Another year, yet another reflective blog post.
2017 was definitely a year, in which stuff happened. A snap UK election. Brexit machinations. Tonnes to write about. Which I won’t do here. Rather, I will do my usual and crunch the stats on my blog to give a rundown of my most popular posts and reflect on what I have been up to.
I will also acknowledge that 2017 was (like 2016 and 2015) suitably boring for me in terms of oncology news. For this I am thankful. In fact, it has almost got to the stage where I don’t think I need to offer this almost traditional (non-) update. Then again, there are some people who still earnestly ask after my health, which I suppose is no particular surprise given I publicly blogged about a health scare approximately four years ago. As such, I don’t mind people asking me questions about this; in turn, I hope potential question askers do not mind me attempting to stave off some questions.
My health and my research leave combined to allow me to go on three overseas trips in 2017. This academic tourism took me to law schools in South Africa (mainly Stellenbosch, but also the University of Cape Town), the USA (Loyola University New Orleans) and Germany (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg). Thanks to all who assisted with those trips, including at those universities, my own University of Aberdeen, the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, and the various old and new friends who contributed along the way. I delivered presentations at all of these schools (the one in Halle was recorded, although the sound is dodgy towards the end) and made some great contacts. Two of those contacts then came across to Aberdeen to present on matters of interest to me and I hope others too: Stephan van der Merwe (a clinician at Stellenbosch Legal Aid Clinic) presented on the difference law clinics can make (Twitter thread here); and Richard Cramer (a PhD candidate at UCT) spoke about abandonment of land (Twitter thread here). When I visited Stellenbosch, Stephan was kind enough to show me round his clinic (as digested in this post) and discuss his work developing an academic course linked to pro bono law clinic-ing (and a forthcoming article on that topic). Richard has just published a paper in the South African Law Journal on abandonment of land in South African and Swiss law and I look forward to hearing more about his PhD research (which, as a by-product of my trip, is now going to take in Scots law). Richard and I also owe a thanks to Professor John Lovett from Loyola, who suggested that I contact UCT when I was in the area. Separately, I was delighted to also welcome John to Aberdeen. He gave a presentation on land reform from a property theory perspective (Twitter thread here).
As regards other output from those trips, for the moment I can refer you to this self-published blog post offering my Scottish views on South African land reform. Other output is in the pipeline. Otherwise, you will just need to take my word for it that it was interesting. (For example, I learned about a novel approach to blighted/abandoned land in New Orleans, and there might soon be a South African Land Commission, all of which might just feed into future writing.)
In terms of what academic stuff I was up to in 2017, I have cheated with this year’s reflective blog and published four individual posts on specific matters that I think merited standalone attention. I was also involved with my semi-traditional mixture of law/land reform/law clinic type events, including this event at the University of Aberdeen’s May Festival, the Agricultural Law Association’s conference (see this half-baked Twitter thread), and the Scottish University Law Clinic Network’s annual conference at Glasgow Caledonian University (archived Storify here). With my public engagement hat on, in addition to that May Festival event I also had cameos on BBC1 Scotland and Radio Scotland (speaking about land reform) and BBC Radio 4 (comparing access regimes in Scotland and England and Wales, after George Monbiot bemoaned the situation down south).
Publications-wise, I had an article in the Juridical Review on the regulation of short-term letting (see below) and shorter notes on land law matters such as: the legal implications of the indycamp; the rights of the (former) general partners of farming limited partnerships; private parking in Scotland; and access rights under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. In last year’s reflective blog post I noted that I had finalised two chapters in edited collections, but that neither was quite out yet. Alas, this remains true, but I have navigated peer review and editor comments and I hope they will be out soon. I will flag them on this blog as soon as they are.
For anyone who is interested in what else I am up to, in addition to the roles flagged in separate blog posts I have also taken up a directorship of Aberdeen Community Energy. Meanwhile, in a quest for balance I have stepped back from a few roles. I will soon demit office from the Stair Society after my five-year term on the board expires. Separately, my directorship with the company La Banda Europa has come to an end after just over five years. (Details of my most recent involvement with it, at this event in Glasgow, can be found here.) I wish all involved with those initiatives well.
*My* top five base drones of 2017 (excluding the blog’s churning home page) follow, but, eh, um…
“My” top post was not written by me. In fact, it was written by the excellent Lucy Reed. She provided a blog post aimed at law students or junior lawyers offering pro bono advice to people, on times when it might be appropriate to ask for help. I am delighted to let her steal my thunder as the author of the top ranking post.
In 2nd place, a post on Brexit and indyref2. This was written before the snap election was on the cards, and thus before the SNP tsunami had receded somewhat to leave them with 35 rather than 56 Westminster MPs and accordingly a rather more circumspect approach to whether there should be another Scottish independence referendum while the Brexit process is unfolding/unravelling [delete according to preference]. Much more could be written about this, but I will not do so here.
In 3rd place, a post about Gaelic I wish I had not had to write, but I was moved to after The Scotsman newspaper gave a platform to someone who (I will be charitable) was somewhat ignorant about the regulation of minority languages.
In 4th place, a post about souvenir plots and one particular vendor.
In a creditable 5th place, given it was only published in December, a post about using title conditions to regulate short-term letting of houses in residential areas.
Two older posts (relating to Scottish Gaelic and souvenir plots) ranked in my top 5 posts for traffic this year, but I have restricted this analysis to 2017 posts only.
Reference might also be made to this post which I published on the School of Law blog, being a popular post about access flashpoints at Elderslie and Kinrara. An honourable mention should also go to the blog posts there about wildlife crime and the law of evidence, which really got debate flowing. I posted something on this blog about the access implications of gathering evidence with a static camera, and my colleague Dr Phil Glover developed the wider debate into an academic note on the admissibility of covertly gathered video evidence in criminal proceedings.
I noted last year I was about to go on research leave and that I might try to mitigate my social media usage and blogging while on that. It’s fair to say my social media usage was not really mitigated, actually. My blogging had some fallow periods, but at some point I cleared 50,000 views on the blog. Maybe I am doing something right after all.
Thanks for reading. All the best for 2018.
This is the fifth and final of my reflective blog posts on 2017. The first was on my involvement with the Juridical Review (available here), the second related to some research projects to do with Scottish smallholdings and interventions in land markets (available here), the third related was about my external adviser role with the Deer Working Group (available here), and the fourth was about access to justice and my appointment to a Law Society of Scotland Committee on that topic (available here).