§ *(6.10.) MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)
I desire to call attention to the constant encroachment on and the frequent loss of public Rights of Way in Scotland and the insufficiency of the existing Law for the protection and vindication of these rights, and to move—That it is expedient that the duty of maintaining and protecting Rights of Way in Scotland should he intrusted to the County Councils, and that the law should be amended so as to secure a cheaper and more expeditious method of settling cases relating to Rights of Way than the procedure now in use provides.In bringing this Motion forward I will endeavour, for more reasons than one, to be very brief. I am, I think, required to prove two things—first, that the grievance is real and substantial; and, secondly, to show that the grievance is at least in some degree capable of a remedy by the action of the Legislature. I do not think I need detain the House by expatiating upon the value to the country of keeping up footpath Rights of Way and drove roads. And I need not, I think, go into detail as to the character of the legislation that should be passed, believing that such a proposal as I am making is of the nature of a suggestion for legislation on the part of a responsible Government, and that it is not required of me to sketch out a skeleton of a Bill. Last year, in the discussion of 1149 the Scottish Local Government Bill, we had an opportunity of dealing with this question, and there were various Amendments suggested which would have carried out to a very large degree the objects I have in view. It is more or less with the view of suggesting legislation on similar lines that I now bring forward this Motion. On the Scotch Local Government Bill the Solicitor General for Scotland opposed an Amendment which I brought forward in reference to rights of way, on the ground that there was no real grievance, and that the establishment of a right of way was a popular action which could be raised by anyone. First of all, as to the argument that there is no real grievance. No one who knows Scotland can have any doubts on the subject. In the Lowlands of Scotland we are not so happily situated as you in England, where in some countries have footpaths almost through every field. It was a saying of Lord Cockburn that we ought to have a pathway through every field, in order to enjoy the beauties of our country. In Scotland that is long past praying for, I am afraid. In the Lowlands the footpaths are quickly passing away from us, and in the Highlands also the people are in danger of losing, from various causes, their footways and paths. It was pointed out last year that the Society in Edinburgh, which has been very active in connection with this question, had reported no less than 40 cases in a single year of infringement of right of way in Scotland. I was looking through, the Minute Books of this Society the other day, and, taking a single meeting of Directors at haphazard, I found, as a matter of ordinary business, it had before it seven or eight cases of attempts to shut up rights of way. I found on this occasion that besides what the Society was then mainly occupied with, namely, the case of the Glen Doll road, and matters of immediate interest to Edinburgh, it was dealing with the intended shutting up of a right of way in the Trossachs with another case in Sutherlandshire, one at Ardgour, one near Dunfermline, one in Perthshire, one near Stirling, and one case of a footpath leading to the falls of the Glomach, the highest waterfall in the United Kingdom, and one of the most remarkable sights in the country. This 1150 waterfall a few years ago was open to all tourists, travellers, and the public generally. Well, these are some of the cases which have come before that Society—a Society which does not pretend to extend its researches and work over the whole of Scotland. I have here a copy of a map showing the rights of way that have been closed during the last half-century in a single parish in the Lowlands. There have been many church roads and public footpaths closed there. As hon. Members may have noticed recently in the Scotch newspapers, the matter has been taken up by the Teviotdale Farmers' Club, although farmers themselves are often as inimical to rights of way as proprietors. This Club was appealed to by the Galashiels Farmers' Club, and at one of their meetings the chairman insisted on the importance of doing what they could to prevent the blocking up of footpaths, and of doing all in their power to get their fellow-farmers to assist them in the matter. He said that these roads could not be closed if farmers only used them. I may further illustrate the early recurrence and the reality of the grievance by a correspondence that appeared in yesterday's Scotsman. That correspondence has reference to two rights of way; one in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh and the other near Crieff. The latter case created considerable sensation, and last Sunday a number of the inhabitants went up the road and demolished the obstruction, afterwards proceeding to the parish church of Monzie, where at the conclusion of his service the minister, the Rev. James Taylor, referred to the unusual attendance, and, while expressing himself pleased to see them, hoped they would keep within the bounds of the law. I think that incident in itself shows how strong the feeling is in localities where there is an interference with such valuable rights as are the rights of way in Scotland. The causes of shutting up rights of way are undoubtedly of a varied character. Some of them are remediable by the action of this House, and some are undoubtedly altogether outside the action of this House. No doubt in the Lowlands a vast number of rights of way which existed 30 or 40 years ago, have been