The Angry Corrie 8: Jul-Aug 1992
A littleknown fact about famous author George Orwell is that he didn't latterly move to the Isle of Jura to write, but as part of his pioneering attempt at politically correct Corbettbagging. He also got round to writing a cautionary allegory of a not too dim and distant future called "1984". One of these - but we're not saying which - is perhaps the reason why
The electorate had abandoned Scotland and now Scotland had been sold off. Year after year of relentless sales had left Scotland barren. Oil, housing, schools, iron and steel, water, gas, electricity, hospitals, roads, railways, airports, buses, parks, carparks, local councils and even public toilets had befallen the Southern plunder for profit.
The border road between Carlisle and Newcastle was now a no-man's land patrolled by the private commando unit of a group of political opportunists, so that what was lured South couldn't return North and what was not wanted in the South had to stay North. Scotland had been drained off hook, line and sinker except for one mountainous omission.
The issue of the Scottish highlands remained a thistle in the record of government mismanagement. People used the mountains and enjoyed them, yet no profit was being made. So, how could He blast his coup de grace and bring about the greatest graywash ever?
Well, His aim was to set Scotland entirely in concrete and thereby satisfy the preservation lobby once and for all, whilst removing the land from His political spectrum. The crux of the matter - VS at least! - was how to squeeze out every last dram and ducat from the country before sending in McAlpine.
Slowly but ever so desperately lethally a major idea oozed from His mind: Privatise the mountains! By giving each member of His government a mountain to look after as a separate company, shares could be offered on each hill. Each hill "company" would have to be marketed as attractively as possible so as to command the best price on flotation and thus ensure the highest returns from access charges.
In the North, surely but ever so desperately slowly, it was beginning to dawn on the committee of an influential "Oddfellows Hill and Social Club", that, in their way of thinking, walking was soon to be dead if He got His way. Time after time, the Club's members had published books extolling the wealth of excitement to be had under 3000' and also South of the Iron Memorial Wall, built across Southern Scotland in recognition of one woman's unstinting and tireless desecration of Alba. Instead of Club Members taking heed of other hill opportunities, and because they were being led a song and dance by the equipment dealers in their mountainside supermarkets, the Membership and many other footsore punters set about bashing the tops.
Inevitably, He in the South had realised the potential lying on the Sgurrs, Stobs and Bens. Actually, the moneyspinning gains to be had from the hills had been all too obvious, because even TOAST - Trample Over All Scotland Today - had clicked on to it. TOAST's scheme was that, under the pretence of fundraising, weekly mass walks were organised in partnership with Neviso, knowing full well that the punters would use any excuse to burn up their hardearned cash on bits 'n' bobs that would prove utterly useless on anything more wild than the owners' staircases. There was nothing "free" about this market and He, in the South, wanted some of the action - well, all of it, to be exact!
Anyhow, I digress. Suffice it to say that there was virtually nothing that would stop the punters from laying out loads of money before they ever put a foot on a hill, even if the philanthropic scam of TOAST and Neviso was as obvious as Ayer's Rock. Further, it wouldn't have taken a Mutant Teenager any longer than it takes to throw up a pizza, let alone a politician, to conclude that other than trails of litter, Munro Muggers didn't give anything from their wallets for enjoying their bizarre high-topped hobby. Mind you, it took Him and His blue-rinsed predecessor nigh on fifteen impotent years to catch on - and that was with the help of Clamberer and Footslogger, with its insipid half-baked excuse for an editor, as a government organ purportedly acting as a spy in the camp / on the hill.
For the Oddfellows Club in the North, all hell had let loose with the worry of things to be, and so members and invited male guests gathered for a pretty important session of moronic rituals and tales from the CIC.
"What can we do? There's going to be nothing free left for us to do if He gets away with this one", bemoaned the self-styled Master of Munros, Corbetts and anything else brave enough to rise above sea-level. "My dog has yet to complete its tenth round hopping on three legs. I can't afford to pay for the remaining hills." "I suppose our Club's trust could afford to subsidise selected members now that we've got girls in the Club? We could charge the skirt double just to be elected as Honourary Men", said a tweed-suited gentleman only just tall enough to hook his nose into the double poteen and Tia Maria on the table in front of him.
"What about the ol' timers?", piped up a voice. "I suppose that instead of bagging we could try some of this climbineering, although I've never done a Hard Stiff route in my puff."
Well, that did it. With false teeth and incontinence from the geri-members flying everywhere, while some skeleton propped against the Glen Mankie decanter screamed "Climbing! We're the Scottish Munro Club, not some cheap thrills-and-spills bunch of leotarded rope-hangers!", burbling by the bastions of Scottish high life dragged on until the dreaded moment.
Which came. In the South, the New Year Crawlers and Birthday Sycophants lists were announced, and with them prices for the mountains awarded to each government member. The Irish Secretary got the equally remote Seana Bhraigh. The former junior Health Secretary got Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgainn, as she was the only Party member with a mouth big enough to get her tongue round its name. The Party Chairman got Ben Lawers, as it was, like his Party in the North, heavily eroded and damaged. In fact, he installed a whirlpool and spa in the Visitor's Centre, owing to the loss of his Roman bath back in '92. (You mean there aren't such things there already? - surprised Ed.)
One Scots MP got lucky though. As a reward for malice and malpractice, he got both Sgurr Dearg and Bla Bheinn: one hill for each Scottish Office post he used to hold. Also, being totally ignorant, he was best suited to installing the ladders now pinned to these tops. To begin with there was a problem in awarding Creag Pitridh, as it was really an insult to Munro status. However, it was soon quite obvious to whom it should go, as without his Solicitor-Generalship, who was better suited to this mountain zit than the Tartan Terror of the Tay? - especially as he was an insult to everyone else. (That's a bit unfair to Creag Pitridh if you ask me. I quite like it. - Ed.)
That was it. The Scottish mountains were listed on the Stock Market and the Club's share-hawks gleefully engaged in writing numerous books about the mountains they had shares in. They had one aim that of creaming off as much profit as possible from the hordes of kit-laden Goretexed lemmings. If TOAST and Neviso could do it so could they. To hell with conservation, just get punters onto the hills with the new Club motto: "Conservation Renders All Poor". Totally privatised, each Scottish 3000-er was renamed after its new owner. Likewise, the Club renamed itself from the Scottish Munro Club to the Tory Club.
A new list was there for the ticking: 277 Tories. What a great new game: knocking them off!