§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
My Lords, in rising to address your Lordships' House I do so with considerable trepidation, but I am fortified by the knowledge that your Lordships show great indulgence to those speaking for the first time. The few remarks that I want to make concern the South-West of Scotland, Galloway, and in particular the county that I know best of all, the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright.
One must go back some 35 years to realise the great change which has come over the landscape. Up to that time, it was one of open heathery hill land and glens supporting a predominantly farming community. Then came two changes almost simultaneously: water conservation, in the form of the harnessing by the Galloway Water Power Company of the water flowing into Loch Ken and out into the Solway—one of the first major engineering feats for hydro-electric power in Scotland; and secondly, forestry. When these two attractions first came they were, quite understandably, not well received. The concrete barrages and power stations, and the pylons straddling the countryside, were looked upon as eyesores; and the demand for the transfer of even the poorer highlands to forestry was not yet understood.
I am not suggesting that this transformation in the landscape was peculiar to 1003 the South-West and to Galloway. The same sort of thing was going on in the Highlands and in other parts of Scotland. But I think it is interesting to note the extent of the afforestation in the Stewartry as compared with that in the counties of the Highlands. From figures published some three years ago by the Advisory Panel on the Highlands and Islands it was shown that out of an acreage of 574,000, which is the total acreage of the Stewartry, 100,000 acres were down to trees; that is to say, 16 per cent. of the total acreage. This compares with its nearest rival in the Highlands, the County of Argyll, which had 9.8 per cent. of its total acreage under trees. I know that agriculture has prospered through the advent of forestry, but I hope very much that in the South-West the pendulum will not swing too much in favour of this one industry, to the possible eclipse of the hill farmer. There is room, and need, for both these industries, provided that sufficient support is given to the farmer to carry on on land which is suitable for his use.
Nearly a fortnight ago in another place some rather disturbing figures were given concerning the high rate of unemployment in parts of the South-West, and also the serious drift from the land. I believe that the Scottish Economic Plan forecast that another 2,000-odd jobs will be lost to agriculture in the South-West within the next ten years. It is urgent that some industries should be brought into selected areas in the South-West in order to retain the population—but, I hope, without altering the character of the countryside. I suppose it is only human nature that when new industries or new activities are brought into rural areas there will be some Doubting Thomases. But one industry which I am sure will play an increasingly important role in the economy of the South-West is the tourist industry. Compared to the Highlands, Galloway is still undiscovered. Very little encouragement has been given to the tourist to come and visit this forgotten child whose only railway has been taken from it.
But, my Lords, Galloway has a great deal to offer. It has an ancient and romantic, if perhaps turbulent, history. It has many miles of unspoilt coastline, very varied in character. It has a large hinterland of lochs and rivers and forests, including the Glen Tool National Forest. 1004 It has a kind and temperate climate. Moreover, it is geographically placed closer to the urban districts to the South than most of the other parts of Scotland, and it has an international airport on its doorstep. All these factors may seem to be, not unimportant, though taken for granted by those who live there; but they add up to a considerable attraction for tourists. To cope with and control this industry, when it comes, as I am sure it must, it is essential that we should realise the intensity of the demand which the industry will make, and that we provide facilities, and plan them well in advance.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ LORD LOVAT
My Lords, I think that noble Lords on both sides of the House would wish to join with me in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair, on his maiden speech. He delivered it in the manner of an experienced and tried veteran in debate, and I hope that he will ornament your Lordship's House on many future occasions. I should like to congratulate and to thank the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, for introducing this debate. As he said himself, it covers such a vast range of subjects that it is difficult for any one person to touch on all of them, or indeed to deal with one in its entirety. Various speakers have made points which I think are of primary importance and I am glad to he talking now fairly late in the debate.
My chief subject will be the Highlands and Islands Development Board and its problems; but, referring to what has been said by other speakers, I should like to make the point, as a Highlander, that while we are all agreed about the importance of growing timber, we are faced with a marketing problem which is becoming ever more acute. I know very little about Government policy but what I do know about afforestation is that this country is still importing something like 95 per cent. of its timber requirements, and surely that must be wrong. We are all encouraged to grow timber, and this is done privately and through the Forestry Commission which takes up the bulk of what is a commodity of national importance. But the fact remains that the traditional markets, especially for conifers, are rapidly petering out. The pitwood which supported the mines is being replaced by tubular scaffolding; railway sleepers, 1005 once made of Scots firs, are now made of concrete, and wagon bottoms are now made of metal sheeting instead of oak or larch. All these things give rise to problems which are, I fear, rapidly becoming unsurmountable in the more remote areas.
It was very much hoped that the big pulp mill at Fort William would play a useful and very important role in the Highland economy and provide a means for disposing of the thinnings from the vast woodland area. There have been teething problems at Fort William and I think that only the Forestry Commission has been able to send the kind of timber that is required. There is no certainty that this timber will be required to meet the needs of private individuals in 1968, and in any case the mill takes only 20 per cent. of the timber in the area which has to be disposed of. While travelling down from Scotland on the train last night I heard, to my great regret, that a useful subsidiary company in Inverness, known as Bonnerwoods, which dealt with thinnings can no longer continue in production. This is a serious state of affairs and I hope that the Government will not overlook the fact that we require an end product policy in the timber business.