extinguished in consequence of 1151 large farming operations, and I am afraid no attempt could now be made with any chance of success to re-open them. No doubt, owing to the great extension of railways, cattle are now largely transported by railway instead of by road; but the old drove roads still continue to be the means of communication between one large district and another. In respect of the interference by the Railway Companies with footpaths and old drove roads there is a very special grievance, and one which is quite capable of being set right by legislation. It is, I think, within the knowledge of the House that a Railway Company which wishes to make a railroad in Scotland is not obliged to give any formal intimation to any public authority respecting its interference with footpaths, drove-roads, or any roads that are not under the jurisdiction of the Road Trustees. Consequently, a Railway Company may come forward and interfere with footpaths or drove roads, and alter them or close them, and there is no public authority whose leave it has to ask, or who is bound to see that it carries out its promises. There is one well-known instance to which I will call the attention of the House. One of the most beautiful pathways near Aberdour, on the Firth of Forth, was attempted to be closed by a landowner many years ago, and it was only through the efforts of an Edinburgh Society, and by the expenditure of several thousand pounds, that the public rights were vindicated. What has since happened? The North British Railway Company got power to make a line of railway from the Forth Bridge to Aberdour and Burntisland. They had to ask no Local Authority for the power of interfering with the footpath, and it was no one's duty to examine the plans or character of the interference. They have taken possession of the footpath and have cut down the trees, so that now that most beautiful footpath is irremediably destroyed. It is quite possible for Parliament to provide in the future for the prevention of such destruction as this. There is, undoubtedly, in the Highlands a very large increase in the strict preservation of game, and larger and larger tracts of country are being turned into deer forests. Not only 1152 is this done by the proprietors, but it is very often done also by the tenants. I am certain that the common opinion of Scotland is shared by hon. Members of this House, and that there is a strong feeling that the length to which this practice has been carried in Scotland in recent years is an abuse of all honest and fair sport, and is likely to bring very serious consequences indeed upon those who have, during recent times, indulged in it. In those parts of Scotland the population is, undoubtedly, very sparse; and therefore, no doubt, public attention is not so speedily drawn to any encroachment on rights of way as would be the ease in a populous part of the country. More than that, the estates in the Highlands are of vast extent; and in some cases the inhabitants of large districts, are all the tenants of a single landlord. It is hardly to be expected that, under such circumstances, the tenants are likely to take action for the defence of public rights against a man who, as it were, holds them body and soul in the hollow of his hand. The right of action alluded to by the Solicitor General for Scotland (Mr. Stormonth Darling) last year as a right held by everybody, is, in such a case, a vain privilege, which they are utterly unable to exercise. Again, it is very frequently the case that when a proprietor in the Highlands wishes to shut up a right of way, he does so only as against the public, and not as against his own tenants; and we then have, as we have so often in the Highlands, the rules of an estate substituted for the law of the land. This is, undoubtedly, a very serious evil, and one which we should do our best in every way to check. I will now give the House a single instance of how exceedingly difficult—in fact, how impossible—it is for the poor inhabitants of a Highland parish to challenge an infringement of a right of way, however strong their case may be. I refer to the well-known Glendoll case. Glendoll is a valley in Forfarshire, and the Glendoll road leads from the valley to the upper waters of Deeside. It was much used in former times as a drove; road, for the conveyance of cattle and sheep from Deeside down to the markets of Forfarshire. It is, undoubtedly, less used now, 1153 if used at all, for the conveyance of cattle; but it is the only means of communication for foot-passengers between the upper waters of Deeside and the lower country. A new proprietor bought the estate five or six years ago and proceeded to shut up the road. This was in 1885. The case was brought under the notice of the Rights of Way Society in Edinburgh. They devoted much deliberation to it, and it was not till the summer of 1886 that they issued a summons against the proprietor of Glendoll for shutting up the road. On the 20th of July in that year Lord Kinnear, the Lord Ordinary, ordered the case to be tried by a jury at Edinburgh. The proprietor appealed against that judgment, on the ground that it ought to be tried before the Judge himself. The Second Division of Court of Session reversed Lord Kinnear's decision, and ordered the trial to be held before his lordship without a jury. The Lord Ordinary gave judgment in favour of tin public, and his decision was affirmed by the Inner House, and finally by the House of Lords; but the case was protracted for more than two years, while the costs incurred in the litigation amounted to £4,500. The taxed costs of the Rights of Way Society were nearly £l,300, and, although they won in every Court, they had to pay £650 for extra costs out of their own pockets. It is therefore idle to say that any individual is at Liberty