§ MR. MORTON (Sutherland)
I beg to ask the Secretary for Scotland whether he is aware that within the last twelve months three homesteads have been broken up near Kinbrace, Sutherland, comprising over 1,000 acres, the houses on two of them blown up by dynamite; and the farms, nearly one-third of which was arable land, turned into a deer forest; and whether the Government intend to take steps to prevent such clearances in future.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
The information the hon. Member has received appears to be incorrect. I am informed the facts are 1632 as follows: Lochside Farm, to which the Question presumably refers, extends to an area of 4,890 acres or thereby, only 320 of which are arable, or at one time meant to be arable. These 320 acres formed part of what is known as the late Duke of Sutherland's"Kinbrace Reclamations," and the cost of reclaiming that portion alone was about £20,000. It was intended to be divided into three farms with hill pasture common to the three, and concrete houses and offices were erected. But tenants for the three holdings could not be got, and the land was then let as one holding. The arable proved ruinous to the tenant who took it. The nature of the land, situation, and climate were unsuitable to profitable cultivation. The arable land was all put down to grass. In 1886 another attempt was made to let the place in three holdings, but tenants were not forthcoming. The farm was then let on lease for nineteen years as a small sheep farm. The tenant to whom it was let retained it till Whitsunday, 1897, when he was allowed to assign the lease to a tenant occupying two other farms on the estate. The lease expired at Whitsunday, 1905, and it was not considered desirable to re let it to the same tenant, and it was let on long lease to the gentleman who, for a number of years, occupied the shooting over that and adjoining farms. Only one of the houses which had been erected has been occupied for many years and that by a shepherd, the two others being wrecks, their construction proving unsuitable for the district. They were unfit for habitation and were taken down. The shepherd remained in the other house till he obtained another situation. This particular case seems to have been an unsuccessful effort to reclaim land for cultivation, and not a clearance. In regard to legislation, I am unable to make any further statement until the Government Bill to amend the Crofters' Act has been introduced.
§ [No Answer was returned.]