Scottish Land Reform

[IndyLive Research Contents]

A property under entail is one which cannot be sold, given to a person of choice by will, or given up in anyway by the owner. The estate is one which would automatically pass to the direct heirs on death of the proprietor. 

Some Acts Related to Land Ownership 

Entail Act, 1685. – Act concerning tailzies (feudal idea of the inheritance of immovable property). 

Tenures Abolition Act, 1746. – An Act for inter alia allowing heirs of tailzie in Scotland to sell lands to the Crown for erecting buildings and making settlements in the Highlands. 

Sales to Crown Act 1746. – An Act inter alia to enable heirs of tailzie, guardians, tutors, curators, and trustees to sell lands to the Crown. 

Entail Improvement Act, 1770. – An Act to encourage the improvement of lands, tenements, and hereditaments in that part of Great Britain called Scotland, held under settlement of strict entail. 

Entail Provisions Act, 1824. – An Act to authorise the proprietors of entailed estates in Scotland to grant provisions to the wives or husbands and children of such proprietors. 

Turnpike Roads (Scotland) Act, 1831. – An Act for amending and making more effectual the laws concerning turnpike roads in Scotland. 

Entail Powers Act, 1836. – An Act to grant certain powers to heirs of entail in Scotland, and to authorise the sale of entailed lands for the payment of certain deaths affecting the same. 

Entail Sites Act, 1840. – An Act to enable proprietors of entailed estates in Scotland to feu or lease on long leases portions of the same for the building of churches and schools, and for dwelling-houses and gardens for the ministers and masters thereof. 

Entail Amendment Act, 1848. – An Act for the amendment of the law of entail in Scotland. 

Entail Amendment Act, 1853. – An Act to extend the benefits of the Act of the eleventh and twelfth years of Her present Majesty, for the amendment of the law of entail in Scotland. 

Entail Cottages Act, 1860. – An Act to facilitate the building of cottages for labourers, farm servants, and artizans, by the proprietors of entailed estates in Scotland. 

Entail Amendment Act, 1868. – An Act to amend in several particulars the law of entail in Scotland. 

Entail Amendment Act, 1875. – An Act to further amend the law of entail in Scotland. 

Entail Amendment Act, 1878. – An Act to further amend the law of entail in Scotland. 

Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act, 1878. – An Act to alter and amend the Iaw in regard to the maintenance and management of roads and bridges in Scotland. 

Roads Amendment Act, 1880. – An Act to amend the law in regard to charging road debts on entailed estates in Scotland. 

Entail (Scotland) Act 1882. – An Act to amend the law of entail in Scotland. 

The Abolition of Feudal Tenure &c. (Scotland) Act 2000. – disentailed all land. 

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. – gives the right for communities to purchase land in their area. 

From the Scottish Newspapers

The speech of Q. Marcius Philippus, in the character of the Marquis of Tweeddale. 


   This, my Lords, was the state of the Scottish laws of treason at the time of the revolution; and from this alone your Lordships may judge, how oppressive they were upon the subject: but at that time the people took care to get a law passed, for securing mortgagees and lessees, and for payment of the forfeiting person’s just debts; and, in the year 1690, another law was passed, for securing all those entailed estates, where the entail was subjected to such clauses, there called irritant clauses, as made the possessor nothing but tenant for life: so that this law of the year 1690 may properly enough be called the Scottish Westminster the 2d. And it has this advantage of the English Westminster the 2d, that it absolutely secures our entailed estates against forfeitures; because our lawyers have not yet found out how to cut off such entails by any such conceits as are here called fines and recoveries. As these laws, or at least the parts of them I have mentioned, were made, my Lords, only with a view to secure creditors and heirs of entail, and no other way relate to treason; as they enact nothing either with regard to what shall be called treason, or how shall it be tried: therefore, so far as they relate to the security of innocent mens property, they were never designed, nor ever thought to be altered by the act of the 7th of Q. Anne: and according to this the practice has been ever since. With regard to the criminal prosecution and trial, they are carried on according to the form prescribed by the laws of treason in England, and they are in every thing regulated by those laws only: but, in all questions relating to what is or is not forfeited, all which, as they relate to private property, must be heard and determined by our courts of equity and common law; such questions are to be regulated and determined by those laws and forms of proceeding which were established in Scotland at the time of the union. 

Scots Magazine, Saturday 1st December, 1744, p.11. 

Abstract of the act vicesimo Georgii II. intitled, An act for taking away the tenure of ward holding in Scotland, and for converting the same into blanch and feu holdings;.. and for allowing heirs of tailzie there to sell lands to the crown for erecting buildings, and making settlements in the highlands

   [To avoid the frequent repetition of the words within Scotland, let it suffice, to tell here, once for all, that this act relates only to Scotland.] 

   WHEREAS it hath been found by experience, that the tenure of lands in Scotland by ward holding, and its consequences, have been much more prejudicial to the vassals than beneficial to the superiors, it is therefore enacted, 

   That in the tenure of lands or heritages in Scotland by ward holding, whether simple or taxed ward, and the casualties consequent upon the same, by ward, marriage, and recognition, be taken away from and after the 25th of March 1748. 


Scots Magazine, Friday 7th August, 1747, pp.13-14. 

The substance of the several speeches made against the bill for abolishing the hereditary jurisdictions in Scotland, &c. 


   How weak, Sir, is human judgment, how ineffectual our wisest precautions! That very article which was contrived by the lords of these jurisdictions in Scotland, for securing them to their posterity, is, we now find, in less than half a century, made use of as a pretence for depriving them of every such honourable possession for ever. The words of the article are, “That all heritable offices, superiorities, heritable jurisdictions, offices for life, and jurisdictions for life, be reserved to the owners thereof, as rights of property, in the same manner as they are now enjoyed by the laws of Scotland, notwithstanding this treaty.” By this article, and by their perpetual entails, which the lawyers of Scotland have not yet by any quirk pretended to break through, they thought they had, notwithstanding the union, secured their jurisdictions to their posterity for ever, or at least till and end should be put to it by the act of God, that is to say, by the extinction of their whole race. But it is now said, that as any subject may by act of parliament be compelled to part with his property for a reasonable price, when it becomes necessary for the publick good, and as these jurisdictions are by this article reserved to the proprietors only as rights of property, therefore they may be compelled by act of parliament to part with them for a reasonable price, if it be necessary for the publick good, without any breach of this article of the union. 

– Scots Magazine, Saturday 5th December, 1747, p.29. 

   WHEREAS various Orders of Men now in Scotland, are devising proper Means to apply to Parliament for the Relief of the different Hardships under which they labour: It is humbly thought that an Application from HEIRS OF ENTAIL, who feel Distresses superior to any yet complain’d of, may meet with a favourable Reception from the Legislature; in as much as the Severity of their Tenures, not only abridges the Exercise of Property, but limits or disappoints the natural or legal Calls of Children and Creditors. 

   Such Gentlemen therefore of this Class as are willing to apply for a Remedy, are invited to meet at the Laigh Coffee-house in Edinburgh upon the 20th of February next, at 4 in the Afternoon, to consider upon proper Means for their Relief. 

Caledonian Mercury, Monday 18th December, 1749, p.4. 

The end of the runrig form of tenancy; 

   That the Lands and Estate of KINNEILL and BORROWSTOUNESS, and other Lands within the Shires of Linlithgow and Stirling, belonging to his Grace the Duke of Hamilton, being now surveyed, and laid into proper Farms, without any Runrig Grounds, and having new Farm-houses and Office-houses built upon many of the several Farms; Are to be LETT for 19 Years, commencing at the Term of Martinmas next; This is to be done by publick Roup at Borrowstounness upon Wednesday the 10th of October. The Rental, Plan of the several Grounds, and Articles of Roup, are to be seen in the Hands of James Wilson Writer in Borrowstounness, who is ready to commune with, or take in Offers from any tenants before the Time of Roup. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Monday 20th August, 1750, p.4. 

   THAT the Lands and estate of BOGAN-GREEN, with Mary Cranston’s Lands lying in the Parish of Coldinghame, and Shire of Berwick, formerly Runrig, but now divided, and to be exposed to Sale, by publick Roup, within John’s Coffee-house in Edinburgh, upon Friday, 20th April, at Four o’Clock Afternoon. – There is a tolerable good Mansion-house, with an Orchard, some Grass Inclosures, and old Planting on the Lands, a large Quantity of outfield Ground, besides a Right of Commonty on Coldingham Common. – The Lands hold of the Crown, and are of Valuation to entitle to a Vote in Election of Members of Parliament, are presently out of Lease, and lie within a short Mile of the Sea. The Rental and Progress of Writs are to be seen, by applying to John Tait, Clerk to Mr. Ronald Crawfurd, the Proprietor, at his House in Adam’s Land, Edinburgh. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Thursday 15th March, 1759, p.2. 

   THAT there is to be SOLD, by public roup, upon Tuesday the 25th of February, 1766, betwixt the hours of four and five o’clock afternoon, within Forrest’s coffeehouse of Edinburgh, 

   All and Whole the Three Pound Land of the Ten Pound Land of KIRKTON and CARZEILD, lying in the parish of Kirkmahoe, and shire of Dumfries of 57l. sterling of yearly rent, holding feu of the Duke of Queensberry, for payment of 12s. 6d. of feu-duty. – These lands are of considerable extent, consisting partly of fine holm-land, partly of meadow, and pasture ground, pleasantly situated on a rising ground, by the side of the river Nith, within three miles of the town of Dumfries, upon the great road leading to Edinburgh and Glasgow. The lands, when laid together, (for part of them lie run-rig, but presently under a process for excambion) will be capable of great improvement, for which there is plenty of marle in the grounds. – The title deeds, rentals, and conditions of sale, are to be seen in the hands of Alexander Orr, Writer to the Signet; and copies of the rental and conditions may also be seen in the hands of Robert Henderson of Cleugheads at Whitecroft, to either of whom, or to Mr. Young of Gulliehill at Dumfries, those who incline to purchase may, for further information, apply. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Wednesday 29th January, 1766, p.4. 

   To be SOLD, by public voluntary roup, on Thursday the 1st day of December next, bewixt the hours of four and five o’clock afternoon, within Forrest’s coffeehouse, Edinburgh, 

   All and whole the Lands and Barony of GIGHA, extending to a twenty pound land of old extent, with the office of Bailliary, Coronership, and Serjeantry within the whole bounds of the said barony, being part of the estate of Roger Macneil of Taynish, Esq; and holding feu of the Duke of Argyll, all lying within the parish and island of Gigha, and shire of Argyll. 

   This barony, according to an accurate plan and survey, contains, 2598 acres, of which 1512 acres belong in property to Taynish, and yield 277l. 4s. 8d. sterling yearly of rent, including the conversion of casualties, which is very moderate, and the remaining part holds feu of Taynish, by different vassals, who pay 61l. 17s. sterl. yearly, of feu-duty for the same. – The tenants of the property lands pay all public burdens, exclusive of the above rental, except 15l. sterling payable by the heritor to the Minister, of stipend, for part of the estate, and are bound by their leases, the longest of which expires in ten years after Whitsunday first, to compleat and finish the inclosing of their farms in a proper manner, at their own expence, conform to a regular plan for subdividing the several farms. 

   The island of Gigha is situate on the west coast of Kintyre, and divided only from the continent by a small ferry of two miles of sea, is much frequented by shipping on account of its many excellent harbours, and is capable of the greatest improvements, being an exceeding fine fertile soil, mostly arable, and abounding with unexhaustible quarries of lime-stone, and immense quantities of the richest shall sand on its shores. As the lands are at present low rentalled, not exceeding four shillings per acre pf arable ground, and any purchaser having a taste for improvements, may, at a small expence laid out, on such a fine subject, without exaggerating, at least treple the rent in a few years. 

   This island is also remarkably well situate for trade and manufactures, particularly in the fisheries and cultivation of flax, as the adjacent seas abound with cod, ling, and all the different species of fish to be had on any part of the coast of Scotland, and the soil is found, by experience, to produce exceeding good flax. – The inhabitants reap considerable advantage already from the small quantities of lint-seed sown by them, so that both these useful branches of the trade of this country might be carried on in this island to the greatest extent, and have the earliest markets abroad, the navigation being at all times convenient, from the harbours of the island, having at once an out-let into the western ocean, without any of these impediments common to every port in the inland parts of the kingdom. 

   There is an appearance of a copper-mine, and different minerals on the estate, and a certainty of coal, tho’ none of them have as yet been wrought. The shores also are covered with sea-ware, from which considerable quantities of kelp may be manufactured yearly, and as that commodity has risen greatly in value of late years, it becomes an object worthy of attention, and, together with the other valuable articles already mentioned, must greatly inhance the value of the subject to a purchaser. 

   The progress of writs, articles and conditions of sale, with the rental, are to be seen in the hands of William Macdonald, Clerk to the Signet, Edinburgh, to whom any person, inclining a purchase before the roup, may apply. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Monday 24th October, 1768, p.4. 

   To be SOLD, by public roup, at Mrs. MacCracken’s in Annan, upon Tuesday the 23d of April next, at four o’clock afternoon, 

   The Lands of TODHOLES, in the parish of Dornock, and shire of Dumfries, containing 240 acres of very fine rich land, quite unimproven, and capable of the highest cultivation, lying in a part of the country, where lime and other materials for improvement, may be got at a moderate expence. – This farm (which holds blench of the Duke of Queensberry) has a right of pasturage, and common property in the commonty of Dornock, and will, upon the division, which is depending, and near finished, be entitled to a considerable share. 

   Also. the FIVE MERK LAND, lying in the burgh of Annan, consisting of about 26 acres, mostly run-rig, and that either in wholesale or in parcels, as purchasers shall appear. These lands also hold blench of the Duke of Queensberry. 

   At the same time will be sold, the NATURAL WOODS of Oak, Ash, Alder, Birch, and others, upon the lands of KILHEAD, in the parish of Cummertrees, and shire of Dumfries, consisting of upwards of 100 acres, at least forty years old, and well taken care of. – Any person calling at the house of Kilhead, will be shown the woods. 

   The articles and conditions of sale, to be seen in the hands of George Muir, Writer to the Signet, at his house in Edinburgh, who will treat with any person inclining to make a private purchase; also, in the hands of Thomas Carlyle, Writer in Dumfries. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Wednesday 20th February, 1771, p.4. 

   THE Commissioner in the Process of Division of the RUN-RIG LANDS of TRANENT, hereby give notice to all persons concerned therein, That there is a plan and scheme of division of said lands now made out; but before reporting the same to the Court of Session, he has ordered, that the said plan and scheme of division, with the proof of possession taken by him, shall lie in the hands of David Mather, Land-surveyor in Tranent, until the 25th July instant; and thereafter to be transmitted to James Walker, Writer to the Signet, at his house in the Society; and to lie in his hands, until the 20th day of August next, for the inspection of all concerned: And the Commissioner required all parties who may have any objections to the said scheme and plan, to transmit the same, in writing, to Alexander Fraser, Sheriff-clerk of Haddington, and Clerk to the said commission, on or before the 24th day of the said month of August, with certification, that no objections will be afterwards received, but all parties will be held as acquiescing in said plan and scheme of division. And the Commissioner also, ordered, that this public intimation should be twice inserted in each of the three Edinburgh newspapers, that none may pretend ignorance thereof. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Wednesday 10th July, 1771, p.3. 

   TO be SOLD by public roup, within the Exchange Coffeehouse in Edinburgh, upon Wednesday the 18th of August inst. between the hours of four and five afternoon, 

   SUNDRY ACRES or PARCELS of LAND, lying in the EASTFIELDS of TRANENT, as the same are presently possessed by Hill Christie and James Rannie, extending to about 27 acres Scots measure. As also, That part of the MUIR or COMMONTY of TRANENT belonging to the said acres, inclosed with a ditch and hedge, consisting of seven acres, inclosed with a ditch and hedge, consisting of seven acres and a half: all lying in the parish of Tranent, and shire of Haddington. – These acres, exclusive of the commonty, pay at present of yearly rent 33l. sterling; but upon division of the runrig lands in the said fields, which is presently depending before the Court of Session, the rent will advance considerably, the same being under no tack. 

