The Rush for Land: Why People Must Come First

Lord McConnell

Even within Scotland’s sometimes turbulent history, the Highland Clearances stand out as a notorious episode which changed the face of our country.

Families were ripped away from their homes and stripped of their livelihoods. Many moved from the Highlands to the Lowlands, but many more left these lands forever. As they made new lives in North America and elsewhere, their departure left a void in Scotland.

Depopulation, emigration and unjust abuse of land ownership carried on in Scotland until the creation of our new Parliament in 1999. Only then did we abolish Feudal Tenure of land and reform use and ownership in the interests of those who live and work in rural Scotland. And only then did we take real action to develop Scotland as a country of in-migration, attracting fresh talent and retaining local talent too.

Scotland has moved on from the divisive events of the 18thand 19th Centuries. But right now, something all too similar is happening in some of the poorest countries in the world.

An unprecedented rush for land has not been adequately regulated to prevent land grabs, meaning that many poor communities are being evicted without any consultation or compensation. These land grabs can be violent and can leave people homeless, without access to the land they need to grow food to eat and make a living.

Such deals are happening at such a frenetic pace across developing countries that the UN’s Head of Food and Agriculture says the situation resembles the ‘Wild West’. It’s hard to argue with that assessment. According to Oxfam, poor countries lose an area the size of a football pitch to these deals every second. Their report says land 26 times the size of Scotland was sold off globally between 2000 and 2010 – that land could grow food for one billion people.

Most land sales are taking place across Africa, in countries with serious hunger problems. And two-thirds of investors plan to export what they produce, meaning they are doing little to improve local food security. In addition, nearly 60 percent of land deals have been to grow crops that can be used for biofuels – diverting food from people’s stomachs to petrol tanks.

All of this threatens to perpetuate the cruel irony of a rich continent full of poor people.

This global land rush is out of control – people cannot break free of poverty if they are thrown off their land and prevented from the means to support themselves. Agricultural development and reforms to land ownership are central to moving from dependency to growth and independence.

Oxfam is campaigning for the World Bank, which funds many big land deals and is a key standard-setter, to impose a temporary freeze on large-scale land deals pending a review of the current rules. Oxfam also wants the UK Government to push the World Bank into action. It should do just that.

Last week several Peers led by Lord Judd at Lords Questions pressed Ministers to act. Not all investment in developing countries is bad but we must ensure it empowers, rather than harms, some of the world’s poorest people. Then investment can be a catalyst for development, helping realise the potential of the people.

Right now one in eight people go to bed hungry each night – that is nearly one billion people. We cannot tackle that scandal without the world’s small scale farmers having access to land.

And as Scotland’s own history shows, the consequences of inaction can be both catastrophic and long-lasting.


16 comments for “The Rush for Land: Why People Must Come First

  1. Lord Blagger
    15/01/2013 at 1:32 pm

    History shows people don’t like being peasants and leave toiling on the land for the city as soon as they can.

    Nothing a bit of distortion to promote communism is there.

    • H Carr
      16/01/2013 at 8:53 pm

      Lord Blagger, ‘history’ shows no such thing. Social research shows that many people either feel forced to leave the countryside due to the lack of economic opportunities ther, or that they expect bett returns in the city. Social research also shows that few of the people who make the move to cities are actually better off, economically, socially, or health-wise, than if they had stayed in the countryside. Land grabs are part of the reason why people choose/are forced to leave the countryside in the first place.

      Also, just because some people do leave the countryside, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fight to protect the right of other small scale farmers to stay there.

      • Lord Blagger
        17/01/2013 at 11:47 am

        That’s the same point I’m making.

        Nothing to do with land grabs.

        Everything to do with economics. You’re better off in the cities.

  2. maude elwes
    15/01/2013 at 1:59 pm

    And what of the people of that specific area. What are they doing about this anomaly? And if you feel they cannot do anything about it, why don’t you go and take up residence in that country and work toward a more acceptable to you kind of government.

    We struggle here with a government that refuses to accept the needs of its people. One who ignores the majority in favour of a small minority on many serious and important issues to us. We are desperate for people to fight in our Parliament on our behalf. And more than that, we pay for it through the nose, whether we are poor or not.

    Therefore, someone who takes upp office here should first apply their litmus test to what is happening to our own people. And allow those outside our sphere to take up the cudgel on their behalf. Otherwise their is no hope for any of them for a future without being ruled or held accountable by an interfering nation.

    Self domination is the answer to finding a democracy that suits the customs and culture of a people. Trying to fight off the white man who struggles with words of wisdom elsewhere, is a complication these individuals can well do without. I believe.