My Lords, I do not think that agricuture has been fully touched on in the debate so far. Nobody has mentioned the problem of the Common Market. Up in Scotland, we are living on the fringe of the fringe. We in the Highlands have the problem of disposing of our store cattle and sheep. There are no available wintering grounds where these animals might be held and fattened. I have continually urged that land reclamation should be given attention by the Government, but invariably my proposals have fallen on deaf ears. There seems a vast amount of land in Scotland, in some of the estuaries and firths, notably the Beauly estuary, the Firth of Solway, Cromarty Firth, and even river areas like the Spey Valley, which flood badly every year, so that 10,000 acres or more are under water, and good land where sheep and lambs could be fattened is becoming empty wastes of saline marshland and peat bogs and covered with rushes.
Not only would the alluvial soil of the estuary grow great crops of timothy hay, 1006 but with a little ingenuity it would be possible to put up a canning factory, which would be the equivalent of an Argentine frigeretica, to deal with the glut of animals that pass through the market every year in the North. As your Lordships will be well aware, we have a harsh and indeed a relentless climate. We have to sell cheap in the autumn because we cannot carry through the winter, and we have to buy dear when we turn to the South to import hay and fodder. As was said by my spritely and far from venerable great aunt, the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, farmers could produce more and more if, like the timber merchants, they were given an incentive and could command a full-time market and sell the end product with a chance of success.
I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, on the Government's Price Review. It is the only compliment which I can pay him, because I think that the handling of the flooding in the Highlands this winter was most inept; indeed, the matter was bungled. In the Beauly Cona Valley and the Spey Valley on December 17 something like £300,000 worth of damage was caused to river banks alone. That is the only compensation that the Secretary of State for Scotland sees fit to pay, and it does not take into consideration the loss of livestock and fencing and the loss and damage to the fertility which has been built up on these lands during the course of years.
My Lords, if I may, I will turn to a more pressing and immediate problem, that of the Highlands and Islands Development Board, which I must frankly tell you is causing the gravest concern in the northern counties. I will start by giving a very brief analysis of the work done by the Board up to the present time. It has been in existence for only about 18 months. I should like to quote from a speech made by the Chairman in the early days of its inception, a speech which we were delighted to hear and one which every Highlander welcomed in its phrasing. This is what was said:Nothing can be done in the Highlands unless the Highland people are with us, and to be with us they must know what is being done. Everything we do should be as open as possible.1007 That was said in August, 1965. I should like to divide the general proposition of what has happened into two equal spaces of time, a first period of seven months followed by a second period of seven months making fourteen months in all.
As I say, the Board was welcomed by everyone because we felt it would provide the answer to a good many problems. There is no question at all that its grant and loan schemes have been of immense benefit to the Highlands, and I cannot sufficiently praise that policy of grants and loans to small organisations or individuals. By grants and loans I mean cheap money rates for things like building fishing boats for the Western fish trade, refrigeration for storing fish, financial help for small hotels and even for market gardening in the Islands along the Gulf Stream, and all the other things for which money is required in a small way. Everything the Board did in the early stages was extremely welcome.
But some 10 months later—to be exact, on August 18, 1966—an article appeared in the Economist which caused considerable surprise. I expect that noble Lords have read it. It announced that a linear city was to be built on the shores of the Moray Firth, extending from the small Royal Burgh of Nairn in the East Inverness to North-West up to Ross-shire, and back by Dingwall to Invergordon, with the Black Isle in the centre of the area. It suggested a way of life which was not compatible with the traditionally accepted ways to which the Highlanders are accustomed and which the vast majority wish to preserve—in other words, the local industries which have been spoken of this afternoon: forestry, agriculture, tourism and fishing. Suddenly and without much warning, after six months of doing excellent work, it became apparent that the Board had slightly changed their attitude of mind. The loss of a man like Mr. William Logan was a disaster at this time. He was the only Highlander on the Board, with the exception of Mr. Rollo, the Vice-Chairman, whom I cannot praise highly enough for his work in Highland farming. There are few businessmen or men of practical experience in handling Highlanders on the Board.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, would the noble Lord permit me to interrupt? Surely he is not suggesting that Mr. Robertson is not also a Highlander?
§ LORD LOVAT
My Lords, he comes from Aberdeen; he is not a Highlander. He has no right to wear his kilt, either.
About the end of the year certain rather unattractive words began to be heard, such as "brain-child", "linear city", "chemical complex", "master-plan", "oil research", and "heavy industry"—all things of which we in the Highlands are perhaps woefully unfamiliar, but it was clear that the Development Board, or certain of its members, were up to the neck in it. This was apparent from the frequent visits to the United States and the absence of members of the Board at times when they were badly needed so far as local government was concerned. I speak here with a certain authority. There were also rumours of self-interest and financial assistance to certain members of the Board who had the necessary insight or foresight or farsight into what was going to happen in the new linear town of Invergordon.
