Behind the Byline: Landowners, Police Scotland and bugs


The team at CommonSpace give an update of their work and highlights of the week

Angela Haggerty, editor @AngelaHaggerty

As ever, it's been a busy week on CommonSpace. Having relaunched the site recently, we're still having issues with a few tech bugs, and, in particular, our social media sharing buttons haven't been working properly. It's turned out to be tricky to fix, so I've been working with the web team a lot to try and get these issues resolved.

We've also moved into fundraising mode this week. Our parent company, Common Weal, launched a big fundraising push so I've been putting together some materials for CommonSpace and taking a look back at some of our big successes. One thing I'm particularly proud of is how much we're helping the next generation of journalists coming through. Not only are we trying to build a better media in the current climate with the values that are important to you, our readers and funders, but we're potentially helping spread those values to the young men and women who might be driving our media forward in the future. People often don't see how far their donations actually go, and I really hope this inspires people to donate to Common Weal. Just £5 a month really makes a big difference to us: it helps offer security for all our staff and allows us to plan and think ahead. Please donate if you can and help us achieve even more at CommonSpace.

Also this week I had a meeting with freedom of expression organisation Scottish PEN. We've worked closely with PEN in the past and we're now a partner in its campaign for reform of outdated defamation laws. Current laws make it a lot easier for rich people and corporations to silence small media outlets like ourselves with legal threats. Reform could strengthen our position, so we think it's really important as a new media in Scotland to play a role in how these big changes are shaped.

Also this week I’ve been working with the reporting team on developing our content plan for the upcoming EU membership referendum – we have lots to come so watch this space!

Michael Gray, reporter @GrayInGlasgow

I spent Wednesday 25 May reporting from the private landowning conference in Edinburgh. 

Given the variety of CommonSpace reports on land reform, this was an opportunity to investigate the private estates that have such a powerful influence on Scotland’s economy and society. 

It was an opportunity to speak to tax advisors, lawyers, and the variety of interest groups that surround private property wealth. 

Read more: The Scottish Establishment – Who you meet at a private landowners conference

While the lobbyists and event organisers were keen to stress that they wanted to move away from an image as "arrogant dinosaurs", there remained a clear tension between wealthy private landowners – who have consistently been opposed to land reform – and the views of the government, which is critical of the concentration of land ownership.

Read more: Scottish landowners pledge to change "arrogant dinosaurs" image

Read more: "Land ownership is too concentrated": Scottish Government tells country’s landowners

One conference attendee remarked that private landowners felt "unloved" in the political climate. Roseanna Cunningham, speaking for the Scottish government, insisted that the journey of land reform is set to continue. 

Jen Stout, reporter @jm_stout

I was away in Russia for a couple of weeks, so this week I’ve been catching up on news and politics – hoping for some more interesting debate on the upcoming EU referendum, but it doesn’t seem forthcoming. So I’ve been thinking about the angles that really interest me – CAP payments, fishing, climate change … there’s a lot of shouting back and forth about these issues, in terms of whether EU membership helps or hinders – so I’m pleased that the next few weeks offer a chance to get into the facts and find out what those involved in these issues think. 

Other than rounding up the news and running our social media, I’ve been looking into a series of events over the last few weeks involving asylum seekers in Glasgow. We’ve covered these issues several times – those seeking asylum in Glasgow endure the threat of eviction, deportation, unlimited detention, and destitution – and it can be difficult to get a response from the various government bodies involved, whether that be the Home Office, or our police force. 

It can also be difficult for those in the asylum system to go 'on the record' to tell you about what’s happening to them, as they’re often scared that this will jeopardise their asylum application. But the case of LGBT asylum seeker Beverly Kanjii back in March showed that despite the rhetoric of the Scottish Government, its police force frequently works with Home Office and immigration officials in the dawn raids and detention of asylum seekers, and in this case broke up a blockade at Brand Street in Glasgow to enable her removal to England

The Scottish Government’s latest line on this to me was that "Police Scotland is nothing to do with us". We’ll keep looking into this next week.

David Jamieson, reporter @David_Jamieson7

Unfortunately David’s been off sick most of this week – get well soon David!

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