to enforce public rights of way unless he is also prepared to incur considerable pecuniary loss even in cases in which he is successful. Surely here we have not a satisfactory legal method of settling such cases. All the evidence had to be got in the locality itself; and surely, therefore, the case is one which ought to have been tried in the locality itself. Again, if you desire to obtain a decision on matters of fact you generally submit them to a jury. Then I say that, inasmuch as what is everybody's business is nobody's business, in a claim like that set up by the proprietor of Glendoll to a right of way which had been well-known for generations, it ought to be the duty of a public authority—some one like the Procurator Fiscal, for instance—to take care that such grievous wrongs are not inflicted on the public as 1154 would have been inflicted if he had succeeded in stopping this right of way. We want to do more than simplify and cheapen the procedure in cases that arise. We want to secure that Glendoll cases shall not arise in the future. With this object in view, what we desire to obtain is that which I brought before the House last Session on the Local Government Bill, namely, that the responsibility of looking after footpaths and rights of ways, especially in the Highlands, inasmuch as they personally concern the welfare of the inhabitants, should be put upon those whom they elect as their representatives in the County Council. We have already transferred to the County Council all the former duties of Road Trustees, and why should we not transfer to them the duty of looking after rights of way? I would respectfully urge the Members of this House to consider whether there are any valid objections to a proposal like this. Last year we had the support of four-sixths of the Scottish Members. Every Scottish Liberal Unionist Member who was present, and several Scottish Conservative Members, voted for my Amendment on the Local Government Bill. If there was at that time any fear on the part of Members opposite in entrusting these duties to the County Councils they must surely have been re-assured by the elections which have shown that the men who have hitherto managed county affairs in Scotland have retained their full share in county management. There is no reason to apprehend for a moment that any revolutionary work can be undertaken by the County Councils if these powers are conferred on them; and it is undoubtedly the case that we shall not be able to settle this question satisfactorily until we put the duty upon the County Council altogether. We want to secure that, instead of its being easy for a proprietor to shut up a right of way, it shall be difficult to do so and easy to defend the rights of the public in the matter. I beg to move the Motion of which I have given notice.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is expedient that the duty of maintaining and protecting rights of way in Scotland should be intrusted to the County Councils,
and that the law should be amended so as to secure a cheaper and more expeditious method of settling cases relating to rights of way than the procedure now in use provides."—(Mr. Buchanan.)
§ *(6.40.) MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen)
I shall endeavour, in the few minutes which are all I mean to occupy, to state to the House, first, what I believe to be the nature of the wrong and grievance under which we in Scotland have so long suffered, and then, the character of the remedy we propose. Hon. Members know that this question of rights of way is serious in England, but it is far more serious in Scotland. My hon. Friend very properly pointed out that there were always fewer rights of way in Scotland than in England, and that the circumstances of Scotland have been less favourable in Scotland for the retention of the rights which exist. There has been greater depopulation going on, especially in the hilly districts, in Scotland than in England, and therefore there is a much smaller number of people interested in rights of way, and the difficulty both of preserving rights of way by frequent user and that of obtaining evidence in regard to them is far greater in Scotland than in England. My hon. Friend has dwelt upon the tendency of Scotch sporting proprietors to endeavour to close roads. I desire to call attention to another difficulty in the matter, and that is to be found in the character of Scotch legal proceedings. In England these cases have always gone before a jury who very laudably tempered the extreme rigidity of the law with consideration for the public interest Within the last 10 or 12 years the Court of Session has begun to refuse to allow cases of this kind to go before juries, and has insisted upon their being tried before Judges. That has had two unfortunate effects. In the first place, it has led to a more strict and exact construction of everything in favour of the proprietor against the public than has taken place in England. Anyone who is familiar with the trial of these cases in both countries will see that the attitude of the 1156 English juries is more liberal and more indulgent to the rights and claims of the public than has generally been the action of the Judges in Scotland; and, in the second place, there is this very serious difference, that trial before a jury in Scotland means a complete and final determination of the case; but trial before a Judge means a series of appeals which run on until the unhappy litigant is landed in the House of Lords. Therefore, the fact that these cases in Scotland are tried before Judges and not before juries has the effect of making the assertion of public right a far more difficult and costly process than it is in England. I am also bound to say that the Scotch, proprietors have shown less regard to public rights, feeling