   The progress of writs and articles of roup to be see in the hand of John Haldane, writer in Edinburgh. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Wednesday 11th August, 1773, p.4. 

   TO be SOLD by public roup, within the Exchange Coffee-house in Edinburgh, upon the 17th day of January 1775, betwixt the hours of four and five afternoon, 

   Five Twelfth Parts of the FARM of UTHROGAL, consisting of about 115 acres, lying in the parish of Monymail, within two measured miles of the town of Cupar in Fife. The land is very improveable, as it is near lime, and a great deal of marle is found in different parts of the farm, very fit for manure. there is a pretty good convenient house, and pigeon-house upon the premisses. The rental at present is not fixed, as it has been for some years past in the hands of the proprietor; but by a survey and estimate that has been made of it, by a man of knowledge and long experience in that way, the yearly rent will extend to 66l. 2s. 6d. sterl. exclusive of six acres of muir not valued, as being then undivided. The lands hold of a subject-superior, for payment of 11l. Scots yearly, and 1s. sterling to the schoolmaster; together with 10 bolls oats to the titular of the teinds. The lands at present lie run-rig, but there is sufficient authority to say, that the proprietor of the other parts of the farm will make a voluntary excambion without any process of division. – Item, There is to be sold at same time, a FEU-DUTY of 40l. Scots, payable yearly out of three computed acres of burrow-land, lying at the south end of the town of Cupar. The feuer pays all public burdens. 

   The articles and conditions of roup, with an inventary of the progress of writs to both parcels, which are clear, are to be seen in the hands of Thomas Innes writer to the signet at Edinburgh, or William Robertson; town-clerk of Cupar. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Monday 16th January, 1775, p.4. 

   TO be SOLD by public voluntary roup, within the Exchange Coffeehouse, Edinburgh, upon Tuesday the 13th day of February 1776, at five o’clock afternoon, 

   The Lands and Estate of LANRICK, with the teinds and pertinents thereof, lying within the parishes of Kilmadock and Kincardine, and sheriffdom of Perth; and the Lands and Estate of ROUSKIE, with the teinds and pertinents thereof, lying within the parish of Port-of-Monteath, and sheriffdom of Perth. 

   The yearly rent of the estate of Rouskie, after deduction of cess, and every other burden, is 206l. 3s. 4d. sterling; and the estate comprehends above 856 Scots acres. The rental of the estate off Lanrick is 293l. 6s. 4d. sterling, after deduction of cess, and other public burdens, and its extent is 1217 Scots acres. Both estates are very improveable. Most of the tacks expire at Martinmas 1776, when a great rise of rent may be expected, there having been little addition made to the rents for above a century past; and the estates which formerly lay runrig, having been lately divided, and a great tract of the best ground of Rouskie, drained at a considerable expence. there are quarries on different parts of the estates, and shell-marle has been found in Lanrick. there is upon the estate of Lanrick, a good Mansion-house, with a great deal of old planting, besides some acres of natural wood, beautifully situated on the banks of the river Teath, within six miles of Stirling, in a country abounding with game.  

   The two estates will be exposed either together or separately as purchasers shall incline. Both hold of the Crown, and are valued in the cess-books at 1048l. 6s. 8d. 

    The Lands will be shewn by Robert Stewart or John Troop at the house of Lanrick; and the rental, surveys of the estates, conditions of sale, and progress of writs, may be seen in the hands of David Erskine clerk to the signet. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Saturday 25th November, 1775, p.4. 

Run-Rig Lands of Tranent. 

   THIS is to intimate, That in the process presently depending before the Court of Session, for dividing the Run-rig Lands of Tranent, the Lord Kaims, Ordinary, by interlocutor, dated 27th day of July curt. allowed all parties concerned to fee the scheme of division of these lands now made out by William bell, land-surveyor, and to give in objections thereto, if they any have, between and the 2d day of August next – The said scheme of division is therefore lodged in the hands of George Kirkpatrick, clerk to the process; and copies thereof will also be seen in the hands of James Walker writer to the signet, the agent in the division. And if no objections are given in to the… (page destroyed from here) 

– Caledonian Mercury, Saturday 27th July, 1776, p.3. 



   TIMEOUS NOTICE is hereby given to FARMERS and CROFTERS, that the leases upon that extensive Property will expire at Whitsunday 1796, and as few Highland districts present more advantageous inducements in either the cattle or sheep farming line, or both, those having any such views cannot, it is presumed, be more happily situated.  

  The Barony is situated in nearly the most western extremity of the county of Sutherland; its boundaries are well ascertained and marked, and the property contiguous and uninterrupted; its extent is from 27 to 30 miles in length from south-east to north-west, and from about 4 to 8 miles upon an average in breadth, the greatest breadth being towards the southern extremity. The proportion of arable land is equal to, if not beyond, what is generally to be met with on properties of the like extent in the north Highlands.  

  The eastern boundary is entirely water, viz. Loch Shin about 27 miles long (whereof 9 to 12 miles on the south-west shore is a fine skirting of birch-wood) and about from three to four miles of the River Shin, boldly issuing out of the Loch, on which there is a coble ferry. The river runs further from 3 to 4 miles from the southern extremity of this property and falls into the Dornoch Frith at Invershin. Very little labour and expense may make a most excellent carriage road from the Loch-end to the Dornoch Frith, being only about 7 miles, chiefly on a hard rocky and gravelly bottom; and the western extremity also of Loch-shin is but a trifling distance from water communication with the western sea.  

  The whole estate will be either let entire or in separate farms on LEASE, from 7 to 19 years as offerers may induce.  

  Further information may be had by applying to Messrs DAVIDSON and GRAHAM of London, trustees of the estates of Sir George Munro of Poynzfield, deceased; to Major George Sutherland at Rearchar [Rearquhar], by Dornoch, one of their factors; or to George Andrew, writer in Edinburgh.  

  N.B. – George Munro, ground-officer of the Barony, will attend any person desirous to view the property. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Thursday 24th July, 1794. 



   A public meeting of proprietors of entailed estates in Scotland was held on Thursday, in one of the Waterloo Rooms, called by the committee appointed at a meeting held in the British Hotel in March last, with the view to consider and pass resolutions as to an application to the Legislature for such modification of the Scotch Law of Entail as might be deemed necessary for the interests of the community. The attendance was very numerous, the apartment, one of the ante-rooms, being quite crowded… 

   The Lord Provost was called to preside. 

   The CHAIRMAN, after thanking the meeting for the compliment paid to him, said that he could hardly conceive a thing more absurd than that the earth, which was given to all, should be trammelled and tied up by one generation for another. He could see no advantage in such a system. No doubt, those who first executed entails on their estates did so to confer glory and honour on themselves by transmitting their names down to the future generations; but they did not anticipate the evils that had followed, one of the greatest of which was that of a person whose estate ostensibly yielded eight or ten thousand pounds a year, while really he derived only one-fourth or one-fifth of that sum, though it was expected that he would keep up the appearance of one enjoying the whole. Nothing, he thought, could be more uncomfortable than splendid poverty. He believed that the entail system was the cause of a great deal of distress amongst families, and frequently gave rise to expensive law-suits. He was told the other day by Professor Low, that entails were one of the greatest obstacles to the improvement of the land; and that, in travelling through the country, a person could easily distinguish whether an estate was entailed or not, by the backward condition in which it was allowed to remain. In the districts where destitution was felt, the distress of the people was aggravated by the circumstance that proprietors were so tied up that they could not expend money in the improvement of their estates, because it might affect the interest of the next heir. Entail was also one of the great curses of Ireland, where many of the proprietors lived at the rate of 20 or 30 per cent. beyond the income of their estates. Why should they be prevented from allowing it to be transferred into the hands of a manufacturer or merchant, who had plenty of money, and who would deal with it as he had been accustomed to deal with the raw material, turning it to the best advantage by the application of capital, activity, and enterprise, so as in a short time completely to change its aspect. The same thing applied to Scotland; but he hoped that this evil would be remedied, and a more satisfactory and beneficial system adopted in its place. (Applause.) 

   Sir DAVID BAIRD said,.. Now, gentlemen, though our law of entail does undoubtedly date from the year 1685, yet we shall find that so far from its having possessed either approval or respect, the enactments of that particular year of 1685 were protested against, and denounced among a list of grievances which were sent up and presented to William and Mary on their accession to the throne, as in a great part composed of impious and intolerable grievances. Again, if we pass over a little more than half a century, we shall find similar sentiments existing… I have yet been entirely ignorant until lately of the extent to which these evils have been elucidated. I have been ignorant of the existence of this volume (the Report of the Parliamentary Commission), of the existence of parliamentary evidence of so conclusive and satisfactory a character, that, coupled with the knowledge of the opinions of many of our greatest lawyers, of past and present times, room is only left for astonishment, that from the year 1828, when this evidence was obtained, down to this present day, the matter has been allowed to remain in abeyance. It would really seem as if some ground existed for the belief so generally entertained, that no great grievance is ever rectified, no injurious law ever altered, until the country has been roused from one extremity to the other, and until the office-doors of Downing Street are made to ring with the clamour of agitation. (Hear, hear.)… If it be assumed that the object of any man executing an entail be not only to hand down his name to remote ages, but likewise to secure to those who are to succeed to the family inheritance the advantages of wealth, dignity, and worldly independence, abundant proof is adduced in this volume of those objects not having been realised by the statute of 1685. Again, should it be supposed that these desirable results have been attained by the supplementary enactments of 10th George III. and 5th George IV., equal proof to the contrary awaits us. Though passed as measures of relief, they are proved in practice not to deserve that character; and in point of fact, they can be regarded as little else than the legal machinery for the transfer, or rather for the postponement, of pecuniary obligations and difficulties from one generation to another… either that our law of entail is an unjust, unnatural, and suicidal law, or that all those honourable, learned, and noble individuals who were examined before the committee of 1828, amounting to some twenty-five in number, have been guilty of perjury, and deserve to be put in the pillory… Perhaps some gentleman from the north will be so kind as inform us whether that be true, which we might all have read not long ago, of some landed proprietors, who, with a praiseworthy sympathy for the distresses of their district, having determined on an expenditure of some L.4000 towards its mitigation, found such a hitch in the obtaining of the money, that had it not been for the well-timed security of Mr Matheson of Achany, it might not have been forthcoming at all, or, at any rate, in time to preserve their distressed neighbours from the horrible fate of starvation. (Hear.) And now, I would just beg to ask who is this public benefactor, whose name we find landed in every newspaper, and who, in this season of dire calamity and distress, is dispensing the blessings of employment and food to all and sundry? Have his acres descended to him through a long line of entailed substitutes? Far from it. But he is a member of the profession which more than any other has increased the power and influence of the United Kingdom. He is a member of a profession which is pouring a continued stream of additional wealth into the national coffers. He is a gentleman who, by that honourable profession of a British merchant, having amassed a princely fortune, has returned to enjoy the fruits of his well-earned harvest in the land of his nativity… Having some little experience of the crippling agency of this entail system, I, for one, am not surprised at the names of some of our Highland proprietors having been shown up lately in the House of Commons; neither am I surprised that Sir Edward Coffin has been forced to goad some of them to the fulfilment of their duties to their respective populations. But here I stop. I hesitate before I condemn the men. I am not indeed sure that blame is attachable to them at all, but rather to those statesmen who retain these laws on the statue book, which may have deprived these gentlemen of the power of fulfilling the duties of their responsible and onerous positions. It would be easy to mention other modes still in which the law of entail is acting injuriously in connection with the districts in our Highlands and Islands… 

   Mr SANDFORD said he had always looked upon the act 1685 as the last efforts of an expiring feudalism, and he felt certain that it would not be defended against a strong expression of public opinion, in the present age of science, civilisation, and freedom. The greatest authorities in our own law had likewise condemned the Scottish system of entails… 

   Mr OSWALD, M.P., moved the next resolution. He said, he believed there was not a single person in Glasgow, of any consideration and intelligence, who was not convinced that the worst law in Scotland was that relating to entails, and he was sure that that city would readily respond to the sentiments which this meeting had expressed… 

– Scotsman, Wednesday 10th March, 1847, p.4. 

Just one example of the concerted effort to evict the population of an area under the depopulating efforts of the landholder. 




LOCHMADDY, Saturday, August 4, 1849.      

   From the serious nature of the disturbances in the Solas district of North Uist, as reported in the Courier of the 26th ultimo, you deemed it expedient that I should proceed to the island. By the permission of the authorities, I accompanied them in the steamer specially engaged for the service, and as a definite arrangement has a length been determined betwixt Lord Macdonald and the tenantry of the district referred to, I shall now detail what I have seen and ascertained – confining myself, in the first place, to the proceedings subsequent to the arrival in the island of the superior authorities, and then giving the statement of the people as made to me by themselves, with the facts and arguments advanced on the other side. 

   Although an application had been made to the Secretary of State by Lord Macdonald, to sanction the presence of military in North Uist, the authorities agreed that, before proceeding to that disagreeable step, an effort should be made to give efficacy to the law by employing the county forces only. Accordingly, W. H. Colquhoun, Esq., principal Sheriff-Substitute for the county, started from Inverness on Monday morning last, with a party of thirty-three constables, under the charge of Mr Macbean, superintendent of the county police. The Sheriff was accompanied by the Rev. Mr Macrae, the parish minister of North Uist, who had arrived at Inverness on Saturday, on his way to the south, but who, at the special request of Mr Sheriff Tytler, at once agreed to defer his promised journey, and to return to the island to assist by his counsels in restoring order… The steamer reached Armadale, Lord Macdonald’s wood-environed seat, shortly before nine o’clock, when Mr Macbean went ashore at the request of the Sheriff, and having been introduced to his Lordship informed him that the authorities were on board the steamer, and were ready before proceeding to North Uist to receive any suggestion his Lordship had to make for the better adjustment of matters there. His Lordship, however, made no suggestion, but stated that he had just received a communication from Mr Shaw, Sheriff-Substitute for the Long Island, informing him that the people of Solas were still resolved to resist ejectment, and that things remained in the same state as before… The steamer left Armadale at elven o’clock,.. and, late as it was, Mr Macrae at once started for Solas, a distance of at least ten miles, to exert his influence with the people, of whose determination to resist ejectment rumours of a serious character prevailed on every hand. 

   Mr Cooper, Lord Macdonald’s commissioner, arrived at an early hour on Wednesday morning, by the mail-packet, form Dunvegan, having been at sea all night. He immediately waited on the authorities, and expressed his intention to proceed with the ejectment of the whole population of the district of Solas, unless the offers previously made by him to the people as to emigration were agreed to… The police arrived about mid-day on the brow of a hill overlooking the four towns, wher ethey halted until the Sheriffs should arrive. The moment the force was seen from the houses three signals were successively raised from the roof of one of the bothies occupying the top of a small hill in Dunskellar, and the people from all the neighbouring towns were seen crowding along the paths leading to the house from which the signals were flying, and around which a large crowd of men, women, and children had already assembled. The moment the Sheriffs arrived the march was resumed to Mallaglate, where Mr Shaw and his officers had formerly been deforced… The Sheriffs were accompanied by Mr Cooper, and they were here joined by Mr Macdonald, the young factor for Lord Macdonald. Arrived at Mallaglate, renewed attempts were made by Mr Cooper and the authorities to obtain the consent of the people to emigrate. The terms formerly offered were renewed. The principal heads of families were sent for, and it was explained to them that, should they consent, one or more vessels would be brought immediately to Lochmaddy, so that they might be on their way to America in a few days, thus arriving in Canada as early as any emigrants who had ever before left the island. Mr Macrae and Mr Macbean added their arguments and advices in Gaelic; but the people resolutely persisted in refusing to leave the island, principally for the reason that it was now too late in the season; several friends who had left the island in the beginning of August last year having written home that they had started too late in the season, and that though they were now doing well, some of them who had no friend in the new country to aid them with money had been obliged to remain in Quebec or Montreal during the winter, and had suffered some hardships. A promise to go away immediately could not be obtained from more than four or five families, and Mr Cooper would not consent to allow the people to remain till next season without a heavy bond from two respectable parties that they would all emigrate in the spring, and leave as much crop in the ground as was now in it. The Rev. Mr Macrae at once professed his readiness to become one of the sureties, so that the people might be permitted to remain on their lands till the spring, btu another could not be found. In these endeavours the day was passed till a late hour in the afternoon, when, judging that it was now too late to begin a series of ejectments, the authorities resolved upon apprehending some of the ringleaders in the previous deforcements out of several against whom warrants were issued, and to leave the other proceedings till next day. This did not promise to be an easy matter; for although the demeanour of the men had been quiet and peaceable, almost all the women of the district, young and old, were assembled around a signal raised on the top of an eminence at a short distance, and seemed very much excited. Two parties – Roderick Maclean and Angus Macphail – who were recognised in the crowd, were accordingly called and answered to their names, and though they made some little opposition to be handcuffed when made aware that they were prisoners, they yielded, were placed in the centre of the police, and the whole body, with the Sheriffs and Procurator-Fiscal, marched off to Lochmaddy. The arrest of the prisoners and march of the policemen seemed not to be comprehended by their friends, who looked on in wonder; but, a moment afterwards, the women raised a continued yell, and seizing stones rushed down the hill to intercept the march of the officers. The moment was critical; but at the earnest remonstrances of Mr Macrae and Mr Macbean, the men succeeded in calming the excitement of the women, and the authorities were permitted to march unmolested to Lochmaddy, where the prisoners were lodged in a place of safety. I confess, however, that I very much doubt whether the authorities would not have been deforced, or at least attacked, on this occasion, had it not been for the conduct of Mr Macrae, who remained behind, and who for at least an hour held the excited crowd around him listening to his earnest and pacific counsels. 