I should like to quote from an article in The Times which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said is no longer the mouthpiece of the Government. Perhaps it is not, but, none the less, it is written with the respect of the whole country behind it and does not, I hope, state anything particularly inaccurate. This inspired article, already quoted from, is well known to have been supplied by the Development Board. It is called, "The £150 million Highland fling" and in the article a member of the Board, Mr. Smith, is quoted as having said at a Board meeting in December that if this whale—the heavy industrial development at Invergordon—was successfully landed the rest of the Board's work would pale into insignificance. That is a very remarkable statement. The importance of the Board, as I see it, is in giving work to the Crofter Counties and to the communities who live therein. I should like the noble Lord to bear that in mind when he comes to make an answer to me at the end of the debate.
I was delighted to hear that the noble Lord is not prepared to talk at length on this subject, because I can assure the House that there will have to be an awful lot of talking done on this subject in the 1009 very near future. When the noble Lord says that the Board's Report is not likely to be available before the end of next month, I would suggest that it should be expedited, because a year is well past, what is going on now may not be available for publication in next year's Report, and the alarm and despondency in Scotland concerns something which is happening at the very present time.
I have said that there have been a lot of hard words. I hope that they have been exaggerated. Nobody likes comments of the kind that are flying about to-day—"Invercadco", "dollar directorships" and "chimpanzee tea parties". I do not think that this ever happens in a quiet and civilised community unless there is real cause for anxiety and alarm. The Press does not become hostile without a good reason, and local government does not become critical without a good reason. I must refer to the original words I read from that Press cutting. It all stems from lack of consultation at all levels.
The lesson, I think, is fairly clear. Highlanders are difficult people. Any boffins who step up from the South across the Highland Line must be prepared to realise that we have our strengths and our weaknesses. We can be led by precept and example, but we cannot be directed, and we certainly cannot be directed by people we know very little about. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, knows the story of the MacNeil of Barra who, when asked by Noah to come into the Ark, replied that he had a boat of his own. Lord Leverhulme made exactly the same mistake. We have long memories in the Highlands. I think that Professor Robert Grieve, the Chairman of the Board, showed his ignorance of this when he proposed a kind of Billy Butlin holiday camp cum-caravan site on the graves of the MacDonalds who were massacred in Glencoe. I should hope that the noble Duke, the Duke of Argyll, was in his seat. Perhaps, for the first time the Clan Campbell and the Clan MacDonald might have united in refusing to accept a situation which would be intolerable to both.
We have before us a proposal for a giant chemical complex, for which the British taxpayer and presumably the Government are pledging pound for pound £50 million, although I understand that 1010 it involves rather more than £50 million—and the only people who have really talked about it (and they are not businessmen) are members of the Board, some of whom are impressively motivated by self-interest. This, surely, is a matter which another place must discuss as to exactly what is going on. I am absolutely amazed that the Government did not themselves go into this in depth before it was announced that Occidental Petroleums were on the point of signing a big deal to set up an enormous industrial growth in the Highlands.
We as Highlanders are keenly sensitive on this point, quite apart from our way of life; and in my opinion, and in the opinion of a great many others, there may be people putting money into this venture. If it is an unsound venture, the Government are entirely to blame. I will be told if I am wrong; and I hope that I am. But farms have been bought and have been handed back, because the Development Board have acted prematurely. This is a fantastic state of affairs, and it has done a great deal of harm to the Board. It is also known that there is a smaller company, and land has been bought by that small company all round the area in anticipation of what was going to be done. This, too, has done the Board a great deal of harm. I feel that this must be threshed out at a high level.
There are three questions which I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and then I will make certain recommendations before I sit down. The first question is this. If Occidental Petroleum do not come to Eastern Ross, who will repay the Government money and, I would say, the taxpayers' money, spent by the Development Board on behalf of Invergordon Chemical Enterprises?—or, in other words, a part-time member of the Development Board, who has spared neither time nor expense in engaging consultants and surveyors to survey the area since the time he parted company with the Invergordon Distillery. Secondly, will the Government reveal what the Highlands and Islands Development Board is costing the country? I ask this advisedly, because the Highland Fund, which is administered at a cost of £2,000 to £3,000, is giving out £60,000 to £65,000 a year in grants, which is quite remarkable. Thirdly, I would ask whether the 1011 Development Board claim that they have created 1,200 jobs in the Highlands since they took up office. Frankly, I question this figure. I do not think, with all due respect to the Development Board, that if somebody sets up a small business in the North he need not necessarily have done so of his own accord.
I feel strongly about this situation, and I am sure that it will be debated shortly in another place. I should like to see a man of public stature taking over the Board, and I can think of nobody better than Mr. Jo Grimond, who is immensely admired in the North, and who has had experience of handling positions which are beyond the powers of the present organisation, which I think should be reshuffled, and possibly dismissed.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords, I rise to speak in defence of the Highland Development Board. I have no interest in that Board, nor in any aspect of it, except as a Scotsman who, like many other Scotsmen, feels deep concern at the denudation of the Highlands and its depopulation. It is very nice, extremely romatic and wistful, if I may say so, to talk in the terms which have been used to-day about what could be done to maintain the way of life in the Highlands. But there is also a way of death in the Highlands, and we have seen the Highlands gradually and steadily depopulated. We have seen generations leave, never to go back. We have seen 45,000 people emigrate from Scotland this year. Therefore, we have somehow to restore the North of our country and to encourage development in the Highlands.
