HC Deb 29 January 1847 vol 89 cc608-9

wished to ask what were the intentions of the Government with regard to the increasing destitution in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, observing that the Drainage Act was inoperative in Zetland, where the distress was very great.


said, that as the question put by the hon. Member was almost the same as that of which notice had been given by the hon. Member for Lymington, he would take that opportunity of answering both. The Government had it not in contemplation to establish any general system of relief in the Islands and Western Highlands of Scotland, in addition to those measures which had been already proposed with the view of mitigating the distress which prevailed in that portion of the empire. The means of which the Government had availed themselves in order to mitigate that distress, had been, in the first place, advances made under the Drainage Act of last Session, which had come in aid of that distress most opportunely and extensively, and had effected the most beneficial results, satisfying, as it did, the proprietors of the probable increased value of their land, and affording very extensive relief to a large portion of distressed labourers. In addision to this, the Government had established depôts for the sale of food; these depôts being two frigates, one of which was stationed at Tobermory, and the other at Skye; in addition to which there were Government steamers, and commissariat officers, who were directed to make inquiries, and give such assistance as was necessary. He believed that these measures had been very available in supplying the people of those districts with food, who otherwise would have been in want of the necesssries of life. Besides this, parties who applied to the Loan Commissioners might obtain loans of money, to be expended on public works, on giving security for its repayment. A loan of that kind had actually been made. In addition to this, grants had been made in a few instances to meet local subscriptions, and to relieve distress where the Scotch poor law had been found to be inefficient. He hoped that by those means the severity of the calamity in Scotland might not only be mitigated, but that by the exertions of the landed proprietors, who showed every disposition to meet the misfortune, Scotland would be brought safely through the present crisis.


observed, that one question which he had wished to put had not been answered, and that was whether, as it was the intention of the Government to advance a sum of money for the purchase of seed for corn and potatoes in Ireland, they were willing to have equal justice done to Scotland. He did not say that seed was wanted in the Highlands; but if it should be required there, probably there would be no objection, on the part of the Government, to afford them the same assistance as was to be given to Ireland.


said, that no such application had been made at present; but that, if made, it would certainly be taken into consideration by the Government.