  3. Gareth Howell
    15/01/2013 at 4:11 pm

    Is it not Ted Turner who owns about half a million acres of Patagonia in Argentina, from his TV news channel in north America?

    Although I would infinitely prefer everybody to have a few acres to grow their own, without having to worry about where their food comes from, that possibility was thrown away in about the early 17thC when the Colonies and Plantations were being created.

    The land belonging to William Penn was one example, bits of which he sold off for pennies to new migrants.

    The colonialists tried to do the same with tracts of Africa to devastating effect, the consequences of which are still being felt in places like Zimbabwe. The Maoris aren’t exactly happy with it either, except for the fact that they own much of the cape east of Gisborne.

    The move to the cities by nearly all the world’s population, has left the way open to the mega-vast harvester and plough to do all their mechanical work for them, their machinery being the mere bicep and shoulder
    for digging.

    Whilst the basic occupation of all the world’s people has been to grow food for themselves, I do wonder how citizens of the world , all of whom actually live in the cities, will find useful things to do, which are as creative as growing their own was in the past.

    It is different but it may not be any better, if not far worse, according to the
    socialist primitivists in our midst.

    New Harmony and Old Harmony created by socialist visonaries emigrating to America
    were basically born again agriculturists,
    without a clearly identified co-operative zeal.

    Co-operativism as a political and economic way of life was not clearly recognized until the mid 19thC, and condemned as Marxist until the voluntary co-operatives of recent years, 1990 onwards.

    The Marxist/communist cooperatives were compulsory, a totalitarian state. The voluntary ones exist cheek by jowl with rampant capitalist developers, mentioned by lord Mcconnell.

  4. Lord Blagger
    16/01/2013 at 3:49 pm

    Self domination is the answer to


    Is that a Freudian slip? Perhaps I don’t want to know what you get up to in the bedroom.

  5. Lord Blagger
    16/01/2013 at 3:55 pm

    We struggle here with a government that refuses to accept the needs of its people


    Again, you can wish for whatever you want. If the money isn’t there, the money’s not there.

    Wishful thinking will get you nowhere.

    Why haven’t you accepted my needs for a couple of million? You’re not handing over the money. Why not? If you haven’t got it, that’s not a reason not to accept my needs.

    One who ignores the majority in favour of a small minority on many serious and important issues to us.

    So if you’re in the minority, that means you can be screwed by other people. Is that what you really want?

    Disabled people are in the minority, and the majority are screwing them over by not handing over their cash. See above.

    What’s the white man got to do with it?

  6. maude elwes
    16/01/2013 at 5:25 pm


    First, my bedroom preferences have nothing to do with you. Whether you are a white man or a man of another shade altogether, makes no difference to me. (assuming you are indeed of the male gender) however, domination is not one of my fantasies. So far. But then, I haven’t read, Fifty Shades of Grey.

    If the money isn’t there, as you put it, then why are MP’s in the throws of raising their salaries from £66,000 pa to £97,000? Plus expenses of course. After all they keep telling us we mustn’t dream. Just the way you do. Suggesting you must be one of ‘them’ and want to keep that old ball rolling because it sounds good, whilst you sanction starvation and the workhouse for the rest of us. And call it, ‘for our benefit’ all at the same time. Easy for billionaires and those with access to it, to shout ‘we don’t have the money, at least, not for the likes of you pushy plebs. Your only usefulness is you pay the bill for us to spend, suck on that as hard as you can and keep it well in the forefront’

    You are full of it Blagger.

    We do not have a government with anything like a mandate and those who are in that government have a vested interest in everything they surreptitiously push through. For example:

    Do away with the social chapter we are forced by Europe to uphold on working hours. Get the clowns to do a minimum of sixty hours a week. Remember these are the clowns who had kids down the mines as well as up chimneys. And that is exactly where they want the people to be again. ‘It’s good for their psyche you know, keeps the work ethic to the forefront. As is being hired as a whipping boy. Or, is it a fag?

    Which is why in a country without adequate housing stock for the poor, they import millions more, via immigration, to house in the damp hovels they manage to pull out of the hat for their use. And then claim, ‘without them we would have no transport or NHS.’ Who else will work for poverty wages? they spout. Have you been to the Town Hall lately and seen the way this show is running today? You couldn’t make it up. But don’t forget that is all Europe’s fault and once we are out of there we will put those issues right. Along with, gay marriage rights, heavy surveillance, quangos and all the other American imports we are left to appease.

    Before I forget, we are not allowed to know who are financially backing our new and brilliant academies. That knowledge was refused us by the Freedom of Information dept. We don’t want the people to know Coca Cola is funding our schools so the cans of polluters can be installed in the hallways for them to guzzle all day long. How many of those fund raisers are US companies, do you know? Want to take a guess? But it wouldn’t be good politics for our voters to know about that. They may think twice before putting us back in office. Might make them feel they are being sold down the river after all.