With all respect to what has been said to-day about grouse shooting and deer stalking, or even forestry and agriculture, I do not think you will make the North of Scotland meaningful until you have some systematic development. The systematic development, in the terms used by the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, may be an intrusion into the way of life of the Highlands. All I can say is that at the moment the Highlands need a tourniquet, and if the tourniquet takes the form of a linear town on the Moray Firth, I am all for it.
I cannot understand why it is that, with the concern which has been shown 1012 and argued by noble Lords on both sides of the House, and the agitations in Scotland, we are anticipating something which, so far as I know, has not been declared. If I may say so without disrespect to my country, we have had a great deal of mean talk; and the mean talk has grown and now amounts to a public scandal. This mean talk has embraced people for whom I have the greatest possible respect, such as Professor Robert Grieve. He is a man of intense integrity, great foresight and expert knowledge. I yield to no one in my admiration for Mr. Jo Grimond, but if the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, was a reflection on the present Chairman, then I deplore it.
The next thing I want to say is that I am not aware that anything has been put out to contract. I am not aware that the Government have been committed, publicly or privately, to anything. What amazes me, as an ex-journalist, is to realise that noble Lords are attributing to that noble journal The Times the practise of accepting hand-outs. I think this is something which The Times might take up with the Press Council. It is a great reflection on the integrity of its editorial policy. It is suggested that The Times actually printed something which was planted on it by interested parties in the Highland Development Board. I hope that The Times will pursue this.
I wish to say that until we have the imagination, the foresight and the technological development—and I use that word advisedly—we will not restore to the Highlands or maintain in the Highlands the people for whom we are here expressing concern.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair, on his maiden speech, which I am sure we all enjoyed. I should also like to thank the noble Duke for introducing this Motion. I am not going to say a great deal about the Highland Development Board, but I should like to follow for a moment the noble Lord who spoke last. When we debated the Highland Development Board in this House I was under the impression, as my noble friend Lord Lovat said, that the Board were going to help the crofting 1013 communities and the smaller type of farmer and hotel-keeper in the Highlands. I have never visualised the Highland Development Board growing into a vast industrial organisation, because I understand that they are confined to a certain expenditure every year. If they are to back such a vast industrial undertaking as is envisaged at Invergordon there is surely a danger that they will get out of their depth, and of course the poor old taxpayer will have to "cough up".
The other point I should like to make regarding the Highland Development Board is that if they are going to embark on these great industrial undertakings they ought to have on their board the best business brains obtainable. I have the greatest regard for Professor Grieve. I have met him personally, and he is a most charming person; but I should like to see him surrounded by really astute business brains if the Board are to go into such a vast undertaking as is now envisaged.
Having said that I should like to turn for a moment to agriculture. Of course agriculture is the greatest industry in the Highlands, but, as I have said in previous debates in this House, and as I think the noble Duke said, there is very little hope of agriculture ever increasing the number of people employed in the Highlands. In fact the reverse is liable to take place. The total acreage of the Highlands—and when I speak of "the Highlands" I refer, of course, to the seven counties—is 9 million acres, of which 8¼ million acres are said to be under agriculture. But on quite a large percentage of that acreage deer are running with the sheep. In Sir Solly Zuckerman's Report (and I have the highest regard for him as a great expert in these matters), which was published four or five years ago, it was envisaged that 100,000 acres were immediately available for reclamation—though probably "reclamation" is not the right word to use, because when one speaks of "reclamation" one presumably means the reclaiming of land from the sea. Probably "land improvement" is a better term.
I sometimes go to fish on the Island of Lewis, and I have seen there quite a few thousand acres where the land 1014 has been improved by liming and draining and re-seeding; in other words, the summer grazing has been improved. But the trouble in the Highlands with regard to agriculture has never been a lack of summer grazing: in fact they have always had too much summer grazing for their stock. Although I am all for improving summer grazing if the funds for this purpose are unlimited, I personally would far rather see the land improved to produce winter keep. But to do that is an extremely expensive operation. It requires heavy machinery, deep drainage and deep ploughing. It is an extremely technical and expensive process, beyond the means of the average private individual. There may be a few private individuals who can undertake such great capital expenditure, but they are very few. So the conclusion I come to is that if these 100,000 acres are to be reclaimed they should be reclaimed properly, for cropping at the expense of the State in order to improve the winter keep problem in the Highlands.
The great problem, the great weakness, of the Highlands, as I have always seen it, is the dependence of agriculture on sheep. If only the Highland agricultural economy could become more dependent on cattle it would be much better. But, clearly, it can become more dependent on cattle only if it is possible to grow the winter feed. Cattle are far better for grazing than sheep.