themselves less amenable to public opinion, than the English landowners. It may be asked what are the remedies we propose? We proposed to create a Local Authority, whose duty it should be to protect the rights of the public. My hon. Friend suggests the County Council, but we are quite prepared to consider any other authority. It is all very well for the Lord Advocate to say, as he said last year, that anyone can bring an action. It is quite true that anyone can bring an action to enforce a right of way if he is prepared to spend a sum of money which may run from £500 to £600 or upwards if he succeeds, and which may mean several thousand pounds if he fails. In the case of Glen Doll, a Society with very limited funds, took up the matter, and although they succeeded they were obliged to pay £650 of extra judicial expenses in addition to expenses they recovered from the defendant. We, therefore, want to have power given to the Local Authority and we also want a cheaper process, and that cheaper process is by sending the cases before a jury. At the same time, it is not the function of my hon. Friend or myself to suggest remedies for evils that exist; it is the function of the Government to do that if they admit the grievance. My hon. Friend brought in a Bill last year, and I brought one in the year before last, but the Government did not favour either of those Bills; in fact, neither measure overcame up for discussion in the House. We now ask the Government if they do not deny, as they cannot venture to deny, that these rights of way are being 1157 lost, and that people suffer by the loss themselves to take up the matter. If the Government are dissatisfied with the remedies we suggest, let them suggest other remedies of their own. The case is urgent. The difficulty of preserving evidence becomes greater every year, as the depopulation of hilly districts becomes greater every year. These rights have become of less value to one class of people, namely, the cattle drovers, because of the great railway systems. But they are rights which have become far more valuable to the nation than they were formerly. Scotland is now a great recreation ground for the people of South as well as of North Britain. While hon. Members go there in the autumn for their sport, very large numbers of their less wealthy fellow-subjects go there for recreation and the enjoyment of nature and solitude. I ask the House to preserve for the people the means and opportunities of enjoying nature and solitude in this beautiful mountainous country of ours, and to secure to them a heritage which has become in this busy and unquiet age more than ever precious.
§ *(6.52.) MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
I can understand hon. Gentlemen who have a grievance as to right of way wishing to remedy it, but, at the same time, in most parts of Scotland the grievance is almost nil. In the Lowland counties, of which I more particularly speak, there is very little grievance in this matter. I cannot help thinking that the statement as to the law which my hon. friend (Mr. Bryce) made is not quite correct. He said it is customary for cases of right of way in England to go before juries, while in Scotland they go before Judges. On the contrary, it is the rule in Scotland that such questions go before juries. It is only cases in which there are exceptional circumstances which go before Judges.
§ * MR. MARK STEWART
I cannot help thinking it would be most unwise 1158 to overburden the new County Councils with work. Certainly it would be especially unwise to saddle them with vexatious questions of this kind. The best remedy, after all, is publicity. There are proprietors and proprietors, and I maintain the majority of the proprietors would be far more willing to give way in matters of this kind than to incur costs in a Law Court.
§ (6.55.) MR. A. ELLIOT (Roxburghshire)
I should like very much to hear, before the debate is much further advanced, whether or not the Government see their way to propose legislation in the direction wished for. I do not deny there may be something in what my hon. Friend (Mr. Mark Stewart) has just said, namely, that when you are starting a new system it is well not to overburden it. I should not be inclined to press the appeal on the Government if the Lord Advocate will indicate that they will favourably entertain the matter on some future occasion with a, view to retaining the rights of way to the Scottish people. Having said this, I must add that no one feels more strongly than I do the desirability of retaining these valuable rights to the country. The country has very much changed its character, and villages are becoming great towns; and in many ways there is much greater necessity than formerly for preserving rights which, in old days, very much preserved themselves. These rights are becoming endangered in many ways in many parts of the country. There is no proposal to take rights away from anybody. There is no desire to take from any landlord or tenant-farmer, or anyone else, any right he at present enjoys. The intention of my hon. Friend (Mr. Buchanan) is to protect rights of the public where they exist; and I should like to remind the Lord Advocate that during the Election of 1886, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking at Edinburgh, said he considered guardianship of public rights was essentially one of those matters which might very well be entrusted to County Councils. At all events, we have on our side the good wishes of an important Mem- 1159 ber of the present Government, and, therefore, I am fondly hoping we shall have some indication from the Lord Advocate that at no distant time the Government will deal with the subject. If we receive such an indication, I personally would not be inclined to press the Motion to a decision.
