HC Deb 13 June 1939 vol 348 cc1075-6
10. Mr. Kirkwood

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that in 1892 the Deer Forest Commission reported that nearly 2,000,000 acres then devoted to sport in Scotland were suitable for crofters' holdings; and whether, as rearing human beings in the Highlands of Scotland is of more importance to the British Empire than raising deer, he is prepared to do something outstanding for the Highlands and Islands in keeping with the conscription of the youth of our country?

Mr. Colville

In their report of 1895 the Royal Commission, to which the hon. Member refers, scheduled areas totalling 1,783,000 acres in the crofting counties as suitable partly for small holdings and partly for moderately sized farms. The areas in question included large grazing farms, grouse moors and deer forests. Since the date of the report a considerable proportion of this land has been utilised for the settlement of small holders. It should however be borne in mind that there are several factors, including quality of land as well as the general change in standards of living, which limit the possibilities of land settlement in deer forests. With regard to the general question of improving economic conditions in the Highlands and Islands, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I have just given to his previous question.

Colonel Clarke

Is the Secretary of State aware that the inter-departmental committee that was set up after the last War reported that about one-third of the area of the deer forests is no good for agriculture or forestry, that it is only fit for deer and nothing else, and has no other rate able value at all?

Mr. Kirkwood

Before the right hon. Gentleman replies to that question, is he not aware that the Highlands of Scotland, before the clearances, maintained a hardy and intelligent race and that the Island of Skye during the Napoleonic wars sent 20,000 men to the British Army?

51. Mr. Kirkwood

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that over one-sixth of the total area of Scotland is now returned as deer forest; that more than 1,000,000 acres have been withdrawn from cultivation for this purpose since 1920; and whether he will introduce legislation imposing a tax on the value of this land so as to bring it back into cultivation with the minimum of delay?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir John Simon)

I am aware of the fact stated in the first part of the question, but I find that the hon. Member is not correct in his statement in the second part of the question, as the total area returned as deer forest in 1938 was some 80,000 acres less than in 1920. I am not prepared to adopt the proposal he suggests.

Viscountess Astor

Could my right hon. Friend suggest that we would give to the hon. Member who asked the question a farm on a deer forest if he promised to make his living out of it?

Mr. Davidson

Who is "we '?

Viscountess Astor


Mr. Kirkwood

I will accept the Noble Lady's offer, but I am not asking a farm for myself. I want the Highlands of Scotland to be opened up, so that with all our modern means we may be able to have tens of thousands of people living healthy, happy lives in the land of their forefathers.