HC Deb 12 June 1882 vol 270 cc806-7

asked the Lord Advocate, Whether his attention has been called to two cases of eviction on the estate of Mr. Dugald Stuart, of Lochcarron, in the county of Ross, wherein it is stated that Farquhar Maclean, aged eighty, and John Mackenzie, aged fifty-seven, crofters, have, though not owing any arrears, been evicted, the alleged grounds being that their sons, over whom parental authority has ceased, had, in vindication of character, recovered pecuniary damages for slander from the ground officer on the Lochcarron Estate; whether proceedings thus originating were legal; and, if so, will he take steps to amend the Law; whether he is aware that the public prosecutor for the county acted as agent in the evictions which have ended in public disturbance; and, whether he will issue a caution to procurators fiscal as to conducting civil processes which may end in criminal proceedings?


Sir, I have made inquiry into the circumstances of these cases, and I have ascertained that it is the fact that Mr. Dugald Stuart obtained unopposed decrees of removing against the two crofters named, who are both advanced in years, and are not in arrear with their rent. There had been a dispute between Mr. Dugald Stuart, or his ground officer, and two sons of the crofters named, in regard to the execution of some building work, in the course of which the ground officer used language which the Sheriff Substitute held to be actionable, and in respect of which he awarded £5 of damages to each of the sons. Mr. Stuart then instituted actions of removing against the crofters, with whom their sons were living in family. No attempt was made to remove Maclean, as he was unwell, but the decree was executed against Mackenzie. I understand, however, that a settlement has been, or is in course of being, arrived at between Mr. Stuart and the crofters. I see no reason to doubt that the proceedings were legal, the tenancies having been yearly, and they do not suggest any defect in the law which appears to me to require amendment. In answer to the third and fourth heads of the Question, I have to say that the Procurator Fiscal of the county was employed as a solicitor to obtain the decrees of removing in the Sheriff Court at Dingwall. There was no reason to expect that the execution of the decrees would result in disturbance; and the Procurator Fiscal, who is an able and judicious official, has never, to my knowledge, done anything calling for a caution of the kind indicated in the Question.