§ Mr. Horatio Ross
stated, that he had a Petition to present, very numerously signed by the inhabitants of the Burgh of Baniff, which referred to a subject of great importance, and one in which all the Burghs of Scotland took a deep interest. The petitioners prayed, that the present system of Municipal Government in the Scotch Burghs might be reformed, and that the resident Burgesses and Citizens might have the power of electing their Magistrates and Town Councils. When he informed the House, that for some hundred years past the Magistrates and Town Councils had had the power of electing their successors, who, in their turn, invariably re-elected their predecessors; that the whole influence, both parliamentary and local, had been vested in certain families, as a sort of heir-loom, they could not be surprised that the inhabitants of those burghs complained loudly of this system, and that they anxiously looked for redress at as early a date as possible. He (Mr. Ross) had had this petition in his possession for a considerable time, but had refrained from presenting it, as he did not wish to embarrass his Majesty's Ministers, during the progress of the Reform Bill, by calling upon them to bring forward more extensive measures of Reform. Now, however, as they had triumphantly carried that great measure, he thought the time was come when it was necessary to call 152 their attention to the subject. He was quite aware that nothing could be done this Session; but they might, during the months that must elapse before a Reformed House of Commons could be elected, and meet for the despatch of business, draw up a bill for reforming the municipal government of the Scotch burghs, and be prepared to submit it to Parliament at the commencement of the next Session. He could assure the House that, next to the great question of Parliamentary Reform, there was no subject in which his countrymen, residing in towns, took so lively an interest as in that of Burgh Reform; they would never rest satisfied until the gross abuses and absurdities of the present mode of election were completely eradicated. His Majesty's Ministers were the fittest persons to devise, and carry into effect, a proper plan of Burgh Reform; and, if they took the matter up in the manner in which he was sure they would, they should, in the event of his sitting in the next Parliament, receive his most cordial support and assistance; but if, on the other hand, they neglected this subject, he should, very early in the next Session, again bring it forward; and, if no person of greater experience undertook the task, he should consider it his [duty to bring in a bill to reform the abuses of the present municipal government of the burghs of his country,—Petition to be printed.