   On Thursday morning the authorities were early a-foot, and arrived at Mallaglate at ten o’clock. It was anticipated by the authorities that the arguments used, and the arrestments made on Wednesday, would have produced good effects, and that some proposals for an arrangement would have been made to Mr Cooper by the people this morning. No such proposals, however, were made; the people kept their houses, and scarcely a single person was seen by the authorities whilst passing through the district. The work of ejectment then began; the tenant first ejected – named Macpherson – having refused to emigrate when the question was finally put to him. No opposition was made to the law officers, and in two or three minutes the few articles of furniture he possessed – a bench, a chair, a broken chair, a barrel, a bag of wool, a chest, a spinning-wheel, a rough bed-frame, a jar, and two or three small articles, comprising his whole household “goods and gear” – were turned out to the door, and his bothy left roofless. The wife of the prisoner Macphail was amongst the parties next ejected. Her domestic plenishing was of the simplest character – its greatest, and by far its most valuable part being three small children, dressed in nothing more than a single coat of coarse blanketting, who played about her knee, whilst the poor woman, herself half-clothed, with a face bathed in tears, and holding an infant in her arms, assured Mr Colquhoun that she and her children were totally destitute and without food. The Sheriff very humanely at once despatched a messenger for the Inspector of the poor – also the parish schoolmaster – who lives at a distance of some four or five miles from Solas, and by whom the woman and her children were in the afternoon placed on the poors’ roll. The next adjoining houses were occupied by some poor and infirm old people, and these the Sheriff refused to eject, although Mr Cooper was anxious that they should be removed and provided for elsewhere. It was also discovered, at this stage of the proceedings, that the charge of ejectment served upon six or eight families in this town were irregular in one particular, and these the Sheriffs refused to execute. The next house to which the authorities proceeded was one apparently of a better sort, occupied by John Mackaskill, a crofter and weaver, with a wife and family of nine children. By this time a large crowd of men and women, young and old, had clustered on an eminence at a little distance, and gave the first indication of a hostile feeling by raising repeated shouts as the police advanced, and by throwing a few stones at a party of eight or ten men from the opposite end of the island, who had with difficulty been prevailed upon by the factor to come to his assistance in unroofing the houses. The police were drawn up in two lines along the road, betwixt the houses and the crowd, whilst the Sheriffs’ officers and their assistants proceeded to eject the inmates. The furniture was first brought out, and whilst the men were taking down the loom, Mrs Mackaskill rushed to the front of the house with a child in her arms, and cried in a passionate and wailing voice, “Tha mo chlann air a bhi air am muirt” (my children are being murdered). The excitement amongst the crowd in a moment became tremendous – numbers of women and young men ran down towards the sea, and the constables stood with batons ready. But the women retreated, crying, to the house, and the excitement seemed to be over as quickly as it had arisen. Mr Macbean went up to the crowd and explained what the men were actually doing in the house. He was listened to quietly; but as he returned a stone was thrown at him, and he had scarcely joined his men when a heavy volley of stones drove the assistants from the roof of the house, and a band of from fifty to one hundred women, with a few boys and men, came running up from the shore, shouting, and armed with large stones, with which they compelled the assistants to fall back behind the police for shelter. Fresh supplies of large sharp-cornered stones were obtained from the bed of a small stream, and several heavy volleys were discharged, most of them, however, falling short of the officers. A momentary lull occurring, the police charged in two divisions. One division took the rioters in the rear, when they immediately fled, rushing helter-skelter across the barley rigs, over dykes, and through the deep pools in the beach. A number of them were caught between the two bodies of police, and two men, one young and the other middle-aged, were brought in prisoners, with several women… The latter were kept in custody for a few minutes and then discharged, and the ejectment was proceeded with. In this warlike demonstration a few of the police were struck with stones, and one of the prisoners before being captured received a smart blow from a baton, but the determined attitude assumed by the authorities had the effect of checking any further outrage. Most of the elderly men, fearing such an outbreak, had left the spot a few minutes before, and stood looking on in silence at a considerable distance. There they were joined by the greater part of the young men, but the women still crowded together on the hill in a state of the utmost excitement and fury, throwing stones, which could not possibly reach the police, and shouting such wishes as – that the men might come down and wash their hands in their enemies’ heart’s-blood; and that the devil and his angels might come and sweep them out of the land. This excitement continued, increased by the frenzy of the friends of the two prisoners, till the Sheriff accepted Mr Macrae’s bail that they would surrender themselves at Lochmaddy on Saturday morning, when they were discharged with an advice from Mr Colquhoun to go and advise their friends to be quiet. On the liberation of the prisoners the women went away, and the remainder of the ejectments were proceeded with without opposition from the crowd. The sixth house where ejectment was enforced was that of a widow, named Macvicar, who was at the time at the sea-shore picking up cockles. She has four children, and was afterwards provided for by the Inspector of the poor. At the eighth, both house and out-house were unroofed. This house appeared unusually well kept, and the poor woman to whose husband it belonged, and who was quite a pattern to her neighbours for cleanliness, followed the Sheriffs for several hours with a child in her arms, declaring that she would follow them till they would provide a roof to cover her head. The ninth ejectment was that of a family in Middlequarter, named Monk, who had taken an active part in all the previous opposition to the authorities. It was found necessary to remove the women by force… Whilst this ejectment was in course of execution, Mr Cooper, seeing the determined spirit of the people, and knowing that should the whole ejectments be proceeded with and the stock and crop taken possession of the expense of maintaining the people during the winter must fall on the parish, agreed to allow them to occupy their houses and lands until the spring, should the heads of families subscribe a pledge to emigrate at any time between the 1st of February next and the end of June, on the terms formerly offered, with the exception only that he would not promise to provide clothes. Messengers were despatched round the various towns to make this known to the people, and to request them to meet Mr Cooper and the authorities at the schoolhouse of Solas in two hours. In the meantime the ejectment of a tenth family – that of Peter Morison, formerly Lord Macdonald’s ground-officer, but who was believed by the managers to have taken an active part in fomenting discontent – was proceeded with. His house was unroofed without opposition – Morison himself having been absent at the peat-moss – and by the time its smoke-blackened rafters were exposed, a considerable number of the heads of families had assembled, who were addressed by Mr Macrae; but as they did not seem willing to accept Mr Cooper’s proposal, that gentlemen and the authorities agreed to give them till next day to consider their final resolution. the authorities then retired to Granetote (a house about a mile distant), where Mr Cooper put in writing the terms he had before explained to the people, and a copy was sent to each of the four towns. This done, the authorities, with their force, retired to Lochmaddy – having appointed a meeting with the heads of families at the schoolhouse for next morning at nine o’clock. 

   Shortly after the hour named, the authorities, with Mr Cooper; Mr Macdonald, the factor; Mr Macdonald, Balranald; Dr Macdonald, and others, arrived at the schoolhouse, having preceded the police by an hour. A number of the principal people were found in waiting, when a few put down their names readily, but many still showed great resistance. Partly by the persuasions of Mr Macrae, of Mr Shaw, and of their friends, others were induced to sign, and whilst the authorities remained at the schoolhouse, Mr Cooper, with Mr Macnee, the active Procurator-Fiscal for the Long-Island, went round every tenant in the four towns, and obtained the signature of every one to a written promise to emigrate to Canada at any period from the 1st of February to the end of June next, at the terms and with the assistance formerly promised; or that they should then leave the Macdonald estates. This promise was not obtained in several instances until steps had been taken for the destruction of the unwilling party’s house… 

   The arrangement thus concluded happily released the authorities from a very disagreeable part of their duty, and the police returned to Lochmaddy early in the day. On Saturday morning.., Mr Cooper, Mr Macdonald the factor, and assistants, proceeded to Solas, when, as agreed, the tenantry quietly gave up their cattle and horses to Mr Cooper, at valuation. A cow to give milk, and a horse to carry peats from the moss, were, however, left with each family… This business having been thus peaceably accomplished, and Mr Mackay, Procurator-Fiscal, having completed the necessary precognitions, the authorities embarked; at ten o’clock P.M. the steamer got under weigh, and the bare barren hills of North Uist are fading behind me, nor will I regret (but that the wish seems treason to the hospitality I have met with) should they never again rise before me but in memory. 

… The Rev. Mr Macrae deserves the very highest credit for his conduct throughout this distressing affair… He proved himself a friend to the people; and the sense of his services openly expressed by the authorities, necessarily occasions a remark that they regretted the absence the Rev. Mr Macdonald, the clergymen of the people (who were almost entirely attached to the Free Church), who did not appear either to counsel the people in the presence of the authorities, or to assist the latter by his presence. 


   On Wednesday evening I remained amongst the people and spent several hours with their principal men, in one of the houses which was afterwards unroofed, and the following are the statements they made, taken at the moment:- 

…  About six weeks before last Whitsunday term, notice of removal was given; but after that notice a message was circulated through the district, from the office of Mr Macdonald, Balranald, the late factor, to the effect that the people should work well at the tillage, and as cleverly as ever, as there was no certainty that they would be removed. It happened at the same time, by the bounty of Providence, that a great quantity of seaware was cast ashore, and the people set willingly to work, and planted more than usual, putting in a large quantity of corn. In fact, many of the people sold clothes, fowls, and eggs, to buy seed-corn from Paible, and thereabouts, to make their cultivation the more abundant, and that a greater quantity than usual might be sown. The next communication received in the district was a charge of removal, given on the 30th June, to twelve families, three in each farm-town, and the whole tenants were served with similar notices a fortnight afterwards. [This charge was of removal of goods and gear from the dwelling-houses within forty-eight hours, and from the arable lands at the separation of the crop in November next.] Some of those warned off were not in arrears. A few days before the charge was served, Mr Cooper came to the district and gathered all the people together, and pressed them all to emigrate, “because the land was set to another person.” Mr Cooper said that they would have a vessel ready in the course of ten days from the day on which he spoke to the people; that the arrears would be forgiven; that he would take their stock and crop at valuation, and pay their passage to Quebec, and that they should be attended to in Canada; but he would not promise clothes. As he took the stock and crop, he would assist those whose property would not cover their expenses; but he did not say he would return any surplus to those whose stock and crop were of more value. This proposal was made to some who were not in arrear, as well as to those who were. Not one of the people would agree to go. They did not wish to leave the island – they thought the offer was not liberal enough – that the season was too far advanced – and that many of them had neither food to maintain themselves for a time in Canada, nor clothes to go away in. Their objections Mr Cooper treated with little ceremony, declaring that if they would not go, then he would give them a charge, and take their stock and cattle from them. Two officers came as soon as the legal time had elapsed, and from every one of the twelve houses in which charges were first lodged the tenants were ejected without resistance, and the doors were sealed up. Not one of the houses so sealed up was entered for a fortnight, until all the other charges had been lodged, when the ejected tenants removed the seals and entered their houses… To-day – Wednesday – Mr Cooper again renewed his offers, stating that a ship would be ready in a fortnight, or about the 16th of August. He offered some clothes, but would not state the quantity definitively. Only five families agreed to go… The people are very reluctant to go, and not inclined to come to terms;… Rent in Solas formerly was seldom paid in money, but in labour. The rent of each seven-acre croft is from £5 [£706.10] to £10 [£1,412.20]; the average rent is about £7 [£988.54], which includes the hill pasture… In Kilmuir and Carinish, some of the tenantry, under the drainage arrangements, have paid by labour two years’ rent of their crofts in advance, and they had worked for so much that at the last term some of them received in addition from £2 [£282.44] to £5 in money to provide stock and supplies. The reason of this partiality is now supposed to be a determination arrived at a long time ago to remove the people of Solas, although it was not made known to them. After the people resisted the officers who wanted to take their cattle, they took the cattle to the market at Lochmaddy to sell, in order to meet a promise they had made to Lord Macdonald that they would pay £4 [£564.88] each after that market, but they found that none of the drovers would buy any beasts from Solas, as the factor had gone amongst the dealers and got them to promise that they would not deal with the Solas people. Since that period, having no money or meal, most of the people had been very ill-off. Last year the factor took the cattle for rent, when they got no more than £3 [£423.66] for cattle that were worth £6 [£847.32]. This year the factor proposed to do the same, but the people thought they themselves could sell them to better profit. In answer to a letter from Mr Sheriff Shaw, Lord Macdonald some weeks ago sent three hundred bolls [approx. 19,051kg] of meal to Lochmaddy, to be distributed to the people. One supply was obtained by the people of the district of Solas; but after the first occurrences no more meal was issued to them, and they were told they would not get any unless they would sign a paper agreeing to emigrate. This they would not do, and as they had no meal or potatoes many of them were very ill-off, and had lived for a fortnight almost solely on milk and shell-fish, but as some of the potatoes are now ready, the worst is past… No petition was sent to Lord Macdonald by the crofters praying for assistance to emigrate, and if any such petition was sent, it was by cottars employed by the Destitution Committee during the winter in road-making at the pound-of-meal test; but after the charges were served, a letter was sent from the tenantry of the district of Solas asking his Lordship to allow them to remain. Lord Macdonald answered this letter, expressing his fear that should he allow them to remain, their condition would not become better but worse. 

– Inverness Courier, Thursday 9th August, 1849, p.4. 

     To follow these investigations a little farther, we cannot do it better than by giving the following well authenticated communication received from a gentleman who had resided for some time in Barra, and was an eye-witness of the enormities perpetrated there during the summer of 1851:- 

     “The unfeeling and deceitful conduct of those acting for Colonel Gordon, in Barra and South Uist last summer, cannot be too strongly censured. The duplicity and art which was used by them in order to entrap the unwary natives is worthy of the craft and cunning of an old slave-trader. Many of the poor people were told in my hearing, that Sir John McNeill would be in Canada before them, where he would have every thing necessary for their comfort prepared for them. Some of the officials signed a document binding themselves to emigrate in order to induce the poor people to give their names; but in spite of all these stratagems many of the people saw through them and refused out and out to go. When the transports anchored in Loch Boisdale the tyrants threw off their mask, and the work of devastation and cruelty commenced. The poor people were commanded to attend a public meeting at Loch Boisdale where the transports lay, and according to the intimation, any one absenting himself from the meeting was to be fined in Two Pounds. At this meeting some of the natives were seized and in spite of their entreaties were sent on board the transports. One stout Highlander, named Angus Johnstone, resisted with such pith that they had to hand-cuff him before he could be mastered; but in consequence of the priest’s interference his manacles were taken off and marched between four officers on board the emigrant vessel. One morning, during the transporting season, we were suddenly awakened by the screams of a young female who had been recaptured in an adjoining house; having escaped after her first apprehension. We all rushed to the door and saw the broken-hearted creature with dishevelled hair and swollen face, dragged away by two constables and a ground officer. Were you to see the racing and chasing of policemen, constables, and ground officers, pursuing the outlawed natives you would think, only for their colour, that you had been by some miracle transported to the banks of the Gambia on the slave coast of Africa.  

