HC Deb 09 July 1903 vol 125 cc266-8

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £9,985, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1904, for the salaries and expenses of the office of His Majesty's Secretary for Scotland and subordinate office, expenses under The Inebriate Acts, 1879 to 1900, and expenses under The Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1899, including a Grant in aid of the Congested Districts (Scotland) Fund."

*MR. DEWAR (Inverness-shire)

said he wished to protest against the Scotch Estimates being taken at ten minutes to twelve. On the whole Scotland was a well-governed country, but they had some grievances, and the grievance he wished to ventilate was the most pressing of them all—that of the condition of the Highland crofters and cottars. He wished to mention two points. Last year they asked the Lord Advocate to give the Committee an account of certain lands bought by the Congested Districts Board. The Lord Advocate had been good enough to give it; and it would be found in an Appendix to the Report. He wished to direct the attention of the Committee to the fact that the Board, although it had been in existence for five years, had only up to the present spent two-and-a-half years' income. The Board had purchased land in Barra for a sum of £7,900, and they charged the crofters for that land £5,500, which might be taken as a fair price. That meant that the Board gave a bonus of 43 per cent., or, if the loss on the sheep stock, which was, after all, a landlord's obligation, was taken into account, a bonus of 51.6 per cent. more than the value of the land. He was in favour of proprietors in Scotland getting full and generous value for their land. He was in favour of Scotch landlords being no worse treated than Irish landlords, but the figures he had quoted showed how hopeless it was to expect the Congested Districts Board for Scotland to do any good in settling the people on the land by the methods which they adopted. He was strongly of opinion that the bonus which had been paid for the land went to the agricultural tenants; and, if that were so, it showed gross mismanagement. The agitation for land for this particular purpose had been going on for years; and although the Congested Districts Board knew of the agitation they allowed the leases of this land to be renewed. The other point to which he wished to draw attention was the difference between the management of the Congested Districts Board of Scotland and the Congested Districts Board of Ireland. He had lately visited the scene of the operations of the Irish Board, and the comparison with the work of the Scottish Board was to a Scotchman most humiliating. In the Report of the Scottish Board he could find not a single reference to fish or fishing. The sea bordering his constituency swarmed with fish, yet the Scottish Board did nothing to improve the fishing industry, whereas the Irish Board had developed the industry until it had yielded something like £26,700, of which £17,000 went to the fishermen, £6,000 went to repay the cost of the boats, and £2,000 was spent in teaching the fishermen how to catch the fish and develop the industry. The Irish Board employed a Scotchman who taught the Irish fishermen how to fish, and that Board also chartered a steamer to take fish caught off the North Coast of Ireland to Glasgow. On the other hand, the Scottish Board did nothing whatever to develop the industry in Scotland.

And, it being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee also to report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

Adjourned at three minutes after Twelve o'clock.