A COUPLEof times over the past 10 years I’ve stayed with friends in a mountain village in Italy. It’s an area familiar to many Scots of Italian descent. It’s also on the edge of one of Italy’s most treasured achievements – the Abruzzo National Park.

It was first created in 1922, then promptly abolished by Mussolini’s fascist regime before being re-established in 1950. It covers barely one tenth of the land area of our Cairngorm National Park, yet its beautiful native woodlands are home to a multitude of species, including lynx, wolves and brown bears.

This is no inaccessible wilderness. With five towns and villages within the Abruzzo National Park, it’s more densely populated than most of the Scottish Highlands. Farming and forestry coexist with wild nature, along with a strong woodcraft industry.

The park also supports a booming tourist sector. One town, Civitella Alfedena, has an impressive wolf museum, and the lupo is celebrated in the names of local cafes and bars, and in merchandise.

Unlike Scotland, villages are built into mountains – the favourite habitat of wolves. But, despite my best efforts, I have never seen one. They tend to avoid humans.

Which brings me to the launch this week of a new campaigning charity, Rewilding Britain, which my friend from Blairgowrie, Susan Wright, has helped to found.

It’s most prominent figure, George Monbiot, is no stranger to controversy. He has long championed progressive politics. During the referendum campaign he was one of the most passionate English voices in support of independence.

The charity’s website explicitly states: “The island of Britain is geographically diverse and consists of three nations with differing political systems. Rewilding projects on the ground need to be locally owned and locally run.”

The debate over nature and rewilding transcends traditional politics. Yet it does challenge the status quo. According to land campaigner Andy Wightman, there are almost two million hectares of sporting estates in the Highlands alone – twice as much as Rewilding Britain wants to reclaim for nature across Britain over the coming century.

In 50 or 100 years’ time, would we rather see this vast area of Scotland remain a rich man’s playground, managed exclusively for shooting deer and grouse? Or can we envision a new future for at least parts of our vast and empty uplands, by encouraging the restoration of native woodlands and the return of species that were in the past hunted to extinction?

Some of the reaction here to the possible reintroduction of wolves in future decades has been based on irrational fear, probably instilled deep in our psyche by fairytales like Red Riding Hood.

But we need to put our practical heads on. Rewilding can assist the economic regeneration of our straths and glens, through nature-based industries and eco-tourism.

Given our weather, we’re unlikely to want to build villages high in the mountains – which leaves room for wolves to go about their business without any disturbance to us.

Greece can’t be socialist in isolation

I WAS in awe of the Greek people when they stood up to bureaucratic blackmail and voted No to austerity. It was tempting to think that this could be the start of a democratic renaissance across Europe.

Sadly, the power of the Troika has, for now, snuffed out this revolution – not with tanks, but by threatening mass starvation. Rebellion must be crushed in case it’s contagious.

The decision to accept the deal has, understandably, led to some disappointment within the broad socialist movement in Greece and across Europe.

I did suggest in this column, when Syriza were first elected, that before anyone criticised the party they should ask themselves: “What would I do?”

Sections of the British left have an incurable habit of condemning others for selling out. It’s easy to criticise from the vantage point of the UK, where the forces of anti-capitalism are marginalised and don’t have the responsibility Syriza has. One reason why Syriza’s hands are tied is precisely because of the strength of the right and the weakness of the left elsewhere in Europe.

Some have said Syriza should have marched Greece out of the eurozone. I’m more inclined to listen to people like Myrto Tsakatika, Syriza’s representative in Scotland. She argues cogently it would be a mistake to think that the Greek No vote was a vote for leaving the eurozone and re-establishing the drachma. It was a vote to reject what was on offer in Brussels.

Her analysis is backed by polls that show 80 per cent of Greeks want to stay in the euro. Even the left opposition in Syriza acknowledges that “Grexit” at this time would mean the country would perish.

We know from our own experience here in Scotland – a country much better off than Greece – that many people were terrified of breaking with the pound.

The Greek people are in the eye of the storm and and fearful of the future. Much as it may disappoint some, they are not gripped by a desire to go it alone and build an isolated socialist outpost.

I’m not usually one to quote Trotsky – or anyone else who lived in a different time – but the anti-Stalinist dissident was right when he said you can’t build socialism in a single country.

And, with the socialist left in Britain too weak to come to the aid of Greece, it should desist from hurling stones from the glass house.