HC Deb 13 March 1888 vol 323 cc1062-3

asked the Lord Advocate, Whether the attention of the Government has been directed to the excessive pressure of the education rates in the Western parishes of the Highlands and Islands, amounting in some cases to 5s. 4d. in the £ whether they are aware that the proportion of the total cost of education borne by these parishes is 40 per cent as compared with 22 per cent over Scotland as a whole; and, whether they are now prepared by legislation, or otherwise, to give such substantial relief as was reported to be necessary by the Royal Commission in 1883?

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

Her Majesty's Government are aware that the education rate presses severely in some Highland districts. As my hon. Friend does not specify the parishes, I am unable to say whether this percentage is correct or not; but in large districts it is believed to be as high as the figure he gives. This state of things is due, it is to be feared, to causes which might have been avoided. It must also be remembered that in these districts the school fees are, on an average, 10s. below that of the whole of Scotland. As regards relief, I may remind my hon. Friend that the Administration of 1884, after considering the Report of the Commission, by a Minute of the Education Department of April, 1885, conceded substantial benefits to these districts, but did not give effect to the other recommendations. Although that Minute has been most leniently administered, the defective enforcement of the Compulsory Clauses has, in some cases, deprived School Boards of the full benefit. Her Majesty's Government are engaged in considering this matter most carefully; but it must be obvious to my hon. Friend that there are great difficulties in the way of extending the principle of exceptional dealing with special localities, both as regards the interests of the general community and the effects upon the localities themselves.