     “The conduct of the Rev. H. Beatson on that occasion is deserving of the censure of every feeling heart. This “Wolf in sheep’s clothing” made himself very officious, as he always does when he has an opportunity of oppressing the poor Barramen and of gaining the favour of Colonel Gordon. In fact, he is the most vigilant and assiduous officer Colonel Gordon has. He may be seen in Castle Bay, the principle anchorage in Barra, whenever a sail is hoisted, directing his men, like a game-keeper with his hounds, in case any of the doomed Barramen should escape, so that he might get his land cultivated and improved for nothing. They offered one day to board an Arran boat who had a poor man concealed, but the master, John Crawford, lifted a hand-spike and threatened to split the skull of the first man who would attempt to board his boat, and thus the poor Barramen escaped their clutches. 

     “I may state in conclusion that two girls, daughter of John McDougall, brother of Barr McDougall whose name is mentioned in Sir John McNeill’s Report, have fled to the mountains to elude the grasp of the expatriators, where they still are, if in life. Their father, a frail old man, along with the rest of the family, have been sent to Canada. The respective ages of these girls is 12 and 14 years. Others have fled in the same manner, but I cannot give their names just now.” 

      Let us now follow the exiled Barramen to the “new world” and witness their deplorable condition and privations in a foreign land. The Quebec Times says:- 

     “Many of our readers may not be aware that there lives such a personage as Colonel Gordon, proprietor of large states, South Uist and Barra, in the Highlands of Scotland; we are sorry to be obliged to introduce him to their notice, under circumstances which will not give them a very favourable opinion of his character and heart. 

     “It appears that tenants on the above mentioned estates were on the verge of starvation, and had probably become an eye-sore to the gallant Colonel! He decided on shipping them to America. What they were to do there, was a question he never put to his conscience. Once landed in Canada, he had no further concern about them. Up to last week, 1,100 souls from his estates had landed in Quebec, and begged their way to Upper Canada; when in the summer season, having only a morsel of food to procure, they probably escaped the extreme misery which seems to be the lot of those who followed them. 

     “On their arrival here, they voluntarily made and signed the following statement:- “We the undersigned passengers per Admiral from Stornoway, in the Highlands of Scotland, do solemnly depose to the following facts, – That Colonel Gordon is the proprietor of the estates of South Uist and Barra; that among many hundreds of tenants and cotters whom he has sent this season from his estates to Canada, he gave directions to his factor, Mr. Fleming of Cluny Castle, Aberdeenshire, to ship on board of the above named vessel a number of nearly 450 of said tenants and cottars from the estate in Barra – that accordingly, a great majority of these people, among whom were the undersigned, proceeded voluntarily to embark on board the Admiral, at Loch Boisdale, on or about the 11th August, 1851; but that several of the people who were intended to be shipped for this port, Quebec, refused to proceed on board, and in fact, absconded from their homes to avoid the embarkation. Whereupon Mr. Fleming gave orders to a policeman, who was accompanied by the ground officer of the estate of Barra, and some constables, to pursue the people who had ran away among the mountains; which they did, and succeeded in capturing about twenty from the mountains and islands in the neighbourhood; but only came with the officers on an attempt being made to handcuff them; and that some who ran away were not brought back, in consequence of which four families at least, have been divided, some having come in the ships to Quebec, while other members of the same families were left in the Highlands. 

     ” ‘The undersigned further declare, that those who voluntarily embarked did so under promise to the effect, that Colonel Gordon would defray their passage to Quebec; that the Government Emigration Agent there would sent the whole party free to Upper Canada, where, on arrival the Government Agents would give them work, and furthermore, grant them land on certain conditions. 

     ” ‘The undersigned finally declare, that they are now landed in Quebec so destitute, that if immediate relief be not afforded them and continued until they are settled in employment, the whole will be liable to perish with want.’ 


and 70 others. 

     “This is a beautiful picture. Had the scene been laid in Russia or Turkey the barbarity of the proceeding would have shocked the nerves of the readers! But when it happens in Britain, emphatically the land of liberty where every man’s house, even the hut of the poorest, is said to be his castle, the expulsion of these unfortunate creatures from their homes – the man-hunt with policeman and Bailiffs – the violent separation of families – the parents torn from the child, the mother from her daughter – the infamous trickery practised on these who did embark – the abandonment of the aged, the infirm women, and tender children in a foreign land – form a tableau which cannot be dwelt on for an instant without horror. Words cannot depict the atrocity of the deed. For cruelty less savage, the dealers of the South have been held up to the execration of the world.  

     And if, as men, the sufferings of these our fellow-creatures find sympathy in our hearts, as Canadians their wrongs concern us more dearly. The fifteen hundred souls whom Colonel Gordon has sent to Quebec this season, have all been supported for the past week at least, and conveyed to Upper Canada at the expense of the Colony; and on their arrival in Toronto and Hamilton, the greater number have been dependent on the charity of the benevolent for their morsel of bread. Four hundred are in the river at present and will arrive in a day or two, making a total of nearly 2,000 of Colonel Gordon’s tenants and cotters whom the province has to support. The winter is at hand, work is becoming scarce in Upper Canada. Where are these people to find food?” 

– ‘Gloomy Memories,’ The Exiled Barramen and Their Calumniators, pp.134-145. 









In one large Volume 8vo. pp. 1000, Price 40s. 



– Scotsman, Friday 25th November, 1881, p.2. 

   ANY measure which seemed to point in the direction of land reform has hitherto been received with a cry of indignation from Tory Peers and lairds; so tempestuously, indeed, has the storm raged in their breasts, that reason and argument alike have failed to quell the tumult. Men who advocated the most moderate changes were denounced as communists or revolutionaries, even when they showed, beyond doubt, that the alterations they suggested in the Land Laws were not merely to result in the benefit of the occupier and cultivator, but must prove a great boon to the landlord himself. Circumstances, however, alter cases, and the day has come when an Act practically abolishing entails in Scotland receives the Royal assent without provoking, even in the House of Lords where it originated, more than the merest whisper of dissatisfaction. Great landed magnates like his Grace of Buccleuch, learned lawyers of the Conservative school like Earl Cairns, very Ruperts in rashness like the Marquis of Salisbury, though criticising the details, found no fault with the principles recognised in the proposed legislation. Well may we marvel at such a reception for Lord Rosebery’s Entail Bill. At no very distant period of years the system of entail was looked upon by the lairds and their professional advisers, if not by many others outside of the landed interest, as the very palladium of our national existence. For lawyers a wish to prolong the life of a mechanism so lucrative was by no means unnatural; while to the lairds, so long as they were personally prosperous, the anomaly of rising rents coupled with falling prices presented no difficulties. By degrees, however, it was found that the return from land was not quite so much as formerly a certain income, varied only by upward movement. Whitsunday and Martinmas, it is true, came round regularly as paydays, and the interest on various bonds and obligations must be punctually met; but the rents due at these terms proved sometimes in arrear. Thus, when a series of bad seasons had destroyed the crops, it often came to pass that landlords with entailed estates felt the pinch every whit as sorely as their tenants. Entails were become to the proprietor very much the same grievance that, in past years, Hypothec was to the tenant. The open market for land was practically interfered with to the detriment of the owner, just as the cultivator had been harassed by the restrictions of a landlord’s preference. The one had become as keenly anxious for an alteration in the law as ever had been the other. The lawyers were left as the only body of people having a direct interest in the preservation of an antiquated and cumbrous as well as most prejudicial system; and the fact that the absolute fiat for abolition has not yet gone forth speaks volumes for legal subtlety and wariness. 

   Even before the days of Lord Advocate Rutherfurd, it was felt that in the public interest something of necessity must be done to modify the scandalous results of the unbreakable, imperishable fetters that bound the holders of entailed estates. No improvements could be expected from those whose interest in the land was limited in every possible way. Fathers looked upon broad acres owned by them as merely nominal proprietors – acres that must pass to far distant cousins leaving their daughters penniless. Creditors ground their debtor to the last shilling of his income, knowing full well that they must recover what they could while yet he lived, as on his death it must all slip from their grasp. Debtors, who were in that position perhaps by taking their parents’ burdens upon them, were condemned to live almost as paupers all their lives, when the sale of a part of the entailed lands would have left them in free possession of a good return from the remainder. These were some of the results brought about by the perverted ingenuity of an old lawyer, whose elaborate will led to the sanction of entails by an Act of the Scottish Parliament; and the fictions created by this man’s brain endured until the Rutherford Act in 1848 gave them the first rude shock. From that date, the final overthrow of the system of entail has truly been but a question of time. From year to year bills have been introduced modifying the rigour of older Acts, now in this direction, now in that; and these changes, as they successively received the sanction of Parliament, have served as finger-posts to indicate the progress of public interest in this subject. The greatest omission of the Rutherfurd Act was its failure to provide against the creation of new entails. Whilst a remedy was devised to meet the difficulties arising out of the older system, nothing was done to prevent fresh complications springing from very similar causes. Despite the trammels he prepares for his own kith and kin, the new man who buys a historical estate is often not a whit less anxious to protect it against alienation than the ancestor of his predecessor was. That this feeling has had a strong influence, the record of the estates entailed since 1848 tells most clearly; and it is not difficult to follow out the consequences of this folly on the part of those who have purchased land. The estate of the purchaser passes to his eldest son, who, very likely, does not possess the extraneous resources of his father, these being divided to form portions for younger children; nor, on the other hand, has he developed the faculty for making money. Accordingly, by the time that the new family has reached the dignity of but a third generation, the old state of matters which led to the former sale of the estate has again come about; debts are crowding in; improvements can only be executed at ruinous rates of interest, or are charged as permanent burdens against each succeeding and impoverished heir; family provisions accumulate; and the new man, were he alive to see it, would have the satisfaction of beholding his own grandson in a plight not less pitiable than that of the family he so contemptuously ousted. Verily, the last state of that race is worse than the first. 

   A case under the 1848 Act, where disentail by “consents” of the three next heirs was obtained, has here been supposed; and, indeed, that device was largely resorted to by fathers with the aid of their sons; though, of course, remoter heirs often held out and refused their necessary sanction to all the proceedings. The Act of 1875 dispensed with the necessity for consent on the part of second and third heirs, provided their interests were valued and secured. The Act before us, however, goes a step farther, and enables a proprietor to get rid of factions opposition on the part even of a young hopeful himself, by simply consulting an actuary, and treating him as the Act of 1875 would have treated his younger brothers, or the remoter heirs. A new appearance is put upon the whole entail question, taken from the point of view in which the general public are sure to look at it, by the clause enabling creditors to deal with their recalcitrant debtors, who happen to be entailed proprietors, and refuse to consent to a disentail. The creditor can now himself carry through the disentail; and we cannot but think that the kernel of the whole measure is to be found in this provision. What is the value of careful prohibitions against alienation, worded with all the fluency and iteration of conveyancers, surrounded with penalties so fearfully expressed as to carry terror to the non-legal mind – what avail all these arts when the creditor has found the flaw in the armour, and the law has said there is no prohibition against his disentailing when the heir of entail will not? 

   Some of the most clamant imperfections of the older reforms were brought to light by the difficulties arising from the succession to entailed lands of lunatics, or minors, or persons otherwise incapable of giving such consent as was requisite. The new Act gets over all these legal stiles by permitting delegation of consent through a curator appointed by the Court, and provision is also similarly made for the case of an absent or undiscoverable heir. Nor are the more recent entails already referred to passed over in the new Act, for the heir who holds under an entail made since 1848 is now for the first time placed in the same position as that of the heir whose entail dates before that year. One thing in the Act, it seems to us, must be regretted, and that is the necessity for a formal instrument of disentail. The cloven foot of self-interest must surely have slipped in, or the natural way of settling this point would have been to allow entails simply to expire on the occurrence of the events, or events, giving the heir in possession power to disencumber himself of his burden; no one else has power to refuse consent. Why should he be put to the expense of a formal instrument of disentail, so long as the provisions of the Act ensure the payment of the valued interests of succeeding heirs? The system of entail has been, to all whose prosperity it has touched, a veritable old man of the sea; and now that the whole landed interest is to a great extent freed from its grip, there need be little doubt that a few more years will see the removal of the expressive, though almost nominal, restrictions that are left. 

– Scotsman, Monday 14th August, 1882, p.4. 






   The Chairman complained of the neglect and mutilation to which Scotch bills were submitted in the Imperial Parliament, and referred specially to the disappointing character of the Crofters Bill. In the House of Commons they had only a sham representation, and they could be out-voted at any time by English members. He saw no remedy for this state of matters except in the establishment of a Parliament in Scotland. Until Scotland got a Parliament of her own and got all our national matters done purely by Scotch members, we would never get the business of Scotland efficiently transacted. (“Home Rule” and applause.) He did not think that Scotland should lose her hold upon Imperial legislation – (hear, hear) – but for her own national affairs let Scotland manage her own interests. (Applause.) He concluded by moving a resolution in favour of the establishment of a Scottish Parliament. 

   Mr John Rae, Haddo, also deplored the manner in which the claims of Scotch farmers were ignored, and expressed the opinion that if their wants were not to be attended to, they must go for Home Rule. They had been dragged to much at the tails of a great many thick-headed Englishmen. (Applause.) 

   The Chairman then submitted to the meeting the following resolution:- “Seeing the improbability of satisfactory Scotch legislation being done in the Imperial Parliament, we are of opinion that Scotch legislation should be conducted in a House of purely Scotch representatives, or, in some such form as that.” 

   Mr Japp, newton, Laurencekirk, asked whether it was right in itself or wise and proper at this time to bring forward that proposal. In the meantime they had got a measure of land reform in Parliament, the crofters’ Bill, but what they wanted was not so much to improve that measure in the interests of the crofters as to extend its application to the whole body of crofters in Scotland. By this bill the crofters were to get fair rents and security of tenure, and if they as an Alliance did not ask that those fair rents and security of tenure should be extended to all the crofters in Scotland, they would miss an opportunity that they might not soon get again. 

   The Chairman thought there was already a memorial sent to that effect. 


   After some further discussion the president agreed to alter his motion so as to include the points of that of Mr McCombie. The motion was then put in the following terms:- “That before the proper measures can be passed in settlement of the land question, this committee is of opinion that England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, while retaining their share in the administration of Imperial matters, should each have a national Parliament for administering its own local affairs.” 

– Aberdeen Evening Express, Saturday 24th April, 1886, p.3. 




   A MEETING of the General Committee of the Scottiish Land Reform Alliance was held on Saturday in St Katharine’s Buildings, Aberdeen, “to consider what steps should be taken by the Alliance to further the legislation for Scotland for which it is striving, and to consider Scottish bills at present before Parliament.” Mr J. S. Findlater, Balvenie, presided. 


   The PRESIDENT afterwards explained that the object for calling the meeting was because Mr Gladstone had stated that until the Irish business was managed there would be no legislation in Parliament for either Englishmen or Scotsmen. If their chances of legislation were to be kept in the background for ever, they would never get what they wanted. (Cheers.) The members they sent to Parliament to represent them were in a useless minority, and they got sat upon, and the Whig newspapers, the great leaders of Liberal opinion like the Scotsman, had nothing to say but, “Look at these men; they are only making a bother.” Until they got a Parliament of their own, until they got their own national business done by purely Scotch members – (Hear, Hear) – they would never get the legislation they wanted. (A member, “Home Rule.”) They wanted Home Rule as much as Ireland, though not such Home Rule as would separate them from the Imperial Parliament, as that was a thing Scotland would not for a moment hear of. (Cheers.) 