    Additionally they reduce the pay on young policemen to bring their livelihood to less that those paid to burger flippers. So then it will be, ‘without immigrants we wouldn’t have a police force as our own citizens won’t do the work,’ says, fat, priapic, immovable Boris.

    Why are these government officials not reducing their own emoluments by at least fifty % as they earn far more than they produce to cover their costs. And they certainly don’t do the job they were elected to do that’s for sure. Which is why they will be out at the next election. Unless, of course, they can convince UKIP lovers to believe their European propaganda, that goes, ‘without those across the channel it would all be back to ‘the way we were.’

    No, what you are saying is, ‘we can only afford to print money to pay ourselves, like Goldman Sachs, who, after swallowing our social fund, is carving up £8.6 Billion pounds for themselves as bonuses this year.’ No mention of paying their rightful tax or a refund out of profits to the tax payer as compensation for their stolen loan.

    Come on, Blagger, pull the other one.

    And just what was on this thread you wanted to move the eye away from?

    • Lord Blagger
      17/01/2013 at 11:44 am

      First, my bedroom preferences have nothing to do with you


      You raised your self “Domination”. Freudian slip, or was it self determination you were trying to get out.

      If the money isn’t there, as you put it, then why are MP’s in the throws of raising their salaries from £66,000 pa to £97,000? Plus expenses of course.


      If you put thieves in charge, then you have to expect that they will loot.

      If you put fraudsters in charge, expect them to run a Ponzi. Might seem on the surface its all affordable, but when it comes to your turn to get your money back, its going to be rather unpleasant.

      So taxes up, services down, difference to MPs pockets.

      So the obvious question.

      What have they done with people’s pension contributions, and how much do they owe?

      And that is exactly where they want the people to be again.

      Whether they want it or not is irrelevant. It’s going to happen. Ponzi fraud.

      ourselves, like Goldman Sachs, who, after swallowing our social fund, is carving up £8.6 Billion pounds for themselves as bonuses this year.’ No mention of paying their rightful tax or a refund out of profits to the tax payer as compensation for their stolen loan.


      GS made about 5bn USD last year. How much of that do you want to tax in the UK? How much does the US want to tax? The French? ….

      Even if you taxed all their earnings in the UK, that pays for 1/2 a days of government spending.

      Who are you going to tax for the next 12 hours spending.

      You’re conclusions about what’s going to happen are correct, but you’re barking on the causes.

  7. maude elwes
    20/01/2013 at 6:33 pm

    Here is a little reminder of how poor the people of Europe and the UK are.

    We have a priority of duty toward these people. So, look after the needs we have on our own continent and let those elsewhere take care of theirs. You encourage the theft of aid when you continue to insist this will put the world to rights. It’s a con and impoverishing us all.

  8. Lord Blagger
    21/01/2013 at 12:03 pm

    As I keep telling you Maude, aid is peanuts.

    It’s a gnat in comparison to the herd of stampeding elephants.

    That’s the government debt. Why would they leave the pensions debts off the books?

    Surely they intend paying that, so putting it on the books reflects the reality of what’s going on.

    Or is it that leaving the debt off the books, means that they aren’t going to pay it.

    Yep, that must be the reason. Why would Politicians and Peers commit fraud?

  9. Gareth Huw Howell
    21/01/2013 at 5:51 pm

    first apply their litmus test to what is happening to our own people. And allow those outside our sphere to take up the cudgel on their behalf

    A litmus sphere cudgel takes the….. cake!
    At least there isa full stop between the people.And which probably makes it double mixed rather than triple mixed metaphor!

    I agree with what Blagger says about few people wanting to be exclusively latter day communists, socialist primitivist.

    A good many get great satisfaction from doing a bit of both, some city or factory and some diggin’ the soil as well. It usually turns in to horse for the daughter, which is regrettable.

  10. Gareth Huw Howell
    21/01/2013 at 8:21 pm

    History shows people don’t like being peasants and leave toiling on the land for the city as soon as they can.

    2nd message for approval

    I am not sure that is true about not liking being peasants; what is true is that once the flight from the land takes place, there is no holding anyone except the defective.
    That scene in Anna Karenina 2012 is rather good.
    There may not be many young people on the land in Russia today, but working on the land is not something everybody is ashamed of, in every country. the further you get from the hub of capitalism, the more pride people take in what they can produce for themselves.