§ *(6.58) MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries)
I hope the Lord Advocate will see his way to agree to this Resolution, and in any case I trust hon. Gentlemen who represent English constituencies will observe that in this case most of the Scotch Members are at one. It is not unreasonable in us to invoke the assistance of English Members under such circumstances. Let me remind hon. Gentlemen that this is a question upon which Scotchmen and residents in Scotland must of necessity know more than others. It has not been disputed that a grievance does exist. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcudbright (Mr. Mark Stewart) says he does not know of any grievance in his own part of the country; but, in a part of the country not many miles removed from the hon. Gentleman's constituency, there exists a very great grievance. In many parts of the Lowlands, by reason of changes in farming, there have been grave infringements of public rights. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Mark Stewart), who spoke against the Motion, has given us as one reason why this remedy should not be applied that the County Councils are overburdened with work and should not have this additional labour cast upon them. Why, Sir, the County Councils in Scotland have to deal with a two penny or three penny rate only. I am far from denying that County Councils are an excellent institution, for which the Conservative Party very properly claim full credit; but they have as yet little work to do, and it is our hope that before long not only this duty, but other duties of an important character will be laid upon their shoulders. Another reason put forward is that there is no general desire on the part of proprietors to infringe these public rights, and the hon. Member thinks that no remedy for the evil that does exist should be provided until it is shown that the 1160 necessity exists all over the country, that all proprietors have this desire. But that is not my view, liven if we have not a grievance in our own district, we ought to recollect that it undoubtedly exists in other parts of Scotland, and we should co-operate with our friends who represent northern constituencies. But I say the grievance does exist in the South also, and I sincerely hope we shall be gratified by learning from the Lord Advocate that the Government intend to apply some remedy or to give us facilities for bringing in remedial legislation.
§ (7.3.) MR. FINLAY (Inverness, & c.)
It should be borne in mind that though the interests of the public in rights of way are, as a whole, very great, the interest of each individual is very small relatively to that of the proprietor who desires to abolish the right of way, and the result is that proprietors occupy a position of great advantage owing to the disinclination of any individual to undertake the expensive task of asserting the right of way and defending it in the Law Courts. Such rights of way are generally of most importance to the poor, who are just the persons who can least afford to do battle for such rights. Under the circumstances, I think that some public authority ought to be entrusted with the duty of defending these rights of way; and I hope that if the Government cannot accept the Motion, they will at least express their willingness to consider the subject with a view to devising some machinery by which the matter can be satisfactorily dealt with in the public interest.
§ *(7.5) MR. C. S. PARKER (Perth)
The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries has made an appeal to a class of Members usually small in number—I mean English Members—who care to hear what Scotch Members have to say on a Scotch question before voting against them. The great majority of Scottish Members are on one side, but unfortunately we cannot appeal to the majority of English Members, who will come in 1161 when the Division is called and knowing nothing of the merits of the question will vote as the Government tells them. I think it is more to the point to appeal personally to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate, who represents the Government just now and to throw upon him the responsibility of repeating that which happened last Session. Is Scotland again to be shown that although her members in a majority of five or six to one support a moderate proposal urged with remarkable absence of anything like sensational language or exaggeration, and although that majority includes Conservatives and those Liberal Members who usually vote with them, yet nevertheless, because the Government have come to a different conclusion, the general opinion of Scotch Members must be overruled? Surely it is a serious scandal that we should have this exhibition of the relations between the Parliament of the United Kingdom and Scotch Members charged with attention to Scottish affairs. I am not one of those who have encouraged the idea of a Scottish Parliament—on the contrary, I have voted twice against it—but I must say that if there is anything calculated to bring about some radical change of (hat character it is to find all the moderately reasoned arguments of Scotch Members, in favour of a moderate proposal, overruled in the Division Lobby by Members from England, who have not heard the debate, merely on the authority of the Government. I hope that the Lord Advocate, if he cannot accept this Motion, will, at least, inform us what the Government propose in substitution to meet the widespread feeling in Scotland.
