The Port of Leith has always fascinated me ever since I moved to Edinburgh in the 1980s. It was the time when everyone talked of of Leith-sur-mer and there were great plans to revitalise the port, many of which came to fruition.
I always thought the people in Leith were friendly, and as the pubs and restaurants developed, it became a regular haunt of mine.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I read that Leith has become the target for a neo-Nazi takeover with gun-wielding fascists and white supremacists buying up properties right, left and centre.
The idea is that enough of these swastika-toting far-right racists are moving into the area to take over the local political machinery and rebuild Leith as a bastion of Nazism with people of colour banned from owning any property.
You might think this is a scenario for a demented screenplay, featuring Leith reborn as a Hitlerite fortress for the 21st century.
It’s not a fantasy, however. Leith really is under attack from far right forces. Except that this Leith is in North Dakota in the United States.
It’s a tiny hamlet west of the Missouri river with a population of around 20. Founded in 1910, Leith was given its name by railroad officials. And yes, they did name it after our own dear port, though it’s about as far from the sea as you can get in North America, and there’s not an Edinburgh for hundreds of miles – some Leithers would say that’s not a bad thing.
A self-confessed white supremacist named Craig Cobb, pictured, the son of a multi-millionaire, has been buying up plots of land around Leith in North Dakota. He is hoping to attract fellow racists to establish a whites-only community – which is bad news for the only black resident in town, Bobby Harper.
When neo-Nazi symbols – including a swastika – appeared on Cobb’s land, the local people began to see what their new resident was up to, and to their great credit they decided to fight back, especially after one of Cobb’s acolytes chanted “Sieg Heil” and made a Nazi salute at a town meeting.
The locals do not want to live in Cobbsville, as Cobb proposed to call his community, they are quite happy to be Leithers.
Now they have set up a legal defence fund and are publicising their plight on the internet, just as Cobb uses the web to push his disgusting racist, anti-semitic and homophobic creed.
When Cobb staged an event for his fellow racists, local people held a counter-demonstration with the aid of Native Americans from a nearby reservation. After Cobb and an associate touted rifles around Leith, the authorities in Grant County acted. Both men were charged with the crime of “terrorising” their fellow inhabitants, a felony that carries a long jail sentence. They were sent for trial last week, and bail for Cobb was set at $1 million.
Why should Leithers care about the other Leith? Well, we all should, because there is a very nasty strain of racism and neo-Nazi pollution in parts of the world and we must all do what we can to combat it. Those of us in and around Leith, Scotland, send a message to Leithers in North Dakota – we stand shoulder to shoulder with you.
Ms Baillie’s plan doesn’t fit the Bill
I am sure Jackie Baillie is well-meaning, but the Labour MSP has got it wrong with her member’s Bill on Protection from Eviction (Bedroom Tax) (Scotland).
As an SNP member I detest the tax and want people protected from eviction, but the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations – which also vehemently opposes the bedroom tax – got it right when it pointed out the flaw in Baillie’s Bill. If social housing landlords are forced to treat people with bedroom tax rent arrears – as opposed to ordinary arrears – quite differently, the end result will be higher rents for everybody.
The SFHA said: “This Bill will have a negative impact upon the very people and communities it seeks to protect.” Think again, Ms Baillie.
Community spirit that shines through
There’s no words to properly explain why the tragedy of Mikaeel Kular has affected us all, except that our basic humanity rebels against the death of any child. This I do know – after the extraordinary scenes of compassion and community spirit in the north of the city last week, no-one will ever again be able to say that Edinburgh is a cold unfriendly place.
I had my first personal encounter with Police Scotland’s finest at the weekend when the car I was driving left the road – entirely of its own volition, of course – and ended up in a field. Constables Pearson and Carlin attended the scene and could not have been more kind, courteous and efficient.
Forget all the wrangling and turf wars of the top brass and politicians over the new national force, it’s ordinary coppers who will determine the image of Police Scotland, and these two PCs impressed me.