   A good deal of discussion took place as to whether it would be in accordance with the constitution of the Alliance to pass such a resolution as Mr McCombie proposed, and ultimately it was withdrawn in favour of the following motion, substituted by the president:- “That before proper measures can be passed in settlement of the land question, this committee is of opinion that England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, while retaining their share in the administration of Imperial matters, should each have a national Parliament of its own to administer it own local affairs.” This resolution was adopted, Mr J. D. Scott, Hill of Ruthven, Perth, dissenting, considering that they were going beyond the province of the Alliance in meddling with Irish affairs at all, and a great deal of harm would be done to the Alliance by driving things too fast. Messrs Rae, Haddo, Kincardine; Japp. Newton, Kincardine; McCombie, Milton of Kemnay; and Alexander, Ballindarg, Forfar, were appointed a deputation to wait on the Scottish Secretary in Edinburgh, to urge that the Crofters Bill be extended to the whole of Scotland, and to apply to leaseholders and cottagers. The deputation were also directed to support the Game-laws Amendment Bill. 

– Scotsman, Monday 26th April, 1886, p.6. 


   At a largely-attended public meeting in the Town Hall, Galashields,  last night, under the auspices of the Liberal Association, Mr Thomas Shaw, M.P., delivered a lecture on the Scottish Land Laws. Mr Shaw said that land legislation was the solution of many difficulties. Unless land reform was carried on without delay there would be a land revolution, which would afford a golden opportunity to Anarchists and Socialists. After dealing at considerable length with the present inequalities of the land laws, he quoted official statistics to prove that the great bulk of land was owned not by the people but by a small number of landowners. Mr Shaw said: The latest official statistics are still those to be found in the returns moved for by the late Earl of Derby on 19th February, 1872. McKay in his work on “Free Trade in Land,” justly holds the return with regard to Scotland to be “still more startling” than those for England and Wales. Now, what do these returns show? “The total acreage of Scotland is 18,946,694 acres. One owner alone has 1,326,000 acres in Scotland, and also 32,095 in England, or a total of 1, 358,548 acres.” “Twelve owners have 4,339,722 acres, or nearly one quarter of the whole of Scotland, or, in other words, a tract of country larger than the whole of Wales and equal in size to eight English counties, viz., Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, Cumberland, and Derbyshire.” This is startling enough. But let us proceed. “Seventy owners have about 9,400,000 acres or about one-half of Scotland; while nine-tenths of the whole of Scotland,” that is of the whole of 18,946,694 acres, “belong to fewer than 1700 persons.” Or take a look at the counties. One man owns one-fourth of the large county of Forfar, one man one-fourth of Orkney, one man one-fourth of Roxburgh, one man one-fourth of Stirling, one man one-fourth of Wigtown. Five counties, in short, in Scotland have a quarter of each of their entire areas owned by a single proprietor. Take other five counties – viz., Banff, Dumbarton, Dumfries, Elgin, and Selkirk. In each of these shires not less than one-third of its entire area is owned by a single proprietor!  Three-fourths of the entire area of the county of Bute is owned by a single man, and this is also the case in another shire – viz., that of Cromarty. The county of Sutherland tops the list. Out of 1,299,253 acres, one proprietor owns no less than the vast area of 1,176,454 acres, not to speak of his dominions in other counties and in England.” Mr Shaw, going on to speak of the best remedies for this state of matters, said he would abolish primogeniture, with its attendant lesser evils; and, secondly, he would equalise in its entirety the whole law of moveable and heritable properties, and that despite any will to the contrary which may have been made by the testator. He claimed that his proposal, if adopted, would abolish the injustices of the present land laws… 

– Edinburgh Evening News, Thursday 8th February, 1894, p.2. 





   THE Morning Post to-day prints a letter from Sir John Gilmour on small ownership in Scotland. The well-known Scottish agriculturist says the only thing which stands in the way of a general acceptance of the Unionist policy of land purchase is a hesitation on the part of the Scottish people to believe that such a valuable and acceptable scheme should emanate from the “Tory” party. Provided that the clear statements made by Mr Balfour last January at Aberdeen, and previously at Dumfries, on the land question, are supplemented by the active support of the Unionist members, candidates, and workers, in plain, unmistakeable terms, there is no reason why ultimately there should not be an end to the distrust and hostility with which the Unionist party is generally regarded in Scotland, particularly with reference to the land question. 

   That the Liberal party are beginning to awaken to the fact that they are making a fatal mistake by so openly rejecting the policy of small ownership is becoming daily more apparent, and if, in order to save their face and divert attention from the main issue they endeavour to push the establishment of credit banks, they may, indeed, for a time be successful, but only for a time. Credit banks are urgently wanted, not only by the small tenant and crofter, but with any system of small ownership they are absolutely essential. In my opinion there may be certain districts in Scotland where tenancy is preferable to ownership, largely owing to the customs and habits of the people. There is, however, no valid objection to combining the two systems. 

   But when one comes to consider the real cause of land hunger in Scotland, it is surely a deep-rooted desire going back far into the history of our race to own and till the soil. In the past Scotland had many small lairds. So, too, in the future may she have a large and contented body of small proprietors, whose prosperity will greatly depend on the sure establishment not only of credit banks but of general agricultural co-operation. 

– Scotsman, Tuesday 23rd August, 1910, p.3. 

   LORD PENTLAND’s chapter of land reform in Scotland has had an ending which befits its capricious character. The settlement which has passed both Houses is one that would not have been reached now but for Unionist initiative. Small holdings in Scotland were desired by both political parties; there was agreement on fundamental principles; yet the Bill stuck fast in a Parliamentary quagmire. It was lifted out of the bog by the Opposition, who did what Lord Pentland failed to do – they re-examined the ground with a view to a re-adjustment of terms, and they opened negotiations with the Government through the Lord Advocate, in which it is fair to say they were in the early and perhaps most critical stages usefully and honestly assisted by Mr Ure. When the Bill reached the Lords two points of essential importance stood out in controversy. One was the question of appeal from the decision of the Land Court in cases where claims for compensation were made; the other was the administration of agricultural affairs in Scotland. The latter point has been determined in the most illogical and unbusinesslike way open to the Government. Lord Pentland has adhered to his demand that there shall be a separate Board of Agriculture for Scotland. But he has agreed to accept a skeleton or something like it. A Scottish Board is to be established; it is to be nominally independent and self-contained; nevertheless it is not to have a word to say in the supervision of the health of all the live stock in Scotland. When the flocks and herds of the Scottish breeders are in danger of contagion, Dover House and the Scottish Minister will be absolutely impotent; they will have no more influence or status than the man in the moon; they will look on helplessly and submissively while a purely English Department, divorced from Scottish opinion, not responsible to Scottish farmers, uninstructed so far as is known by Scottish advisers, will direct the movements and will control the interests of the immensely valuable stock of cattle and sheep and horses for which Scotland is famous. Apparently Lord Pentland prefers this alien arrangement to the existence of a genuinely representative Scottish body, charged with Scottish affairs, in touch with Scottish opinion, but not forming part of the bureaucracy of the Scottish Office, and linked up with the London Board. 

… It is a curious perversion of ideas, the study of which will perplex all Radicals, but will perhaps enlighten the agricultural community regarding the amount of wisdom that has been directed in the Scottish Office to the development of land reform since 1907. For the Bill itself, now that it is law, there should be goodwill in every quarter of the country. the more cordially it is assisted, the more it will appear how little measures of this kind can do to deflect the currents of economic and social influence. If the Land Courts are able to apply £150,000 a year to the creation of small holdings, they may succeed in providing annually for the livelihood of 1500 people on the soil, including women and children. And in that time how many farm servants and other country folk will go to Canada? Lord Pentland has made himself the apostle of “rural regeneration in Scotland.” Will he undertake to spend a week next spring at the Broomielaw explaining to intending settlers in Canada how his Bill will secure for them better living, better prospects, more assured prosperity in this country than they may hope for in the wheat fields of the West? 

– Scotsman, Saturday 16th December, 1911, p.8. 





   Last year the Young Scots of Leven specialised on the question of Home Rule for Scotland; this year it is intended to push the land question, and on Friday night Mr McIvor, M.A., Dunfermline, was heard on that topic. Mr Wm. Young, M.A., presided over a thin attendance in the St Margaret’s Hall. 

   The speaker got into touch with his subject without delay, and said that if they were to have any real land reform for Scotland it would come from a Parliament sitting in Edinburgh, and because he considered the land question vital, he felt they should concentrate on the question of national self-government. He had no fault to find with the present Government, who had done a good deal for agriculture. They had instituted a system of land tenure which opened up the possibilities of rural development, which, if it did not meet their case for reform, compared very favourably with what had been done by any other Government. the land valuation clauses in the 1911 budget came along and aroused as usual the frantic opposition of the Tories. 

   No plain man looking at the valuation of the land proposal could find any objections to it. All other sorts of property was valued in order they should make the necessary contribution towards the needs of the community. Why should land be exempt from what was general for every other kind of property? Surely it was only a matter of business to find out what the land was worth. The Government were taking another step on the land question, and a Committee had been appointed to take evidence. They found that all sorts of objections had been urged against that Committee, because the evidence was not taken in public, but if these witnesses were called in public 70 per cent. would never dare appear to give the evidence that was so urgently required. 

   The Tory party were to offer strenuous opposition to the valuation of the land, and also to the inquiry, but why should this question of mere inquiry get on their nerves? If the land system was fair and just, and if it was making its reasonable contribution to the revenue why be frightened at an inquiry? On the question of land reform, the Liberals laid down several principles. First, they held that the community had rights in the natural resources of the country; they held that historically, legally, and morally these resources must be the property of the community. That was the proposition that could not be denied. Secondly, that land, from its nature, was a commodity which no man had made, which no man could add to, and without which no man could live, and the third principle was that every man had the rights to the fruits of his own labour. (Applause.) 

   At one time all the public burdens were borne by the land because land holders got the land from the state on certain conditions. these conditions were that they provided fighting material in time of war; that they kept up the church; that they looked after the poor, and contributed to education. These were the obligation in return for which they got the land. (Applause.) The burdens had been gradually shifted to other shoulders until to-day the land only paid 4 per cent. of the taxation. In Scotland the first tax was put on by Alexander III. to provide a marriage present for his daughter Margaret, and it was paid by the land owners. The second tax was put on in 1326 to provide a pension to King Robert the Bruce, and it also was paid by the land, and it was an understood thing that whatever burden was required for general purposes it should fall on the land. 

   In an interesting manner, the speaker reviewed the historical side of the question from the taking of the first land valuation of the country in 1660, when the tax was fixed at 4s in the £, detailing the steps which had been taken by the rulers to rid themselves of their burdens and place them on the shoulders of labour. He instances the public payment of education, the poor law charges, the provision of public burial grounds, all of which had been obligations which the landlords had refused to meet. During that time the value of the land had been steadily increasing owing to the labours of the community, and the owners were therefore all the more able to bear the burdens, instead of which they were getting rid of them all. 

   He would like them to look for a moment at the present position. Let them suppose that in a growing town two men had a couple of acres each. One of the men lets the ground for building purposes at a reasonable figure, and places ten houses on the ground. The rents would bring in £200, and out of that he made a contribution of £50 to the rates. The other man refused to have his land built on, and held it up. As the town grew his land increased in value, but what contribution did he make to the rates? On the agricultural value of his land he would only pay 7s 6d. That meant they were punishing the man who was enterprising and gave his land to the community, and allowing to go scot free the person who was a drag on progress. It was people like the last mentioned man who were responsible for the lack of houses in the cities, for high rents, for the unhealthy dwellings, for the congestion, and for the slums. (Applause.) 

   Take the case of Glasgow. About 100 years ago Glasgow sold a piece of land to an individual for 2s 8d per yard, and as the town developed they had to buy it back, and had to pay £35 per yard for it. That man had not raised a single finger to increase the value of the land. The increased value had been caused by the people of Glasgow putting their industry and money to build up the community, and was it not reasonable to say that as the value had been created by the people they should have the profits from that added value to themselves. No more reasonable proposal had ever been made. 

   Another Scottish illustration was the case of Greenock. The Admiralty had to purchase a piece of the foreshore, and paid £27,225 to the owner for it, and up to the time they had paid that sum for it, the land only paid rates to the extent of £11 2s. Their point was that if the man got £27,225 for his land, that was the value of the land, and he should have been paying rates on that value. (Applause.) 

   The landlords might extort high rents, they could prevent them from entering their parks and enjoying the sights and beauties of nature, they could prevent them from getting land on which to build, or give it to them at ransome prices, and could drive the peasant from his ancestral home, but the unforgiveable crime was to have the superior dictating to a man and woman how they should comport themselves, how they should behave, making them cringe and cap lift and curry favours. That was a great crime, and the criminal had to be removed in the interests of public morality. (Applause.) That was the big moral question the land campaign was going to tackle, and fortunately there was a hope. He was born and brought up in the districts where the shadows of big mountains loomed large. They were accustomed to read the natural barometer, and when the clouds came down the valleys the weather was going to be bad, but when the clouds lifted they might expect good weather. Now they had at the head of the British Government a Prime Minister who understood the land question, and a Chancellor of the Exchequer who not only understood but felt the land question. There was a great hope, and even now they could see the mists lifting from the homes and hearths of the people and circling round the castle towers of the rich. (Applause.) 

   In the discussion which followed, Mr MacClafferty led off with a brief summary of the Henry George attitude, while Mr R. Galloway gave the talk a local turn by stating that he believed that the conditions in the Wemyss parish were as bad as anywhere in Scotland. When going to build they got a charter from the Wemyss estate which said that they must pay £40 per acre, and in addition they had to pay £80 every nineteen years. At the same time, the estate people claimed the right to come within three feet from the foundations of the property from below. Lloyd’s in London would almost insure anything, but when he wrote them a few weeks ago to insure some property, they refused to have anything to do with it, which showed the hardship they had to labour under. He felt they could do nothing until they had a Scottish Parliament sitting in Edinburgh, and he hoped that day would not be long delayed. 

– Leven Advertiser & Wemyss Gazette, Thursday 24th October, 1912, p.3. 









   Eight resolutions were submitted on the subject of land reform, and after a vote the resolution of the Kilmarnock Liberal Association, as recommended by the Executive, was adopted for discussion. It was a follows:- “This Council reaffirms its deep conviction that the existing deplorable condition of the people in regard to bad housing, low wages, and rural depopulation is directly traceable to land monopoly; welcomes the declared intention of the Government to take into consideration the reform of our land laws, and the re-adjustment of rating and taxation, ensuring that land values will be available for public purposes.” 

   Councillor William McMenan, Kilmarnock, in moving the resolution, said the principle at the base of it and at the base of all the proposed land reforms was the simple, open, and notorious fact that they were all equally landowners. The land belonged to the people – (hear, hear) – and how any man could contend against that principle he for one could not imagine. He spoke of the manner in which private ownership had crept into the land system of the country, and quoted a local illustration in support of his contention that the process of land appropriation had been continued in recent times. 

   Ex-Bailie Peter Burt, Glasgow, said an association like theirs should be definite and emphatic in their opinion on land reform. They as land reformers did not wish to interfere with any man’s private property. What a man had created, they would leave untouched by either local or Imperial taxation until they had exhausted the value which the community had created. there was a broad principle, stated clearly and definitely, which would command the support and sympathy of every right-thinking man. Every child born had a tight to his share of the natural opportunities provided for its sustenance and life. Over the whole country the people were badly housed, and want of opportunities for employment was general. How could men employ themselves unless they had access to the advantages which Nature had placed at their disposal? The application of the principle of taxation of land values would result in landlords looking for occupiers instead of occupiers looking for landlords. 


– Scotsman, Saturday 11th October, 1913, p.10. 