§ (7.10.) MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
The appeal just made to English Members relieves me from the diffidence I felt at intervening in a Scotch debate. But I may point out 1162 that English Members have an almost equal interest with Scottish Members in a settlement of this question. Scotland has already sent us very good precedents in reference to some matters which we have been glad to follow, and I hope in this matter Scotland may first obtain legislation which will afterwards be applied to England. I join in the appeal to her Majesty's Government to give a favourable consideration to this Motion. The objections that have been made to it so far have been very feeble. It is said that the grievance is not a serious one, and that, such as it is, there exists a remedy for it in the Courts of Law. But the answer to this is that in the great majority of cases in which rights of way are interfered with the persons chiefly interested are not the sort of people who can afford to contest the question in the Law Courts. It is the really poor class who are most injured by these abuses. These people ought to be protected by some Local Authority. Then it is said that the County Councils are new and ought not to be overburdened. But when the County Councils were established it was not because it was thought merely that they would discharge the old routine duties better than the magistrates, but because there were a number of public interests which might be advantageously entrusted to the new bodies. This is one of the matters which might well be placed in the hands of the County Councils, and I hope the Government will see their way to giving the Motion their favourable consideration.
§ (7.15.) THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. P. B. ROBERTSON,) Bute
I admit the moderation with which this Motion has been supported. I acknowledge the friendly tone in which the Government have been appealed to, but I desire to point out that the Motion does not merely assert that there is a case for some change in the law, or at least 1163 a case for inquiry, but declares the remedy which ought to he provided. This subject was discussed twice over when the Local Government Bill was passing through the House, and it is scarcely wise when the County Councils are still on their trial to impose on them new duties. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, in some of the statements he has made, has been misinformed. It is not true that these cases with regard to rights of way are ordinarily tried without juries. On the contrary, the ordinary course is for such cases to be tried by juries, and it is only in exceptional instances that this course is departed from. I mention this because I cannot help thinking that the House ought to be well assured of the soundness of its information before making certain requirements. It has not been shown that the invasion of rights of way in Scotland is of frequent occurrence. In many cases, when the facts are carefully considered, it turns out that though there was a primâ facie case of a right of way there is in reality no such right. It ought also to be borne in mind that the result of the present state of feeling on the subject has the effect of deterring proprietors from allowing privileges to the public for fear that these would after some time be claimed as of right. I know parts of the country where the hills are practically open to all the world, but where no legal right of way exists. In certain counties the landlords have thrown open the whole of their hills to the public. The question arises whether the public will be benefited if this state of matters is interfered with and an assertion of public rights is made. There is an observation I wish to make, and that is that I regard public rights of this character as rights of the utmost value to the community and as of a most sacred character. The spirit of Conservatism is not opposed to the assertion of 1164 such rights; on the contrary, it is of the essence of Conservatism that popular rights and privileges of this kind should be preserved and protected. For my own part, I should be against any system by which the access of the public to rights of way should be prohibited. The Motion, however, asks that the protection of public rights of way should devolve upon the County Councils. If such a duty were cast upon popular representative bodies like County Councils a great temptation would be offered them to neglect their more useful but less obtrusive work, and all sorts of litigation might arise. Last year the hon. Member for Aberdeen and his Colleagues introduced a Bill into the House dealing with this subject, but that Bill did not propose to entrust the duty of defending those rights to any elective body. It was proposed that the Sheriff or Sheriff depute of the county, on the application of two or three householders, if satisfied that there was a primâ facie case, should permit an action to be taken, the cost of which should be borne by the rates. The very fact that a proposal of that kind was made—a proposal diametrically opposite to the suggestion now put forward—confirms me in the conclusion at which I have arrived. I had expected that those who supported this Motion would have brought forward a very strong primâ facie case. But I must own—whether it is due to insufficiency of materials and facts, or because hon. Gentlemen do not think it worth while, I do not know—in my opinion, no hon. Member has brought such a case forward. I will now tell the House the view which Her Majesty's Government take of this subject. Although we cannot accede to the Motion, Her Majesty's Government are perfectly willing to take into their consideration any representations to the effect that to a substantial extent public rights of way are being infringed or are in danger of being lost, and they will see that every means that can 1165 be devised are taken for their preservation and protection. Further than that I cannot go, and Her Majesty's Government cannot agree to matters of this kind being placed in the hands of elective bodies like County Councils. I shall vote against the Motion, and I trust that, for the reasons I have stated, it will be rejected by the House.
§ (7.20.) The House divided:—Ayes110; Noes 97.—(Div. List, No.32.)
That it is expedient that the duty of maintaining and protecting Rights of Way in Scotland should he entrusted to the County Councils, and that the Law should he amended so as to secure a cheaper and more expeditious method of settling cases relating to Rights of Way than the procedure now in use provides.