I should like to see the Government embark on schemes of reclamation of land for the crofting communities. They have done some of this, I admit, but I should like to see them doing it on a big scale. It cannot be done very much on the hills, but there are large areas of flat peat bog which can be reclaimed. While I am on the subject of the reclaiming of peat bogs, I may say that I have been in Scandinavia once or twice, and I mentioned this subject in your Lordships House a few years ago. In Scandinavia, and particularly in Sweden, if they are going to reclaim a large peat bog and drain it they do it by means of explosives. They have a long line with explosives every few yards. They light the fuse, and there is a great explosion, and one then has a deep drain. That method appears to work extremely well, and I have often wondered whether we could not try it in this country.
1015 With regard to the other subjects concerning land use, I have already mentioned agriculture; and there are also afforestation and tourism. I do not want to say much about afforestation, because I have spoken about it at length before; but I should like to make one or two short remarks. It is true that the trouble with large areas of the Highlands is the fact that lack of fertility has been caused during the last 700 or 800 years by deforestation, and the trouble is that so much of the land has been deforested and has so deteriorated that to plant trees on it is not now viable. This is a very real problem. In some ways, I suppose, it would be possible to restore the fertility, but it would take a long time; it would take hundreds of years if the natural regeneration were allowed to take place. It would be completely wasteful, of course, and it would take, as I say, far too long.
I have always been a strong advocate of forestry, but my complaint regarding the Forestry Commission (and I have often said this before) is that they are inclined always to go for the best hill farming land. It is a great pity. The noble Duke mentioned an idea which to some extent I favour. On the very marginal hill farms, perhaps some of the hill farmers who cannot make ends meet under the new Agriculture Bill might be induced to leave their farms. The lower slopes would then be re-afforested, and the higher slopes would go over to sport and deer. In some ways, perhaps, such a proposal is anti-social—I do not know. But it would mean employing more people: certainly not many people are employed with sheep rearing. I think the noble Duke mentioned one shepherd with 1,000 ewes. Worked out in acreage, that means one man to 4,000 acres; whereas under forestry there is one man to every 120 acres.
The great attraction of forestry, as I see it, from the social point of view is that it can produce more closely knit communities. You can have these forestry villages. If a man is working in timber, he can be 20 miles from his work, but if he is a shepherd he must be on his ground, and therefore has to be in a lonely glen by himself with his family. This does not apply to forestry.
1016 I am pleased to see in the Secretary of State's report of planned expansion for 1965–70 that the Forestry Commission are to increase their planting to 20,000 acres. That is all very good, but I hope that they will not force people to plant on the best farmland. I am thinking also of the island where I have an estate, the Isle of Mull, where we have some quite good land down by the shore. Forestry is a long-term project, and I quite agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, when he said that, from the marketing point of view in the last few years, it has become rather worrying that the price has gone down; that the demand for pit props and railway sleepers is going. Of course, we have high hopes of the Fort William pulp mill. But if you take my island (I must not call it "my" island: the Isle of Mull), even when these forests mature the transport difficulties will be very great. Because of the smallness of the roads and the bridges, they cannot take very big loads.
I should now like to turn to the question of tourism, because I was rather interested to read this Countryside (Scotland) Bill. I should like something explained. It was first brought up in the plans for the Scottish economy, on page 140. I read this paragraph as meaning that there is going to be control of access, control of the public on the Islands and the Highlands. If that is so, I am very pleasantly surprised by Her Majesty's Government. I am quite sure they do not mean that. But in Part II of the Countryside (Scotland) Bill I see this statement:This Part of the Bill empowers local planning authorities and the Secretary of State to make access agreements and orders, or to acquire land in order to secure public access to open country…I was always under the impression that under the Access to Mountains Act the public had free access over all the Highlands. Certainly on my estate they go everywhere, to the great detriment, in the last two or three years, of the wild life. I hope that when the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, replies, he will enlarge further on what is in the Government's mind regarding that matter.
The giant growth of tourism—and I am all for tourism—can be a tremendous boon to the Highlands. We are supposed to have had 100,000 tourists in the Isle of Mull last summer. Three or four 1017 years ago we probably had 10,000. One can therefore see the great growth in the tourist trade, and I am all for that. The only point is that if this great growth is to increase, it will have to be controlled somehow on the hills if we are to have any wild life at all. In "wild life", of course, I include the much-maligned grouse and salmon and stag, which bring in such a very big revenue to the Highlands. I would point out that when the Government buy areas of Highlands, as, for instance, the Isle of Rhum, they are very particular who goes on to the island. I hope that in the future tourists on the hills can be directed to rights of way, bridle paths and the like. But they will have to be controlled somehow.