   Mr William Young, M.P., for East Perthshire, last night addressed his constituents at Blairgowrie, when he dealt at length with the land question… Mr Young said that the Government proposals did not go far enough to bring about any real settlement of this great and vital question, and maintained that the time was ripe and the people prepared for much more drastic land reform. He based his argument on the result of the Small Land Holders Act for Scotland.1 There was only one way of solving this land monopoly, which was eating into the very life of the nation, and that was to get back for the State and for the people the land of the nation which was now illegally and unjustly withheld from them under a system which permitted private ownership of land in the hands of very few. He was opposed root and branch to private ownership of land. It was unnecessary and was the greatest outrage on the beneficence of a benign Creator whose gifts of nature were meant for all his people without distinction, class, or caste. (Applause.) It was likewise contrary to every principle of justice, Christian or Pagan. He would that ministers of the Gospel instead of pandering to the rich and powerful as he heard they so often did would study their Bibles on this question, and when they had done that take their text from that greatest of all books. They should not read any other book on the land question, but denounce from their pulpits throughout the length and breadth of the land this shameless and crying abuse of the God-given right of the people. (Applause.) Then indeed would they be truly doing something to justify the ways of God to man, and bring about that state of Christian brotherhood which we hear so much preached and talked about, but of which we saw so little in actual practice. There were plenty of land owners in this country who had committed and were committing the same crime against their fellow-men as was denounced in Holy Writ. He knew holy Christian men, if outward show or form were any test or proof or criterion of Christianity, who for their own selfish gratification withheld from the people’s use hundreds of acres of magnificent rolling land of the finest quality, highly suitable for cultivation. The interests of the landowner, he held, were opposed to the interests of every other person in the community. A unanimous vote of confidence was passed on the motion of Bailie Anderson, seconded by Councillor Fyffe, and supported by Mr Smith of Ballomill. 

– Scotsman, Wednesday 26th November, 1913, p.11. 

1  Small landholdings are those holdings, subject to the Small Landholders (Scotland) Acts 1886 to 1931 [which are present in all parts of Scotland, except the crofting counties. Crofts in the crofting counties, which used to be subject to the Acts 1886 to 1931, were removed from the small landholdings regime by the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1955, and are now primarily governed by the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993. 

   The small landholding regime was introduced into the crofting counties, following the Napier Commission Report, by the Crofters Holdings (Scotland) Act 1886 which introduced three key rights for crofters: security of tenure; fair rent; and payment of compensation for improvements at the end of a tenancy. A crofter was defined as tenant of a holding from year to year where the annual rent did not exceed £30, situated within a crofting parish. The 1886 Act makes specific provision excepting certain categories of persons from the definition of crofter. 

   The Small Landholders (Scotland) Act 1911 remodelled the small landholding landscape, extending the 1886 Act to the whole of Scotland. The 1911 Act contained some freestanding provisions but also amended and modified the application of the 1886 Act, and the other Crofters Acts. This means that the 1886 Act was not replaced and remains relevant as regards small landholdings. The 1911 Act provided that where the Crofters Acts said “crofter” this should be substituted to read as “landholder”. 

   The 1911 Act came into force on 1 April 1912. On that date, existing holdings were reclassified depending on the characteristics of the holding. The classification of the holding determined the set of rules applying to that holding. The term “small landholders” is normally used as the generic term to include those individuals who are technically a “landholder” and those who are technically a “statutory small tenant”. The law applying to each of these is not the same and the following paragraphs set out some of the differences. 


   The 1911 Act provided that a variety of different types of persons became landholders under that Act. The provisions of the 1911 Act, and of the Crofters Acts, which apply to landholders applied to these holdings. These persons were: 

   Existing crofters – On 1 April 1912 every holding which was held by a crofter to whom the 1886 Act applied became a landholding for the purposes of the new small landholdings regime. These were referred to as existing crofters. 

   Existing Yearly Tenants – On 1 April 1912 certain tenants who held a holding from year to year became landholders for the purposes of the new small landholdings regime, provided certain criteria were satisfied. The tenant had to reside on or within two miles of the holding, and had to cultivate the holding by themselves or with their family (with or without hired labour). The rent of the holding on 1 April 1912 had to be less than £50 if the holding exceeded 50 acres (however the rent could exceed £50 if the holding was less than 50 acres). The tenant, or their predecessors in the same family, had to have provided or paid for the greater part of the buildings or other permanent improvements on the holding. The final criteria was that none of the disqualifications under section 26 of the 1911 Act applied. 

   Qualified Leaseholders – Certain tenants held their holdings under a lease for a term of more than year. If they satisfied the same criteria as existing yearly tenants, then those tenants became landholders from the termination of the lease. This meant that they did not gain landholder status when the 1911 Act came into force on 1 April 1912 but later, when the lease terminated. Such persons were termed “qualified leaseholders”. 

   New Holders – The 1911 Act put in place a process for creating new holdings, which were registered by the Scottish Land Court under the Act. The tenants of newly registered holdings had landholder status for the purpose of the new small landholdings regime and were known as “new holders”. 

   Importantly, the status of existing holdings was fixed at 1 April 1912. Existing crofters and tenants became landholders in accordance with the above processes, provided they met the criteria. They acquired landholder status either as an existing crofter; existing yearly tenant; or qualified leaseholder. New holdings could only be constituted in the meaning of the Acts if they were specifically created as such in terms of the legislation. The 1911 Act established a process in which a landowner and any other person could apply to the Scottish Land Court for that person to be registered as a new landholder under the Act. 

   Provision was made to allow new holders to obtain loans or grants for certain purposes with a view to preparing the land to be suitable for cultivation. Following World War I, the Land Settlement (Scotland) Act 1919 amended the process for the creation of new small landholdings, which were offered to war veterans as a means of support and were often created by breaking up larger farms. Existing landlords or tenants could apply for compensation for any loss to the rental value or depreciation in the value of the estate that they sustained. This was settled by the Scottish Land Court unless the landlord required arbitration. 

   It should also be noted that a person who inherited a small landholding also became a landholder. 

Statutory Small Tenants 

   As mentioned above, the 1911 Act established alternate regimes for landholders and for statutory small tenants. Statutory small tenants were those tenants who would otherwise have been an existing yearly tenant or a qualified leaseholder (i.e. landholders) but for the fact that the landlord provided the whole or greater part of the buildings or other permanent improvements on the holding i.e. where the landlord provided most of the fixed equipment. Statutory small tenants also had to satisfy the relevant criteria in section 26 of the 1911 Act. 

   The distinction between small landholders and statutory small tenants is important because a statutory small tenant is subject only to certain of the provisions of the 1911 Act. The 1911 Act provided that, except as expressly provided by the 1911 Act, the legislation shall not apply to statutory small tenants. Further provision is made as regards statutory small tenants by the Small Landholders and Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1931. This means statutory small tenants had different rights than landholders and that any continuing statutory small tenants do not have the same rights as landholders under the Small Landholders Act 1886 to 1931. 

   Persons who inherit SSTs are themselves statutory small tenants in the meaning of the legislation. 

   The legislation permits for statutory small tenants to gain the status of landholder in certain circumstances. Where a landlord failed in any duty to provide or maintain buildings and equipment required for the cultivation of the land by the tenant, the tenant was eligible to apply to the Scottish Land Court, which could declare that the statutory small tenant was a landholder. This would bring the holding under the small landholding regime as opposed to the SST regime. 

   Additionally, the Small Landholders and Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1931, established a process where by a statutory small tenant could serve notice on their landlord that they wish to become a landholder. If that was agreed the holding would then be registered as a small landholding and the tenant would obtain the status of a landholder. 

Extent of Small Landholdings 

   During the 1880’s there were more than 50,000 smallholdings or small farms covering 14.6% of all agricultural land. Today, the number of small farms in Scotland is 20,000. The number of statutory smallholdings (comprising both statutory small landholdings and statutory small tenancies) is approximately 74. One per cent of holdings with tenanted land are small landholdings. Land allotted to small landholdings covers 2,889 hectares or 0.2% of tenanted land, or about 0.05% of agricultural land. This compares to 5.58 million hectares for all agricultural holdings. 

   In the early 20th century the practice of creating new small landholdings was abandoned and few were established after 1931. In some cases, the small landholder purchased the land from their landlord, ending the status as a landholding under the Acts. Between 1959 and 2008 successive governments actively pursued a policy of removing state owned small landholding tenancies from land tenure and/or converting them to secure 1991 Act agricultural tenancies or selling them back to the landlord for a fair consideration. Dwindling numbers are compounded by challenges in identifying this tenancy type. 

   The reduction in the number of small landholdings can also be attributed to tenancy conversion. Following the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1955 small landholdings located within the crofting counties were automatically converted to crofts. Today, all small landholdings lie outwith crofting counties. Some lie in the designated crofting areas; Arran, Bute, Great and Little Cumbrae, Moray and parts of the Highlands, with the largest number, between 15-18 on Arran. Concentrations of small landholdings remain in Ayrshire, Aberdeenshire, Moray, Dumfriesshire, the Scottish Borders and east central Scotland. – Small Landholdings in Scotland: Legislation Review


February 9, 1914.      

   SIR, – Now that Mr Lloyd George has made his long delayed oration, and we have had time to cool down from the excitement of a great meeting, one may very pertinently ask, Where does Scotland now stand in the scheme of things political? 

   Mr McKinnon Wood came to Edinburgh in November specially to deliver an address on Scottish Home Rule on behalf of the Government, and though his deliverance was not all that one could have wished, it was accepted, as it was meant to be, as a declaration that the Government were making preparations to pass at no distant date a measure on that subject. Now, Mr Lloyd George has come on the scene with his land campaign, and we are entitled to inquire what bearing it has on the larger and more important issue. I say more important because Home Rule embraces not only the land question, but every other question of social and industrial development of purely Scottish concern. 

   What is to be the attitude of Scottish Home Rulers? Are all our political organisations to call a halt in their demand for a Scottish Parliament, and devote their energies, for the next few years to land reform through the Imperial Parliament? What, for instance, is to be the attitude of the Young Scots? Are they going to submit tamely to Scottish Home Rule being side-tracked? And what of the Home Rule Council? Is Home Rule to be held up at the dictation of the Land Values League, and are we to look on that body as an active enemy of Home Rule? It is well known that that body is not a patriotic body, and is for the most part indifferent to Scottish Home Rule, and now that it has got the ear of the Chancellor it apparently means to attempt to dish the Home Rulers. But why? The two issues are not irreconcilable. There is nothing in Scottish Home Rule to hamper the taxation of land values. Taxation will come through the Budget, and that need not interfere with the granting of a Scottish Parliament. The Land Values League asks only for the taxation of land values; Scottish Home Rulers want a wide and comprehensive scheme of land reform in all its phases. Taxation of land values may be treated as an Imperial question; Scottish land reform can only be mishandled if so treated. 

   If the question arises whether Scottish Home Rule or Scottish Land Reform should have preference, then there can be only one answer – namely, that Home Rule must come first, and every Home Ruler should make it plain that that is the only purely Scottish reform we want from the Imperial Parliament. After that we shall bring about land reform through our own Parliament to meet our own ideas. 

   Everyone interested in the subject knows that we require no awakening by English missionaries. The enormities of the land system are too well known to us to require the glowing rhetoric of the Chancellor to bring them home to us. Indeed, the Chancellor himself confessed that he had only learned within a few days of his coming north of many things we have all known for years, and these are in the category of the things we should have remedied long ago had Scotland had her own Parliament. Liberals are indebted to Mr Lloyd George for very much, and in Scotland we should be indebted to him still more if, recognising (as he did in his Glasgow speech) the unfitness of the English Parliament to tackle the Scottish land question, he would make a decisive stand in favour of giving Scotland at once a Parliament through which she could carry a radical reform of her land laws in consonance with her national needs. – I am, &c. 


– Scotsman, Tuesday 10th February, 1914, p.8. 






   While taxation remains excessive nothing can avert the dispersion of large estates. This declaration of Viscount Novar of Raith to a representative agricultural audience at Kirkcaldy evidently means that many more historic properties in the country will this year be disposed of privately or exposed to public competition. 

   The breaking-up of the Hamilton estates is one of the most important events in the history of land ownership in Scotland. It arises from the fact that the Hamilton Estates Trust finds it impossible to meet the enormous burdens which recent legislation has imposed upon landed proprietors. 

   One of the sections of the extensive properties held by the Trust is Strathnaven Estate, situated in the county of Lanark. It is about seven miles from Hamilton, and the area (about 2531 acres) comprises fifteen valuable dairy and arable farms of convenient sizes. This section of the properties will be offered for sale on 23d June. 

Dairy and Fruit Farms. 

   Lesmahagow, another section, is about equi-distant from Lesmahagow and Blackwood railway stations. Its extent is about 4129 acres, and includes excellent dairy, arable, and fruit farms. The district is specially suitable for fruit-growing, and the transport facilities are such as to make the farms attractive and greatly in demand. there is a quantity of thriving plantation, chiefly coniferous trees, on the estate. The date of the sale is 22d June. 

   Dalserf, which forms another section of the group, extends to 4356 acres, and is mainly agricultural. The soil is good, suitable for corn and root crops, and provides first-rate grazing. Part of the estate lies in the upper valley of the Clyde, where fruit-growing is extensively practised, and, while several of the holdings are developed as fruit farms, there are small lots available for fruit-growing on a lesser scale. The upper valley of the Clyde possesses remarkable natural beauty. Dalserf will be sold on 22d June. 

   The Hamilton Estate embraces 5418 acres, and is a most comprehensive property, including fine agricultural holdings, residences, cottages, growing timber, land available for feuing, and building land in close proximity to the town of Hamilton. The farms are excellently equipped with houses and steadings, and special attention has been given in the construction of the latter to meet dairying requirements. The soil is variable, but in the main is good stiff corn and root-growing land, while several farms possess capital medium soil, in addition to the heavier land. Hamilton will be sold on the same day as the Strathaven section. 

Varying soils. 

   On 27th June the section comprising Motherwell, Bothwell, and Hamilton Low Parks Estate and the section embracing Shotts Estate are to be put up to public auction. 

   The former group covers about 1917 acres, and is situated in the valuable industrial area encompassed by Motherwell and Hamilton. It comprises the residence, Bothwell Park House, five mixed farms, Haughlands, &c. Included in the sale are the prominent landmark, the Old Jail, tower, and courthouse, the Hamilton Palace stables, Hamilton low parks, and the golf links. 

   The soil varies in character, ranging from light soil to rich clay. Shotts lies between Airdrie and Bathgate. The area is about 5634 acres, and includes useful dairy, arable, and sheep farms of convenient sizes. 

   Cambuslang, the remaining section of the property, extends to 2570 acres, comprising fine dairy farms, valuable building sites, &c. The steadings on the estate are of superior type and first-class construction, and special attention has been given to the requirements of dairy farmers. The soil varies between a useful medium and a stiff loam, and good corn and root crops are produced. There is also capital grazing. Cambuslang comes into the market on 29th June. 

   The disposal of the Hamilton estates is entrusted to the well-known auctioneering firm, Messrs Knight, Frank, & Rutley. 

Small Forfarshire Estate. 

   The same firm have in hand the sale of a Forfarshire estate, five miles from Edzell. 

   It is a residential and agricultural property, comprising about 178 acres, and including a comfortable residence. There are pretty pleasure grounds on the estate. The woodlands and grass parks extend to 30 acres. On the home farm are about 113 acres of arable land. The property will be sold as a whole, or the residential portion of 65 acres and farm of 113 acres separately. 

   Messrs Castiglione, Erskine, & Co., have on their list the estate of Clunes, Inverness-shire, an attractive residential property. It is in perfect condition, and is beautifully situated on the Beauly Firth, in the parish of Kirkhill. It extends to about 300 acres, and is eight miles from Inverness. It marches with well-known sporting properties. 

– Dundee Courier, Tuesday 20th June, 1922, p.3. 







   COUNCILLOR P. H. ALLAN presided last night at a meeting of North Edinburgh Liberals held in Dowell’s Rooms, 18 George Street, when an address was given by Major C. Randolph Dudgeon, ex-M.P. for Galloway, on “Land Reform as a National Necessity.” 

   Referring to the King’s Speech, the Chairman said that it was barren of constructive ideas, and there was nothing in the proposals which was going to induce anybody to go back to the land. 

