§ MR. BIGGAR
asked the Lord Advocate, Did Lord Macdonald, in Syke, take 1246 away the pasture land from the tenants some years ago, without reducing their rents, and is the present struggle for restoration or reduction of rent; and, did he, or the Home Secretary, order Captain M'Caul to send the police to Skye, without consulting the Glasgow magistrates; and, if so, did the order instruct Mr. M'Caul to refuse all information to his superiors, the Lord Provost, Magistrates, Members of the Corporation, and Citizens of Glasgow? The hon. Member said he also wished to know whether the police who went on this expedition were armed with revolvers; and whether civil officers were entitled to be armed when going upon such expeditions?
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
I have made inquiry with the view of enabling me to answer this Question; and the information I have received is, that till about 70 years ago the piece of hill pasture in question was occupied by the tenants of several small townships in the neighbourhood. At that time it was taken from them, and their rents were reduced from£280 in the aggregate to£200, at which latter figure they have stood since then. After the pasture ground was resumed, it was used as a market stance, and as a place for impounding strayed cattle. As it was un-inclosed, the cattle and sheep of various persons were grazed upon it by tolerance, but not under lease or any other agreement. It was let for the first time about 17 years ago, and the animals belonging to the tenants in the neighbourhood were then excluded from it. No alteration was made upon their rents, which had continued to be paid down to the last few months without complaint. In answer to the second part of the Question, I have to say that neither the Home Secretary nor I gave any order, or had any communication with Captain M'Caul or the Glasgow police authorities on the subject of sending policemen. The application to the Glasgow authorities was made by the Sheriff, under the 90th section of the Police Act of 1866. The application was not, in the first instance, made to Captain M'Caul, but to the Lord Provost; and, the Lord Provost having assented, the Sheriff addressed a requisition to the Chief Constable, under which the constables were sent. I believe it is the case that the Sheriff did express the opinion that it would be desirable 1247 that the despatch should be made with as little publicity as possible, that being, in his judgment, essential for the proper execution of the duty, and in that opinion I entirely concur.