I was rather amused to read in the Daily Telegraph travel page of April 1—which is of course April Fool's Day, but I presume it was quite serious—of the extensive tourist developments scheduled for the Isle of Islay. The writer of the article spoke about the hundreds of chalets and houses, of hotels and restaurants and, if you please, English type pubs. Why "English type pubs"? Why not Highland pubs? But after speaking about that he went on to say that the great attraction was going to be the utter tranquility. He also spoke about the thirty or so deserted sandy beaches "where you will have only a seagull as your companion", and about 200 different species of birds which ornithologists could study. The answer is that if this great invasion is not controlled, the tourist will not have tranquility and there will be not 200 different species of birds, but probably only 20. I hope that the Government bear in mind that if the Highlands are to become, as they should, what I would call the lungs of the harassed people from the "rat-race" of the South and Midlands of England, we shall have to be more careful not to spoil the natural beauty of environment.
Time is going on, so I shall speak no longer. There are one or two other things I should like to have spoken on, but probably they do not come under the heading of land usage. I refer to fish farming and oyster beds. A few years ago I was interested to read a book on the Highlands by Dr. Darling, who is a great authority on this subject, in which he said that there were no oysters round 1018 the shores of the Western Islands of Scotland. In fact he made a mistake, because we have excellent oysters there. I am quite sure that if a scheme for the farming of oysters was entered into, it would be another sideline to go with the new hotels which the Highland Development Board are to construct.
I should like to end by saying that I hope the Highland Development Board overcomes its troubles regarding the adverse criticism. It had the good wishes of everybody in the Highlands at its commencement and it would be a thousand pities if it blotted its copybook. I sincerely hope that these rumours are ill-founded, and that everything will end happily.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CROMARTIE
My Lords, we are most grateful to my noble friend the Duke of Atholl for giving us this opportunity to discuss some vital matters that have arisen of late. I, too, should like to congratulate Lord Sinclair on his excellent maiden speech, and I hope that we shall hear from him again.
Coming from the centre of this whirlpool, I have been asked to comment on the Highlands and Islands Development Board and the cross-currents of controversy which have resulted from their actions in recent months. I would remind noble Lords that I was from the start an enthusiastic supporter of this idea of forming some such body, as were the majority in the Highlands and Islands, and I am still convinced that an authority of this nature is essential for the Highlands. To leave such a place as Invergordon derelict would be not only wasteful but wrong. After the Firth of Forth, Cromarty Firth is the finest anchorage and deep-water haven on the Eastern seaboard of Scotland, and ever since the closure of the Admiralty installations most of us who live in Ross and Cromarty have longed for some Government action which would revitalise this area. Whether a largely American-controlled petro-chemical complex is the right answer, I do not know. But I do know that a similar major enterprise, a chemical complex at Lacq, situated in the South-West of France, an area with much the same difficulties as our own, gives little employment; and once the initial public works stage was over it 1019 required few workers, of whom 75 per cent. came from the Northern industrial areas.
To revert to the Highlands and Islands Board, there is a short, but rather peculiar entry—like most of the entries in The Times when they choose to write about these things—about the provision of electricity at a price which is so small as in fact to be impossible. It is just three lines. They talk in terms of an unlimited and regular power supply at one-third of a penny a unit. I understand that that figure was supplied to The Times by the Board. If so, it is a rather extraordinary statement, because most of us living up there have a certain knowledge of the workings of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. In fact, in 1902 my own family started the first hydro-electric scheme up there, and. frankly, I rather doubt that figure.
I have no intention of going into the personalities of the Board, a number of whom I have known for many years; but I think that some collective criticism is justified, even though theirs may not be the ultimate blame. First of all, most of us who live and work in the Highlands deprecated the Party politics element which at times entered the scene. The Board, and all its members, should have been above this on all occasions. Secondly, after the tragic death of Willie Logan there were many who considered the Board to be quite unrepresentative of the Celtic Highlands as a whole, and the Celtic Hebridean Islands, the one exception being the member who for many years had operated the Highland Fund to the great benefit of the Highlands and Islands. Thirdly, there appeared to be much unnecessary secrecy, reinforced by the evident unwillingness of the Chairman—perhaps because they did not always agree with all the actions of the Board—even to speak to those who, in one way or another, had worked for the Highlands all their lives. Most of us in your Lordship's House have blasted the Press from time to time, but in my humble opinion the papers, especially the Express, never did a better job than when they started to investigate a very unhappy situation, although I regret that we must exclude The Times from this praise which did nothing to lighten our 1020 darkness but rather seemed further to cloud the issue.
Perhaps the blame for this sorry state of affairs must be laid fairly and squarely on the broad shoulders of the Secretary of State for Scotland, who never seemed to have his finger on the pulse of events in the Highlands; but maybe it is too much to expect one man to carry the complex affairs of all Scotland and all the Ministries on his shoulders, however broad they may be. It is doubtful whether a superman could fulfil this post adequately, and we have had no supermen for many years, with the exception of Tom Johnston, and for this there were two main reasons: The government of Scotland was far less complex than it is to-day and Tom Johnston had his priorities right. Scotland came first, with a capital "S", and next came his Party loyalties. I will not enlarge on this, but there are several possible reforms which would be an improvement on the present outdated system.