   Major Randolph Dudgeon said that he had come to the conclusion, as a farmer, that the necessities of the agricultural industry and the interests of the nation were one, and that was to get a greater degree of prosperity and production in the rural areas. There was no doubt that in Scotland they were fortunate, to a certain extent, in having a higher standard of farming than they had south of the Border, and to-day they were pulling their weight with regard to the production of human food from their own soil in a much more satisfactory ratio than they were doing either in England or Wales. What they wanted to aim at was to put the agricultural industry on such a footing as would increase the volume of food, and at the same time increase employment in the agricultural industry at more remunerative wages to the agricultural workers, and at a more stabilised system of profit to the farmer. twenty-five per cent. of the farmers in Scotland were cultivating their holdings up to 50 per cent. of their capacity. He adduced the want of working capital as one of the reasons. The question of credits promoted by the Government to-day would assist in some degree, but there were far more fundamental things to be tackled. There was the question of tenure. They might have the most ideal system of tenure and yet be unable to make farming a paying proposition. At the same time the agricultural community in Scotland and the Liberal party very consistently had stood by absolute security of tenure for the farmer. (Applause.) That was essential if they were going to encourage a man who was cultivating the soil to put all his energy and resources into it. There was a very serious breaking-down of the system in vogue – that of landlord and tenant. Within their financial capacity the great majority of landlords were doing what they could, but under the burden of taxation they were not able to keep up the equipment of their holdings. Therefore, it was necessary that there should be some alternative system of tenure, and cultivating tenure and occupying ownership were both alternatives which should have a place in a new land system. There should, however, be no hard-and-fast system carried out throughout the country. County agricultural committees with wide discretionary powers could do a great deal, and ought to be able to find the best system of tenure for their own areas, and to assist inefficient farmers to greater efficiency… 

– Scotsman, Thursday 4th February, 1926, p.12. 











Mr ADAMSON (soc. West Fife)… congratulated the Secretary for Scotland on the restoration of the office which he held to the status of that of a Secretaryship of State. (Cheers.) He assured the right hon. gentleman that that was a change which met with the approval of all sections of the people of Scotland. (Cheers.) he also congratulated the right hon. gentleman on his decision to visit the islands of Orkney and Shetland in the autumn of this year. It was a very good thing for one who held his position to make himself acquainted with as many of the problems facing the people he represented as he possibly could. With regard to the raising of the status of the Secretaryship of Scotland to that of a Secretaryship of State, the abolition of that status in the far-off days was a link in the chain of events which had led to a condition of affairs in a large part of Scotland which he wanted to discuss. The struggle which had culminated in the abolition of the office of Secretary of State for Scotland had involved the break-up of a system of government which had given to the people of the pastoral part of Scotland the same indefeasible right to the ownership of the land on which they lived and worked as was possessed by the chieftains under whom they lived. The next step in this chain of events was that in many parts of Scotland the people were driven off the land. Today they had millions of acres of land lying idle, or at least converted into deer forests, and kept in that idle condition for the sport of a few millionaires, who in many instances did not belong to the country at all. People had had to live under conditions that were a discredit to every Government that had been in office, while millions of acres were being reserved for a few wealthy men and women. 

   It was the duty of every Scottish member to take every step to get the land restored to their own people, for their own use. During his own brief period of office he had under consideration the best means for changing the system of the land tenure with a view to restoring the land to the people for their use under easier conditions than had been the case for many years past. He had under consideration at the same time the question of transport facilities, which were equally necessary is they were to develop agriculture in the Highlands… They had also under consideration a scheme of co-operation that would have enabled the agricultural population in that part of Scotland to get the full fruits of their labours once they had got them on to the land under proper conditions. Had they been in office as long as some Governments had been everything possible to carry out that programme would have been done… 




   Sir R. Horne (U., Glasgow, Hillhead)… was able to congratulate the new Secretary of State for Scotland upon the moderation of those speeches, and the lack of any attack upon his administration. (Hear, hear.) 


   Three of the speeches had dealt with entirely local matters. But the speech of the right hon. member for West Fife had dealt with a bigger subject. The main theme of it was that very much more cultivation of the land was required than was at present being devoted in Scotland. That was a question in which every Scotsman was intensely interested… It must be said that every effort had been made in recent years by all Governments which had been dealing with this problem to restore people to the land, and, wherever it was possible, to create a thrifty and prosperous rural population. But he would like to enter one caveat. The right hon. member for West Fife, in his enthusiasm, talked about millions of uncultivated acres in Scotland devoted to the pleasures of the rich – deer forests and grouse shooting. He (Sir R. Horne) had travelled over a great many of those acres, and it was quite outside the region of commonsense to talk about many of them as acres on which they could produce any form of cultivation. (Hear, hear.) 


   Anybody who talked about the millions of acres of deer forests being used for cultivation was completely refuted by the Commission. It was absurd to say that the deer forests and grouse moors were capable of raising crops. The Forestry Commission were dealing with the areas in which timber could be grown. Everyone who knew the conditions in Scotland would agree that the amount of land devoted to sport at the present time was a very great source of revenue to the country, and without which its resources would be depleted to such an extent as would raise the rates of these districts far above what the community could bear. The amount contributed by shooting tenants was something with which Scotland could not dispense, but to make the hilltops of Scotland and its grouse moors blossom like the rose – (laughter) – was a fallacy, and one of the dreams of Mr Adamson which were never capable of realisation… 


   Mr JAMES BROWN (Soc. South Ayrshire) said he thought every Scotsman knew that the depopulation of the Highlands was not towards the towns, and was not voluntary depopulation. Generally speaking, men and women who left the countryside to go into the towns did so in order to find employment. That was not so regarding the depopulation of the Highlands, which was one of the saddest tales in the sad annals of their country. He did not think the member for West Fife thought they could make the hill tops blossom like the rose, but what they did want was that the valleys should be repopulated. He did not think the rents got from the shooting tenants and the rates levied on them came to very much – not anything like Sir Robert Horne imagined – when it came to enabling Scotland to move on. 

   He thought Scotland could do without it and stand on its own feet. There were descendants of Scotsmen in Canada and the Colonies whose grandfathers and great-grandfathers had to leave the country because they could not get a foothold in the country owing to the space allowed for plutocrats from other countries to come in and take the land their forefathers had cultivated. 


   Mr. T. JOHNSTON (Soc. Dundee), referring to the speech made by Sir Robert Horne, said it was absolute rubbish to state that the land covered by deer in Scotland was fit for nothing else. This statement had been disproved by Royal Commissions and Committees. 

– Scotsman, Thursday 29th July, 1926, p.9. 


Need for Some Degree of State Supervision 

   A STATEMENT of policy reviewing the conditions which have confronted landowners in Scotland in the past, and making some concrete proposals for the future of landownership in the post-war years, has been prepared by a special sub-committee of the Scottish Land and Property Federation, under the chairmanship of the Duke of Buccleuch. 

   The statement affirms the desire of the landowner to co-operate to the full with the National Farmers’ Union and other organisations interested in the land in any steps necessary for the maintenance and prosperity of the rural population and for a healthy agricultural industry. 

   It is not denied that there have been cases of neglect and mismanagement. “Such cases,” it is stated, “occur in all industries, but too much is made of what we believe to be exceptional cases. It is maintained, however, that the large majority of landowners have endeavoured, often at great personal sacrifice, to ensure that both agriculture and forestry in Scotland should continue to work as efficiently as possible.” 

   The necessity for some degree of State supervision is admitted, but, the statement says, “compulsory acquisition of all land by the State id contrary to British traditions and ideas of freedom. We are convinced that in the sphere of land-ownership as in that of other industries the future prosperity and happiness of this country depends on the enterprise of the individual.” 


   The landowner, it is pointed out, contributes the bulk of the fixed capital in the industry. Looked at from the commercial and economic standpoint the return that he has received on his investment has been inadequate, indeed in many cases it is to-day a minus quantity. The good landowner has in the past accepted the position because he realised his obligation that his land should be put to the best possible use in the national interest and because he was a partner in the industry as well as often for sentimental reasons. 

   The effect of the inadequate return on capital invested in the industry as a whole has been serious in that it has been serious in that it has been impossible to build up reserve funds out of which to finance the modernisation and replacement of buildings and equipment, so as to keep the industry abreast of the times. 

   Dealing with causes which have contributed to this lack of return on invested capital, the statement shows that in the year before the war the British consumer paid for home-produced food some £300 millions more than the producer received, “which indicates a very extravagant distribution system.” It should be possible to use some of this margin to give a fair economic price to the producer for his goods. 

   “The first step in this direction is the building up of a more efficient and fair system of marketing of produce as it leaves the farm. The machinery for this purpose is already on the Statute Book in the shape of the Agricultural Marketing Acts. 


   “As a result of uneconomic prices between the wars, farm rents were reduced and the point had been reached where a fair return was not being obtained by the landlord, tenant, or farm worker. The advocates of State ownership argue that with the State as owner this would not have happened. It is submitted that if private ownership with its low overhead costs could not keep the industry financially sound, State ownership would have been less successful. The root of the trouble was in the uneconomic prices paid for the produce of the land.” 

   Another factor which has caused the depletion of the reserves of the industry has been the heavy burden of Death Duties as at present levied. Many proposals for altering the incidence of Death Duties on agricultural property and woodlands have been discussed from total abolition to partial remission, “but after due consideration we favour the proposal which provides that the basis of assessment should link up closely with a system of allowances for capital expenditure. In the assessment of Death Duties we are of the opinion that account should be taken for abatement purposes of improvement expenditure during a period of, say, ten years before death.” 

   While concessions are already given in connection with Income-tax by way of maintenance claims, &c., the existing concessions are based on expenditure on maintenance. Improvement expenditure is, except to a limited extent, disallowed. “In our opinion the scope of maintenance claims should be widened. It is accordingly recommended that estate expenditure should be allowable on a more generous basis, particularly on housing for those engaged in agriculture and forestry.” 

   On the question of State ownership, it is pointed out that to finance the acquisition by the State of all the land in the country, it would be necessary for the Government to borrow many hundreds of million of pounds. The interest on this loan, even at current rates of borrowing, would far exceed the return from the property acquired, without taking into account the greatly increased costs of administration inseparable from State ownership. The loss involved must finally fall on the man in the street in the form of extra taxation. The existing contact between the landlord and his tenants is of paramount importance, and would to a great extent be lost under State ownership. The private owner, it is pointed out, is always free to grant abatements of rent in cases of hardship; the same cannot be said of the Government official. The tenant farmer has always easy access to the landlord or his factor, who can hear his difficulties. 


   The principle is accepted that the land must be used to the best advantage. “This necessarily involves certain obligations on the landowner, which we believe the private owner recognises and (with an assured future for agriculture and forestry) will be willing to meet. Where the private owner is either unable or unwilling to face these obligations every facility should be afforded to enable him to dispose of his property to a new owner.” 

   Other recommendations are that no money should be raised in future on mortgage over landed property which is not to be used directly for the benefit of the property or for the payment of Estate Duties; and that such borrowing should be by way of rent charge only so that the debt is extinguished within a limited period of years. 

   The continuance of the system of Agricultural Executive Committees after the war is accepted as necessary to ensure good management and proper cultivation of the land and maintenance of equipment, and the carrying out by landlord and tenant of their obligations under leases. 


   It is sometimes a charge against landowners that agricultural interests have been subordinated to sport. While there may be exceptional cases where this charge is well founded, it is by no means true of the majority, and it is contrary to the policy of the Federation. “We consider that sport which gives healthy exercise and recreation to many who are not landowners should continue, provided that the proper use of the land is not interfered with.” 

   Many people such as crofter and small landowners look to sport to provide a useful addition to their incomes, and sporting rights in several counties to form a considerable proportion of their rateable value. Sport gives healthy recreation and employment to many people, and brings trade into poor and sparsely inhabited districts. 

– Scotsman, Friday 29th October, 1943, p.3. 

Land reform pendulum set to swing 

by Brian Henderson 

   BE AFRAID, be very afraid. 

   That was the catchline of the shock horror movie “The Fly” a few years ago – but it could equally as well be applied to our industry in the light of many of the proposals included in the Land Reform Policy Group’s recent spate of publications. 

   For those of you who are still cosily  unaware of what this group is up to, basically the entire gamut of land ownership, management and use is up for review and revision in a total remodelling exercise, and the resultant proposals are likely to be turned into legislation early in the life of the Scottish Parliament. 

   Now few could have any doubts that there have been some dreadful mistakes made in Scotland’s history of land ownership – and the legislation and entire moral ethos which allowed the Highland Clearances to take place just couldn’t be strongly enough condemned. 

   But many of the proposals being put forward by the reform group – made up of a collection of civil servants who appear to have been watching too many video re-runs of Braveheart – looks set to swing the pendulum so far in the other direction that not only are the large-scale landowners threatened but owner-occupiers, tenants, crofters and the cast majority of those earning their living from the countryside face a threat to that very livelihood. 

   For if this urban-centric vision of Scotland’s rural areas is delivered, it will constitute as big a threat to the fragile communities living in these areas as any of the preceding flawed legislation ever did. 

   Bearing all the hallmarks of a populist manifesto, drawn up without doubt only after careful consultation with a hand-picked focus group (sole qualifications for inclusion – knowing little or nothing about the countryside) many of the vague proposals, to be carried out in the “public interest,” are open to a wide range of interpretations. 

   “Greater community involvement in land ownership and management” – say it quickly enough and it sounds grand – conjuring up the image of spunky Assynt crofters buying their estate – and who could possibly argue with such magnanimous sentiments? 

   But then ponder a moment and look at the small print and what’s missing from it. 

   Who or what constitutes this “Community” which is to be granted greater involvement? 

   Slightly more difficult to pin down, but it might not be all that important. 

   Think again. 

   under the proposals “community involvement” could give people with a limited knowledge of the countryside the power to tell you exactly what you can and cannot do with your land, what animals you can keep and crops you can grow. 

   They could also be the people who decide whether or not you’d get public assistance for any enterprise you went ahead with – and you would have to provide them with details of all the support payments made to your business. 

   And you could find yourself having to comply with a Code of Practice – as likely as not drawn up by the very same ill-defined but, by this time, very much-involved community. 

   I’m all for openness and transparency in business transactions, but this would push our industry much further down this road than any other sector – many of which receive higher levels of public support than farming. 

   And if regulatory powers were given to local land councils or such-like we would be trussed up like the proverbial Christmas turkey – especially so when, as is being proposed, planning controls are extended to cover agricultural, forestry, sporting and conservation-related operations. 

   The enormous variation between council catchment areas, in the interpretations of regulations and wishes of the community, could lead to huge differences in the ability of businesses to perform – and the commercial viability of your farm could be dependent simply on which side of an otherwise arbitrary boundary it lay. 

   And in the current financial climate proposals to abolish non-domestic rate relief on agriculture, forestry and sporting estates could be enough to push even more businesses below the survival line and hold them there until the bubbles stopped. 

   But in the interest of some balance, from a tenant farmer’s point of view, there are at least some proposals to be welcomed. 

   Setting up of Farm Business Tenancies – that mechanisms for cranking up rents which is currently in operation in England – is thankfully, not likely to get the go-ahead for Scotland. 

   And the 1991 Agricultural Holdings Act is likely to be modified to accommodate fixed term contracts rather than ditched altogether. 

   The updating of legislation to allow tenants to become involved in woodland schemes and environmental enterprises and more diversified forms of businesses is also to be welcomed. 

   There also seems to be a genuine recognition that is worthwhile, introducing some measures to support smaller units and allow part-time operation tenanted land. 

   And the simplification of the current arbitration proceedings – including strict control of the costs which can be incurred – is a long overdue move which would gain great support. 

   So there are some good points in the proposals, and some of the more blatant demands are currently excluded under EU legislation, but – and I admit it may be a cynical view – it generally pays to take off the rose-tinted spectacles when dealing with such major proposals and take a good look at the worst-case scenario. 

   Better, after all, that our industry be a fly in the ointment now than being caught in a carefully constructed web after it’s too late to struggle free. 

– Aberdeen Press and Journal, Saturday 31st October, 1998, p. 18. 

Land Reform Review 2014 

A government survey in 1872 found that 90% of Scotland’s land area of 7.9 million hectares was owned by 1,380 private land owners. 

Over the next hundred years or so, that very high degree of concentration did reduce to some extent, mainly due to two developments. Firstly, there was an expansion of public land ownership in rural Scotland during the first half of the 20th century. This was mainly due to the purchase of land through the Forestry Commission and for the Government’s land settlement programmes. The second main factor was the growth of owner-occupied farms in some lowland areas, particularly during the 1920s and 1930s. However, despite this reduction in the concentration of private ownership, studies in the 1970s showed that 100 years on, less than 1,500 large scale private land owners still owned 60% of Scotland’s land area. 

