Highland Clearances 291


There is so much injustice in Tory Britain you trip over it when you are not looking. We just enjoyed a long weekend in the Highlands, and stayed through airbnb at the Wayfarers’ Rest in Laggan. Out hosts were the delightful Zielsdorf family, who could not have been more friendly and welcoming. Their kindness and attention were particularly remarkable given they are every second awaiting the arrival of the border force to deport them.

Cameron and some of the Zielsdorf children on the banks of the Spey (with permission)

Cameron and some of the Zielsdorf children on the banks of the Spey (with permission)

Jason and Christy Zielsdorf are Canadian. They have been in Scotland for eight years, legally, and several of their children were born here. After studying theology at St Andrews, Jason decided to stay on. Armed with an entrepreneur visa, two years ago he bought the general store and bothy in the small Highland village of Laggan. The premises had been empty for 18 months, because there is not a rich living in providing this community service. The Zielsdorfs reckoned that by investing in the accommodation and opening a coffee shop highlighting their excellent home cooking (and it really is excellent), they could make a go of it and cater not just for locals but the passing hillwalkers. And they have done.

It took some time and a lot of work for the business to find its feet, and to date they have only been able to give full time employment to one person, not the two their visa stipulates. Although they argue given time their business will reach a stage to employ two people, the Home Office says their time is up and is insisting on their deportation; a month ago they were told they will be deported imminently.

Deporting children who have only ever known Scotland is ludicrous. Fairly well the entire community of Laggan has written in support of the Zielsdorfs. Both Jason and Christy have Scottish ancestry.

It is not easy to run a business in the Highlands and Laggan is better for what the Zielsdorfs have done. Local MP Drew Hendry has worked hard for them, but met only unhelpfulness from the Home Office, who have not even given a ministerial meeting promised in response to a parliamentary question.

We do not know when they will get the 5am knock on the door and be taken into custody. They have been unable to sell the Wayfarers’ Rest, in which they invested £240,000, because just as before they came, nobody else wants to run it. In an act of supreme pettiness, the Home Office have confiscated Jason’s driving licence, which makes life in the Highlands near impossible. Also as a former pastor Jason used to pay community visits on elderly and vulnerable people in isolated locations, which he cannot now do.

The truth is, having set arbitrary numerical limits on net immigration, if the Home office deports the Zielsdorf family that reduces net immigration by seven – and they are low-hanging fruit, easy to find, not able to disappear and defenceless. Their plight is Tory Britain’s heartless xenophobia in action.

This case is a prime example of how ridiculous it is to rule the Highlands from London. The law is framed to deal with the immigration situation in London or Birmingham. It is totally inappropriate to the Highlands, where the problem is under-population, where a village store is a precious thing and providing even one full time job to the community is invaluable.

It is also of course worth noting that it takes a special kind of government stupidity to embark upon post-Brexit relationships by picking on the Canadians.

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291 thoughts on “Highland Clearances

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  • Susan

    Shows the total arbitrary approach of this government to the question of immigration ….no consideration for needs of individuals or the diversecommunities which make up the UK. Westminster is completely out of touch with most of the country. In order out of EU Scotland should be able to set its own rules on immigration in line with the needs of its communities.

  • Sheliz MacKenzie

    I thought Canadians were part of the British Empire!
    These people are contributing to the local economy, also to the British economy, in these times of Austerity, they have employed one person, ok, but that is one less person claiming benefits,
    The situation is ridiculous.
    They are giving to the country not taking.
    The sooner the better we get rid of this heartless Tory Government the better
    The family should be able to stay.

  • Stacie MacDonald

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I shared your post on facebook. Today I started a petition with the govenrment – lets see if we can get the signatures needed!

    I’ve made a petition – will you sign it?

    Click this link to sign the petition:
    https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/170137/sponsors/WOZKZXG32vENOvBdZv62

    My petition:

    Stop the deportation of the Zeilsdorf Family from Laggan.

    The family are waiting for imminent deportation as they have failed to meet the criteria of their Entrepreneur Visa by employing 2 people in their tiny shop and coffee bothy in Laggan. They do employ 1, they have 3 children, and take care of the local rural community by providing a valuable service.

    They are being forced to leave before they can sell. There’s every chance that the business will not continue and the area will lose it’s shop. Other similar services are tens of miles away. Their children are Scottish, they employ someone, and they make regular visits to local elderly and house bound people in the community as Jason was a Pastor. It is not the Highlands, Scotland or Scottish people who don’t want and them; it is just the Home Office. We NEED them – sign to keep the Zeilsdorfs.

    Click this link to sign the petition:
    https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/170137/sponsors/WOZKZXG32vENOvBdZv62

    • David austin

      I have just tried to sign your petition and found that the government has a block on it and I need to try again in a few days…!!

  • Chas Logan

    The real highland clearances are at the hands of the SNP led Scottish government who have systematically reduced services and support for rural areas by pushing through their ‘stealth agenda’ for the future should Scotland become independent. Remove dispensing doctors, slash healthcare provision, close schools in very rural areas, for example, means the sustainability of the area is so fractured only the most robust can stay. Young families and the elderly are forced to move to less rural /urban locations but this is not seen as a government initiative but individual choice and so the stealth clearances go unnoticed. The saving by centralising services can go towards off setting the big black hole in scotlands finances.

      • Ba'al Zevul

        I think that if you move to a remote rural area and expect everything to function exactly as it does in Edinburgh, you’re a dreamer. If you want your every need promptly attended to, stay in the ‘burbs. And the more people that move to the Highlands, the less of a romantic idyll it becomes. For romantic idyll, see the former locals who liquidated their -often inherited – assets by selling them to dreamers and moved south. Why? Because there’s sod-all you can do for a living in most of the Highlands beyond raising sheep, farming trees, or selling each other tartan tat.. And where there is an industry, it’s already urbanised to the extent that it is no longer scenically attractive. You can’t eat scenery.

  • Zandra Mathieson

    Why do they not take all individual circumstances into account. Shame on the immigration services.

  • Carolyn Kear

    Absolutely ridiculous , we should be encouraging people to locate to these areas and do what this family is doing , not deporting them!!!

  • Dave Blackham

    What a terrible situation that has been caused soley by government mal administration. Truly shameful of our government and outdated rules on imigration.

  • Jackie

    How ridiculous. There are so many undesirables allowed it to this country, yet they feel the need to deport families that have enhanced Scotland.
    Typical for this country.

  • Sheila MacFarlane

    That is so wrong ! The Tory English government continues to use every lever to depopulate the Highlands. We are still post Culloden ! The family ought to be allowed to stay and given a bit more help like a loan for their business.

  • Elaine Falkner

    Plain stupid!! They are deported and someone in need of employment loses their job presumably.

  • meg

    This makes me very angry and sad.The sense of frustration for such ridiculous ruling is overwhelming.When will we be able to apply common sense to situations like this.?Would having our own government would allow the application of common sense and compassion?We must make sure it does and be watchful.Having power can alter ones perspectives.Heathrow? comes to mind.

  • Tom Ramage, Strathspey Herald

    We have been covering this story since breaking it in March. It still makes no sense. And seeing the ‘integrity’ of the law shattered by favours being paid to rich Oxbridge students who want to stay on in this country longer only exacerbates the bitter sense of injustice which has pervaded this case from day one.

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