Briefly, I should like to end by stressing the vital importance of proper and consistent planning of land use. But there is still a lack of co-ordination between the agricultural and forestry interests. All around us we can see the bad and wasteful use of land. The countryside must be planned for the conservation of soil, water and beauty by those specially trained for this purpose. Too often the so-called experts do not know the difference between a "tup" and a "stirk", which is not surprising as so often these experts come from urban backgrounds and are trained to an urban outlook, their idea of what is fitting being a second-rate Manhattan or a subtopian blight of bijoux residences. I hope that one day we in the North will get a university at Inverness, which might go far in helping to keep the Highlands safe as a home for Highlanders.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, I also should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair. I felt particularly sorry for him that while he was waiting to make his speech there were two Statements and a change of speakers, so I have no doubt that his anxiety was considerably increased. In spite of that, he made an extremely interesting speech. I should also like to thank the noble Duke for making this debate possible.
1021 On the Second Reading of the Bill setting up the Highland Development Board I fear that I caused considerable embarrassment on both sides of the House. I know that the contents of my speech were not very agreeable. However, it now seems that what I forecast then, however unpalatable, has indeed come to pass, quicker even than I anticipated. The "explosion" has been far greater than was ever thought probable, and it has not done the Highlands any good. I said then that if the Board was to exist we should try to make it work. If it is to work, it must be inexorably tied up with land use and not industrial intrigue.
There are certain fundamentals for making the Highland Development Board work. For a start, I hope that the Secretary of State has now appreciated that it is necessary to appoint the best men for the job and not just political supporters. I think there is only one man on the Board whose politics are not well known in the Highlands. Further, I think that the Board member who is most respected by the public was involved in the theft of the Stone of Destiny.
§ LORD BURTON
I said that the Board member who is most respected was involved in the theft of the Stone of Destiny.
§ LORD BURTON
No; but if you are going to put people on a Board you want to look a little into their background. The remainder are mainly, to say the least, Left wing in their politics. If the Board is to be put right, we need further changes and new blood. But after his first failures, can we be sure that Mr. Ross will pick the right personnel now? I should like to draw attention to an excellent man in the shape of Mr. Reay Clarke from Edderton who has offered himself. I gather he is not a Tory, so perhaps he may be acceptable, but he would be an excellent man to have on the Board. Secondly we need men who know and love the land. By force of circumstances, far too many of our present-day planners are urban dwellers and urban-minded. This is all right for the towns, but the Highlands and Islands are rural areas. To try to hide 1022 the incompetence of the Board certain people have been accused of trying to destroy the Board. Why should they try to destroy the Board if it is doing good? It is not doing what it was hoped it would do, and the Highlanders are losing confidence in it.
My Lords, we have heard stories of witch hunts. I must assure the Government that in the Highlands we stopped hunting witches many years ago. The Secretary of State has denied seeing certain documents which were said to be circulating with information said to have been leaked by Mr. Durham. If he did not know of this information, surely he was sadly out of touch with the Highlands, where it has been common knowledge for many months. If he is so out of touch, surely the Highlands are entitled to have a Minister, as the noble Earl has said—perhaps a special Minister—who knows more of what is going on in the far North. At any rate, surely Mr. Durham is following a Socialist example; there have been other "leaks" in higher places. We have all seen the growth of the Scottish National Party. This is not a good thing, as it stems from an unhappy atmosphere. It is brought about by the feeling in Scotland of being cut off; the difficulty of getting the real picture through to our administrators. In the Highlands things are even worse, for we are thin on the ground, and behind the Cairngorm "curtain" the Highlands are as frightened of being governed from the central belt of Scotland as they are of mistakes which could come from London. When the Secretary of State announced that he does not know what is going on, it is easy to understand the anxiety.
The Highland Development Board could do much to get through to the Administration the Highland requirements, but already they are becoming bogged down. Could we be told how many personnel they already employ. Should I not be right in saying that they comprise about one-twentieth of the total of new jobs allegedly provided by the Board? How many of these have been bribed away with our money from their existing jobs in the Highlands, and how many more is it intended to employ? We rightly do not know to whom grants and loans have been given, but one or two known ones cause some surprise. I think it was fair that it should not be 1023 entirely the public to whom they should lend money. I do not think the Highland Fund divulges exactly to whom it gives money. I feel that the Board should work very much on the same basis. I know of one which is a certain non-starter; the proprietors are usually in their pyjamas at 11 o'clock in the morning. Surely such a Board should study fully all the implications before wading in.
There must be many reports on the Highlands in cubby holes in St. Andrew's House. How many of these have been studied by the Board? There is a vast conglomeration of work in county planning officers' departments, but very little of this has been used; and there has been little consultation with planning officers. Instead of using existing information, a firm of consultants has been engaged, at vast expense, to secure information which is already available. Board members will openly admit that they do not know anything about a great many land use problems. It is a matter of great concern that they are laying down policy when they have only a small section of the picture. To show how the human hand can change the face of our land, it may be of interest to your Lordships to know that in the 1719 Jacobite rising at the Battle of Glenshiel, the right flank of the Jacobite forces was driven in by the mortars setting the heather on fire. Anyone who knows these cold, wet, grassy slopes at the present time will have difficulty in believing this. It is also said that a Spanish soldier on that particular day died of heat stroke in this Wester Ross area. So there has been a marked change, and I think this should be a lesson when we look to the future.
