HC Deb 15 August 1887 vol 319 cc474-5

asked the Lord Advocate, Whether it is the case that in 1748, when the Native Government of the Norse State of Orkney and Shetland was abolished, the Governor of the Islands was allowed to retain, as his private estate and revenue, all the lands, taxes, and other revenues of that abolished Government, without diminution; whether, at the same time, the Islands, being reduced to a Scottish county, were in addition to their Native taxes, assessed with the local and Imperial taxation of a Scottish county, being thereby subjected to a double taxation; and, whether the Islands are still so deprived of their Government lands, taxes, and other public revenues, and still subjected to a double taxation?

THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)

The Danish kingly rights in Orkney and Shetland were impignorated in 1471 by the King of Denmark in security of 50,000 florins, the dowry of his daughter, and were never redeemed. They were, in 1487, annexed to the Crown. After various grants from re-annexation to and devolutions from the Crown, Orkney and Shetland were, in 1707, finally devolved, with consent of the Scots Parliament, from the Crown, in favour of the then Earl of Morton, and were subsequently acquired by the ancestors of the present Earl of Zetland. The Crown rights consisted of (1) Scat duties out of lands possessed by uddalers; (2) the duties and mails, or rents, from Crown lands possessed by tenants, which, by Charters and otherwise, became rights of property under the burden of the Scat and a grassum; and (3) teind duties where the Crown was accountable to the Church for the teinds. The lands, when an- nexed to the Scottish Crown, were made liable to land tax and other taxes, in addition to the old Norse duties, and that notwithstanding the Scots Act of 1567, sec. 48, that Orkney and Shetland were not to be subject to the common laws of the Realm; and this, among the descendants of the old uddalers and tenants holding under Charter, has always been considered a grievance. Many of them have acquired, by purchase Lord Zetland's rights; and where property has been sold these duties have always been taken into consideration. There never was a Governor of the Islands. The various disponees of the Crown exercised heritable jurisdiction, civil and criminal, as elsewhere in Scotland, until the passing in 1747 of the Act abolishing heritable jurisdiction.