    The anti-consumerist, anti capitalists who demonstrate at WTO meetings do not seem to be at all keen on going back to the land as far as I know, but then they do not seem to have worked out their philosophy to the end
    point. Anarchy actually should entail an eventual self reliance and self discipline, which would be offended by demonstration and revolution! If you want chaos then grow it yourself, make it yourself, build it yourself
    and find out how difficult some things can be!

    I certainly do not support the one party state; I never did. The UNCHR(Charter human rights) which is international law, requires a commitment from all its member states to the multiparty state. The compulsory cooperative of the soviet union did not provide that.

    Voluntary cooperativism can and does.

    There are still compulsory cooperatives in the world, as there are one party states.(I think!)

  11. MilesJSD
    04/02/2013 at 7:12 pm

    The one essential land-factor for all animals on Earth. including we humans, is adequately nutritious and sustainworthily-quantified Vegetation.

    Reportedly all the viable arable farming land on Earth (this One) has already been brought under cultivation, and is being insidiously-rapidly drained of its range of micro-minerals and crop-growing properties.

    One reason for this is that this ‘first’ Earth is being commanded to give-up twice as many renewable and non-renewable resources as it can replace, just in order to maintain the human-population at “our” current 7 (seven) billion.

    (“How Many People Can Live On Planet Earth?” documentary chaired by Sir David Attenborough reported that in effect this Earth can only support at the most 3 billion people; but already we have planned to require three Earthsworth of resources by the year 2050, when the Population will have blown out even further to 11 (eleven) billion.

    This term “sustainworthy”;
    why are we behaving as if this Earth One and its Lifesupports NOT finite i.e. not “sustainworthy” ?
    Clearly we are “sawing off the Life-Tree branch that we are sitting on”.

    Much more than mere “land” is needed;
    we all need to learn how to live off just one-human-living each, within that evident new limit of 1 billion or less total world population
    ( 3 billion having been the maximum to remain within the Earth’s Carrying Capacity but having been monstrously exceeded, “we” have to very seriously and quickly solve how to support life on Earth 1 until at least Space-Emigration to ‘colonise’ a Second Earth)

    otherwise, our existing Mind-Functional development and/or “evolution”, together with every other “ability” or “strength” we possess, is clearly badly inadequate for the survival of our Earth-1 Human Race, and inadequate for the survival of many other Earth-1 lifeforms and for the conservation of many non-renewable Resources.

    • Lord Blagger
      05/02/2013 at 10:58 am

      Since the population is already well above Attenborough’s limit, its self evident that he was wrong.

      • MilesJSD
        06/02/2013 at 12:11 pm

        1) The Earth-One human-population carrying-capacity should be being, and long ago have been being, carefully estimated such that
        a) the Earth-One lifesupports would last until at least a successful outer-space new “Earth Two” colonisation by this Human Race is being/has been achieved;
        b) this Human Race would last frugally-comfortable-enough on Earth-One, both for those included in the Earth-Two space-fleet and for those (presumably much greater numbers) ‘left behind, to survive until rescued or to perish in the attempt’;
        Lord Blagger either needs to take a refresher course in
        (i) Formal argumentation, moral reasoning and the three principles of honest communication and logic;
        (ii) Factuality & Factorality formal-appreciation;
        (iii) Punctuation (to use quotes if he is using someone else’s “reasoning”) and presentation (which would be pre-adequated once (i) above’s 3-Principles have been both mastered and honestly included and followed-up;
        or all three,

        or more ?
        Note: (1) David Attenborough did not originate nor make the calculations broadcast on the seriously scientific documentary screened to the world as “How Many People Can Live On Planet Earth (or On This Planet),
        nor did I omit to indicate that younger-science teams had done those calculations;
        (2) He was merely wise – (and citizenlike-responsible enough) – to include the findings of those (younger) science-teams who have done (and hopefully, trustingly, still are pursuing) the necessary research.
        (3) By your “Lord Blagger’s” given “reasoning”, the more numerous the HumanPopulation becomes the more certain it is to both survive and thrive (including upon any “Earth-Two” ?)

        (Pseudo-premiss #1) “the bigger the Rat-population becomes the stronger will Life-Evolution on Earth become” (???)

        (Pseudo-argument): (1) “The first law of Evolution is that the fittest will survive”;
        (2) “A further law of Evolution is that
        the most numerous will out-survive the lesser-numerous”
        (3) “A third law of Evolution is that the most technologically-equipped will survive the lesser technologically-equipped”.
        Perhaps Lord Blagger was spared as a child the learning of, and further research into, a practical-wisdome-snippet
        “Come Little Boy Blue Come Blow On Your Horn”
        – (“the Sheeps’ In The Meadow the Cow’s In The Corn”) ?

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