The Cargo Cult
Alive and Well in the Scottish Highlands
Caledonia Centre of Social Development
Printer friendly version -
At the end of the Second War World, with the withdrawal of American forces from
the islands of the South Pacific, anthropologists
began to note an adaptation of the islanders' traditional cult of ancestor
The new form took the shape of building replica models of planes and fake
landing strips (including warehouses) as a means of attracting highly sought
after American consumer goods such as cigarettes, coca cola and chewing gum.
Such items had been readily available and handed out as gifts by the American
forces as a means of keeping the natives content while they got on with the
business of ripping-up and polluting their islands as part of the war effort.
Several decades later, and in another part of the world, a similar but different
cargo cult has emerged. In the Scottish Highlands the government's enterprise
development agencies (first HIDB and now HIE), driven by the cargo cult of inward
investment, have evolved a new form of tax-spending ancestor worship.
this vast region which is comparable in size to Belgium, but sparsely and
remotely peopled, the cargo cultists and their local government associates have
engineered a network of modern roads, bridges and ferry terminals at the end of
which they have erected enormous industrial sheds in all shapes and colours.
purpose of these sheddies, bedecked with rent and tax holidays, low interest
loans, training subsidies and other treats, is to attract from all corners of the
world wealthy 'footloose' corporations and industrialists in the belief that
herding folks into sheds to 'bash metal for global profiteers' will create a
novel form of sustainable local economic development.
Of course the problem with all this is that it imitates the form, not the
substance of what wealth creation is really all about. The 'rational thinking' of
economists and planners - I think more like 'wishful thinking'. Let's have
another cult. Why not Ghost dancing? Ah, but then that didn't work too well for
the Plains Indians. How about trying to develop a strategy which focuses on
'real' local economic development which is:
What does the profit and loss account show between these two approaches?
Cargo cult losses: Pulpmill, smelter, fabrication yards, Dounreay, Aviemore,
Bresclate, military bases at Benbecula and Moray and (likely to go) call
Locally rooted development surpluses: 300 million rural poor in China lifted out
of poverty; the self-financing and self-governing architecture of the Mondragon
Cooperatives minimises the need for State intervention and maximises local
self-determination in line with the aspirations of the Basque culture; Northern
Italy as one of the fasting growing parts of Europe with a highly rooted and
sustainable economy based on clustering and supply chain collaboration; and
Canadian Labour Solidarity Funds such as that in Quebec with 500,000 local
shareholders, a fund of $4.6 million Canadian dollars, 1900 SMEs supported and
100,000 jobs created in the last 15 years.
And what should become of all these colourful sheddies? Let the Land Reform Act's
community-right-to-buy get to work on them and convert them into community-run
enterprise zones with surpluses accruing to local Common Good Funds.
So now that HIE has a bit of a public consultation process underway about what
shape the region's future economic ancestor worship should take lets ensure that
it is home grown, locally made, deep-rooted and linked-up. Wouldn't that be a
smart, SMART strategy!
Web Reference Links
Village and Township Enterprise
Mondragon Cooperative Group
Labour Solidarity Funds
A Smart, Successful Scotland - Strategic direction to the Enterprise Networks
and an enterprise strategy for Scotland