It is claimed that currently 432 private land owners own 50% of the private land in rural Scotland. The latest estimate of Scotland’s population is 5,327,000, so this means that half of a fundamental resource for the country is owned by 0.008% of the population. As a measure of inequality in a modern democracy, this is exceptional and is in need of explanation. 

The activity of the Danish businessman Anders Povlsen, who has purchased six large estates in recent years (to become Scotland’s second largest land owner with around 65,000 ha), has also contributed to this apparent re-concentration. This case also illustrates just how readily the re-concentration of ownership can occur. 

Leaving aside the observation that the pattern of land ownership in Scotland is clearly out of step with the much more diversified ownership patterns of our European neighbours, the Review Group considers that the current concentrated pattern of private land ownership is problematic for a number of inter-related reasons. Land is a finite, national resource. Ownership is the key determinant of how land is used, and the concentration of private ownership in rural Scotland can often stifle entrepreneurial ambition, local aspirations and the ability to address identified community need. The concentrated ownership of private land in rural communities places considerable power in the hands of relatively few individuals, which can in turn have a huge impact on the lives of local people and jars with the idea of Scotland being a modern democracy. The Group considers that a less concentrated pattern of land ownership would open up increased economic and social opportunities in many parts of rural Scotland, helping create stronger and more resilient rural communities. 

Community Bought Estates 
Taken from Wikipedia – which obtained most of the info from the BBC

Property Date Type Owner Purchase price Area Notes 
 hectares acres 
Glendale Estate, Skye 1908 Estate Glendale Trust  9,300 23,000 Purchased by the government, then sold to the crofters. 
Stornoway Estate, Lewis 1923 Estate Stornoway Trust £0 28,000 69,200 Gifted by Lord Leverhulme. 
North Assynt Estate Feb 1993 Estate Assynt Crofters’ Trust £300,000 9,000 22,200 Previously known as North Lochinver Estate. 
Eigg Jun 1997 Island Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust £1,500,000 3,000 7,400  
Abriachan Forest Mar 1998 Forest Abriachan Forest Trust £152,000 534 1,300 Purchased from Forest Enterprise. 
Knoydart Estate Mar 1999 Estate Knoydart Foundation £750,000 7,000 17,300  
Isle Martin, Loch Broom May 1999 Island Isle Martin Trust £0 150 400 Gifted by the RSPB. 
Little Assynt Estate Nov 2000 Estate Culag Community Woodland Trust £244,000 1,200 3,000  
Gigha Mar 2002 Island Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust £4,000,000 1,300 3,200  
Dùn Coillich, Perthshire May 2002 Hill Highland Perthshire Communities Land Trust  420 1,000  
North Harris Mar 2003 Estate North Harris Trust £2,200,000 22,500 55,600 Increased to 25,000 ha (62,000 acres) with purchase of Loch Seaforth estate in 2006. 
Aline Community Woodland, Lewis May 2005 Forest Erisort Trust  633 1,600  
Glencanisp and Drumrunie Estates, Assynt Jun 2005 Estate Assynt Foundation £2,900,000 18,000 44,500  
South Uist Estate – Benbecula, Eriskay and South Uist Nov 2006 Estate Stòras Uibhist £4,500,000 38,000 93,900  
Langamull and West Ardhu Woodlands, Isle of Mull Dec 2006 Forest North West Mull Community Woodland Company Ltd £343,000 700 1,700 Purchased from Forestry Commission Scotland under the National Forest Land Scheme. 
Galson Estate, Lewis Jan 2007 Estate Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (Galson Estate Trust) £1,200,000 22,600 55,800  
Cultybraggan Camp, Comrie Sep 2007 Former prisoner of war camp Comrie Development Trust £350,000 36 100  
Kinloch village, Rùm Feb 2009 Village Isle of Rum Community Trust £0 100 200 Transferred from Scottish Natural Heritage. 
Rhubodach Forest, Bute Jul 2010 Forest Bute Community Land Company £250,000 161 400 Larger area of forest bought for £1.475m, then part of it immediately sold for £1.25m. 
RAF Machrihanish May 2012 Former air base Machrihanish Airbase Community Company £1 409 1,000  
Evanton Wood Aug 2012 Forest Evanton Wood Community Company £300,000 65 200  
Mull of Galloway Jul 2013 Heathland Mull of Galloway Trust £350,000 12 Sold by the Northern Lighthouse Board. 
Bridgend Farmhouse, Edinburgh Nov 2016 Former farm and steading Bridgend Inspiring Growth £1 0.41 Sold by the City of Edinburgh Council. 
Portobello Old Parish Church, Edinburgh Sept 2017 Former Church Action Porty £600,000 0.18 First urban community right to buy in Edinburgh under the LR(S)A 2003 (as amended). Property sold by the Church of Scotland. 
Ulva 21 June 2018 Island North West Mull Community Woodland Company £4,400,000+ 2,000 4,900 Sold by Jamie Howard after a grant of £4.4 million from the Scottish Government through the Scottish Land Fund. 

Site Sources 

     “MY LORD, – For the last fifteen years I have been brought into immediate contact with the middle and lower orders in various parts of Scotland, and during that period I have observed that the section of our population deriving their support from land have been subjected to some grievances, so much so that their means of living have become pinched, and multitudes, who would have submitted to great privations at home, have nevertheless been compelled to expatriate themselves from the country so dearly loved, or, what is worse, take shelter in the dungeons of a large town. For a long time it puzzled me to understand how a country growing in commercial prosperity must be declining in its agricultural population; and while the towns were doubling their residenters, and consequently demanding greater supplies of food, yet all the while vast tracts of producing land should be thrown to waste! Any enquiries that I could make were generally answered, that the peasantry must make way before the improvements of modern agriculture; but that explanation I never was satisfied with, and I never was at peace until I found out what appeared to me to be the real cause of such great evils; for I could not shut my eyes to the fact that rural depopulation and the overpeopling of towns stood linked together as cause and effect. As your Lordship must know, I traced out these evils to the Laws of Entail, which have concentrated vast territories into the hand of a single individual, while they prevented peasant proprietorship, – a system that has produced magical benefits wherever it has been allowed to come into operation. The Game Law rules I also found to be a wicked instrument, seized by lairds for banishing the peasantry, and for desolating great tracts of land. The Laws of Hypothec I also found operated most injuriously against society, by unduly enlarging the size of farms, by giving illegitimate security to lairds for rents, and for increasing the price of rent to a fictitious amount. The abolition of these unjust laws is all the cure that I suggest, and I hesitate not to affirm that if their abolition were secured, a most healthful improvement, both moral and physical, would be apparent in Scotland, and that at no postponed date. 


     When illustrating the evil effects of our feudalistic legislation, it was barely possible for me to avoid pointing to certain estates where the evils were most apparent. But I certainly did so as seldom as possible, and I think in only one instance have I condescended on a personal reflection. Your Lordship’s name is not mentioned at all, for although I state that Lochtayside had been cleared, I did not say by whom; and had you not published the letter of 18th June, your lordship’s name and character might have been forgotten altogether in connection with such a deplorable state of matters. Personally, I entertain no grudge towards your Lordship or any other laird, but on the contrary it might have been beneficial to me to retain the good favour of lairds rather than to excite their ill-will. But the letter referred to leaves me only two courses, – either to support the statements of my book, or stand arraigned before the public as guilty of circulating untruths. Your Lordship has dragged our dispute prominently before the public; let the public, therefore, be judge between us. 

     I have good right to complain that your Lordship’s contradiction of my statements are not brought out in a straightforward manner, but that by numerous shifts and fallacies you evade the facts altogether. Considering the high position of your Lordship, I think you might have condescended to have met such a humble antagonist as I am openly and frankly; excuse me, therefore, if I now ask you to answer my statements seriatim. 

     1st. Do you deny in general that the Highlands are being depopulated, and that one soldier could not now be raised for ten who fought in the last war? Your Lordship, I think, would hardly risk the denial of a statement which every person in this country knows to be correct. I have given the public an opportunity of denying my statements; but so far as I can judge, my figures are under rather than over the mark. I can point to a place where thirty recruits that manned the 92nd in Egypt came from – men before whom Napoleon’s Invincibles had to bite the dust, – and now only two families reside there altogether. I was lately informed by a grazier that on his farm a hundred swordsmen could be gathered at the country’s call; and now there is only himself and one or two shepherds. On his neighbour’s farm fifty swordsmen formerly lived, and it is now much in the same condition. The Sutherland and Gordon clearings are known to the world, and yet the fact of Highland depopulation is stated as being inconsistent with truth? Under this head your Lordship had ample opportunity of contradicting my statements, but no man with any regard to his standing could do so. But if I am labouring under a delusion here, I am not alone, as will be seen from the following quotation:- 

     “But in other and in too many instances the Highlands have been drained, not of their superfluity of population, but of the whole mass of the inhabitants, dispossessed by an unrelenting avarice, which will be one day found to have been as short-sighted as it is unjust and selfish. Meantime the Highlands may become the fairy ground for romance and poetry, or the subject of experiment for the professors of speculation, political and economical. But if the hour of need shall come, – and it may not perhaps be far distant, – the pibroch may sound through the deserted region, but the summons will remain unanswered.” – Sir Walter Scott, [‘Tales of a Grandfather‘]. 

     Let us hear what the great continental historian, Michelet, says:- 

     “The Scotch Highlanders will ere long disappear from the face of the earth; the mountains are daily depopulating; the great estates have ruined the land of the Gaul, as they did ancient Italy. The Highlander will ere long exist only in the romances of Walter Scott. The tartan and the claymore excite surprise in the streets of Edinburgh: they disappear – they emigrate – their national airs will ere long be lost, as the music of the Eolian harp when the winds are hushed.” 

Marquis of Breadalbane’s Refutation Letter 1

     In the examination which I intend to make of the facts brought forward by your Lordship, I shall confine my observations to two parts, viz., – 1st, Destroying the resources of the country for game. 2nd, Extermination of the peasantry. 

     In the factorial accounts to which your Lordship refers, is there any estimate of the territory laid virtually waste for game sports? The next time your Lordship openly makes reference thereto, perhaps you could without much trouble, favour the public by replies to the following queries:- 

     How many square miles of valuable pasture are kept waste for deer? 

     How many sheep could annually be drawn from them, but for the deer? 

     How many thousand black cattle could be reared, but for the same cause? 


     Referring again to the Black Mount, perhaps your Lordship would favour the public with its geographical boundaries. I have had great difficulty in arriving at anything like a correct estimate of the extent of territory laid waste. The lowest estimate of its circumference I have heard is fifty miles, others say sixty, and some as high as ninety miles. Let us assume that in its present state there are 100,000 acre of the most valuable pasture all but useless to the nation at present, but with the abolition of the Game Law Rules we might guess that it could graze 70,000 sheep. One-third to one-fourth of these could be annually drawn, and thus twenty thousand sheep would be yearly brought down for sale, minus some 3,000 at present. The Clashgoure wedders were said to be the best ever seen in Glasgow market. How many does the hill produce now? Besides 20,000 sheep, there might be 50,000 fleeces sold, in which almost nothing is done at present. 

     If these statistics approximate the truth, would not such an addition to the supplies of food to our town population be very valuable? Considering the high price of meat at present, the great demand, the limited supply, I am sure that no more wholesome or beneficial change could take place in this country than would the opening up of the Highlands to trade. The supply of black-faced sheep and of black cattle would be increased beyond all conception. Instead of sending to the four quarters of the earth for food, why not let Scotland produce all that it can? why banish the industrious population when such a field of real, not representative, wealth (as gold is) lies inviting them only to reap it. 

     Your Lordship states, that to the improvement of the country and to the welfare of the inhabitants you have directed your attention and your best thoughts. Without disputing your good intentions, allow me to ask you before Scotland what more could you have done, by yourself or your agents, to lay the country waste, – the Black Mount in particular? Was it for the improvement of the country that you have kept some of the finest soil of Perthshire waste, – that is, the forest facing Kenmore? Is it for the improvement of the country that you keep all the land round Drummond Hill merely for sport at deer-stalking? Is it for the encouragement of agriculture that the tenants are bound by lease to leave the fields nearest the hill under grass, apparently that the game may have a good morsel in winter? Is it for the public good that your deer come to the gardens and destroy the cabbage (some of it having had to be three times planted this year in consequence)? and yet the tenants dare not scare them away; if dogs are set after them they are forthwith shot; if they are frightened by firearms, the tenant is forthwith put off the property! And yet this is all done for “the improvement of the country,” or else “for the welfare of the inhabitants!!” 

     Whatever good has accrued from the unexampled increase of game, must be entirely placed to the credit of your Lordship, for your predecessor (whose memory and good deeds are warmly extolled by thousands) did not favour the increase of game. No doubt he had numbers of deer, but they were principally in parks, few or none being wild; and no tenant was restricted from using his gun (except in the parks) until the efforts of your Lordship introduced a different regime. The late Marquis had a greater respect for his splendid and devoted peasantry than to harass them with gamekeepers, or destroy their crops with hares and pheasants. He wished them to live in the country, and therefore he adopted no measures directly or indirectly, to force them away. There are, however, certain doings about game of which your Lordship must be ignorant, because no nobleman, professing such liberality as you do, could be a party to such transactions. I refer to the case of a tenant at Acharn, who was tempted to shoot a fallow deer, which had perhaps fattened on his own crops or cabbage. His servant, instead of going to church on Sabbath, went to inform your Lordship’s keeper of the occurrence; and, if I am correctly informed, that excellent man went shortly after and made a search in the house. He was like to be foiled in the pursuit, when he took off the kail-pot, and carrying it to the door, found therein a piece of venison! What a horrible disclosure! The venison was forthwith carried to Bolfracks, and such a hullabaloo was there! And what was the sentence? – banishment! Although strongly attached to Scotland, yet no remedy could be found for the unpardonable crime – off he had to go. Now it turns out this happened for the man’s welfare, for he would hardly return to Breadalbane, although made proprietor of his former occupancy. 

     How these 200 square miles, laid all but desolate, besides crops in fields and in gardens destroyed, tallies with your Lordship’s loud professions for agricultural improvement, is what others must explain for I really confess for once that I am shamefully beaten in the attempt to do so. 


     You conclude your famous letter by asking, “Have I recklessly driven out from its mountains and glens the interesting and gallant race that formerly resided there?” I can prove that the “interesting and gallant race” rather increased than diminished under your father’s management. Who, then has driven them out? I know of no one who could but your Lordship or your agents. 

Breadalbane’s Refutation Letter 2.

   To be SOLD by public voluntary roup, within Forrest’s Coffee-house, Edinburgh, upon Wednesday the 25th of January 1775, betwixt the hours of four and six in the afternoon, 

   ALL and HAILL the EIGHT-MERK LAND of ACHNABA, lying in the parish of Ardchattan, lordship of Lorn, and shire of Argyle. These lands hold feu of the Earl of Breadalbane for payment of a small feu-duty; are remarkably pleasantly situated upon the side of Lochetive, and equally good for grass and corn. The hill abounds with game equally good for grass and corn. The hill abounds with game of different kinds; and there is upon the premisses a considerable quantity of good old planting, and a stock of natural oakwood in a thriving condition. 

   The articles and conditions of sale, and the title-deeds, to be seen in the hands of Allan McDougall writer to the signet. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Monday 12th December, 1774, p.4. 

Useful Links 

What Home Rulers Were Demanding 

Response to Mrs Beecher Stowe 

Glendale Estate – An Unique Early Experiment in Crofting Ownership 

Community Right to Buy 


Absentee landlords have been a problem since the lords took themselves to the centralised seat of authority post-union of 1707. 

Improvements led to an increase in rent for the tenantry, regardless of their earnings, which are unlikely to have increased any, leading to extirpation. Where advertisements of land speak of it having been enclosed – this is where numerous people have been shifted in order to divide the land into larger plots for new proprietors/tenantry. 

It would be an interesting project to plot the extents of land that went up for sale using all the newspaper ads of the time. 

Farmers’ Alliance became the Scottish Land Reform Alliance (1886) 

Entail, Runrigs, Excambion (conversion/transferral of land), Blench (yearly payments from vassal to superior), &c. 

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