HC Deb 08 July 1908 vol 191 cc1661-2

I beg to ask the Secretary for Scotland in view of the fact that the arrears of judicial rents due from crofters in the Island of Lewis are attributable to their having to bear the burden of 1,500 cotters and squatters located on their lands, and that the Scottish Office in February, 1904, expressed the opinion that the cottar difficulty might be met by a scheme of voluntary migration to the mainland, will he state whether there is any probability of some such scheme being promulgated during the present session of Parliament.


My hon. friend misapprehends somewhat the position of this matter. In 1904 the Secretary for Scotland, so far as I can ascertain, did not, as my hon. friend has repeatedly alleged in Questions upon the Paper of this House, indicate that the only way of dealing with the congestion of population in the Lewis was by a scheme of voluntary migration; what he wrote was: "The Congested Districts Board will endeavour effectually to deal with any applications they may receive for the voluntary migration from the Lewis of cottars and others now unable to find a decent livelihood in their present position." My hon. friend sent me a list of the names of 121 such persons lately lodged with the Landward Committee. Before the Board could take any action further information was necessary as to the skill and experience of applicants, and also as to their ability to rent stock and cultivate holdings. On 17th March the Landward Committee of the Parish Council of Stornaway was asked by the Congested Districts Board to furnish this information, and I understand that they are now endeavouring to obtain it. No further steps can be taken until it is forthcoming. I must remind my hon. friend that owing to its great difficulties no scheme of this kind has yet been found practicable. The Congested Districts Board have no land of their own upon which such migrants, even if qualified in all respects, can be settled; and they have not succeeded in obtaining any openings of this kind for such migrants upon the lands of other proprietors. Under these circumstances my hon. friend must judge for himself whether there is any probability of any such scheme being promulgated during the present session of Parliament.