earth in NW Sutherland.

History shows that New Zealand got the honours, the work and the tourists when the Lord of the Rings trilogy became blockbusters. However, nothing daunted this summer’s labour relations and cash issues clouded the setting for the new Hobbit movie in NZ. For a while.

Reports that the filming might be moved because of contractual disputes led me to relaunch my bid for Sutherland as a good place to film Middle Earth. According to legend the writer of the Hobbit had actually visited the area. JRR Tolkien is said to have visited Sutherland despite denying he had ever been further north in Scotland than Dundee. Perhaps he should have been asked how far north west he travelled.

My informant said that Tolkien’s name was written in a guest book in the Duke of Westminster’s hunting lodge at Achfary but proof has not been forthcoming. Nevertheless NW Sutherland would be an excellent location for filming the Hobbit. The spectacular lochs like Loch Stack and mountains like Arkle and Foinaven lend themselves to the story.

Indeed Ben Stack, pictured, bears an uncanny resemblance to the Lonely Mountain in the Tolkien book. And Celtic and Norse mythology referred to the areas around nearby Strathnaver as the Middle land. Sutherland and Scotland deserve to be the home of the Hobbit where the scenery matches the grandeur of the book and also would undoubtedly boost tourism and the film industry in Scotland.


Another early set of questions in Parliament got me stick. I questioned the light pollution from badly designed and unnecessary street lamps in Shetland. What a waste of money answering such a fancy railed one Sunday paper. Yet climate change debates view all this in a new light, so to speak.

This year the London-inspired cuts loom for our councils which propose to switch off every second street lamp. Why is inappropriate street lighting de rigueur for remote villages as well as city centres? Because it’s another asinine power reserved by law to Westminster! All over Brittany which I often visit and no doubt much wider, they switch the lights off at midnight in the villages.


However, the most persistent nonsense we north members are called to answer is the southern English obsession with synchronising their clocks, in winter, with continental time, whether we in Scotland like it or not. With shorter hours of light the further north you go nothing can alter going to school or work in the dark, or in the depths of winter lightening the return journey in the evening.

So avoiding the obvious attempts by hacks to make a Scotland v England rematch I responded to the latest Tory private member’s bill in Westminster. If they are so keen to change the clocks, as the Daily Mail reported I said, they should get up an hour earlier and see the light.

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