I think that certainly the most important thing we have to get sorted out in the Highlands is the infrastrucure. This is what requires investment. Efficient use of land for most purposes needs assets, better transport facilities. But what do we get? A cut of over £1 million in the Scottish roads budget, and no improvement in the Perth-Inverness road for yet another year. Some of us are wondering whether there is a general policy to keep our communications bad so that the administration is less trouble from the North. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, referred to a tourniquet. My 1024 Lords, there is no greater tourniquet in the Highlands than stagnation in this A.9, Fife to Inverness road. I have been told by Highland Development Board personnel that if there were more people living in the Highlands the infrastructure would follow. If ever there was a case of putting the cart before the horse, this is an example. Does one build a house when there is someone living in it and then start looking round for water, drainage and access to it? That is apparently what is intended by the Board.
It has been interesting to watch the views of various bodies in the Highlands since the Board was set up. All started full of hope and good will, as my noble friend Lord Lovat has said and, I think, the noble Earl. The N.F.U. quickly became disillusioned. I may say that they were extremely pleased to hear that George Houston was to be on the Board to advise. That is fairly recent. There was only John Robertson who pretended to know anything about agriculture on the Board, and he started talking about vast increases in forestry; and there was talk of neglect of agriculture and of the agricultural population declining, and that it was not worth bothering to boost agriculture. Shortly afterwards, a good many foresters became disillusioned, and it became apparent that no one on the Board knew much about that subject at all, and the emphasis swung to tourism. Then there was talk of five hotels to be built with public moneys, where there was little hope of their paying their way, and the advertisement for American advisers on tourism. Then the tourist industry also turned sour.
The landowners quickly gave up. They asked for a market survey on venison, and were told that it was already too expensive a commodity and that the Board wanted it cheaper so that it could be put into tins. It is not a matter of hounding individual members. The position is as I stated on Second Reading of the Development Bill—and here I differ from the noble Earl. This is not the right way to develop the Highlands. Give the money which is available to other existing agencies and we will get an investment from progress. If the county councils had a fraction of the money available to the Board, I am sure that we should get progress.
1025 Before turning to other subjects, I must just refer, perhaps wrongly, to a rumour in the North. It is said that there are so many secret documents in the Development Board's palace that they are thinking of setting up a new tourist attraction by having an official Changing of the Guard ceremony in Inverness. My Lords, what can be done to make the best use of our land? I must once more emphasise, please watch the urban planner. If there is to be a reasonable balance struck, and the urban dwellers are to use the countryside as a lung for the industrial belt, then the man who is making his living from the country must be given reasonable protection. If one was to light a fire in a Glasgow City garden one can imagine the outcry. Why, then, should the city dwellers be allowed to light fires in the country woods? There obviously must be a proper balance, and to secure it, whether one likes what he has to say or not, one must take heed of what the rural dweller needs, for he is the guardian of our heritage—the land. His political lobby is not as big as the urban lobby, and therefore he needs greater consideration. I feel that he gets it in your Lordships' House, but unfortunately we do not have all the necessary powers.
Not only in the Highlands but throughout the whole country the best agricultural ground is being used for building houses, factories, hotels, petrol stations, and so on; I believe that 50,000 acres of agricultural ground is being gobbled up for this purpose every year. In the Highlands we have far too little of this good ground, and therefore every acre is the more valuable. Now there is talk of the linear city which would consume nearly all the good arable land in the Highlands. With all the poor land in the seven crofter counties, can this be good planning? At Invergordon there is some of the very best land in the country, and this is threatened when only two miles away there is suitable rough ground. At Invergordon there are acres of mud flats at low tide awaiting reclamation. If there is to be an oil complex, why cannot these be used for it? At Aviemore the scarce arable land in the Spey Valley is being quickly swallowed up. If food is required great care must be taken.
There is talk of increasing the Highland planting programme, but no one seems to 1026 know how much land is available for this purpose. Some years ago that terrible Green Book, Land Use in the Highlands and Islands, told us that there was about 1 million acres. Whether or not that was right, there were a good many other things that were wrong. How much of that has now gone? Though, of course, the Cairngorms area lies largely outwith the crofting counties, the Report shows that from just under 1 million acres, 100,000 should be planted. If this is taken as an average for the crofting counties, it might be that there are still about 900,000 acres which should be planted.
One has to decide how quickly one should plant this area if one is to have balanced forests in the area. At the planned rate of 20,000 acres of State, and the current 5,500 private, planting per year—I believe the noble Lord asked this question, and I would say that 5,300 acres were planted last year by private owners—all would be planted in 35 to 40 years. However, the planting of over 25,000 acres a year will depend upon the labour available. Foresters are not easy to get even at the present time. If we are to have industry with big wages they may be even harder to secure, and it will probably necessitate higher forestry wages. Good luck to the forestry workers, but if they are to secure higher wages, then higher timber prices must follow, and who is to buy the wood? Can our timber efficiency increase at such a speed that we shall be able economically to grow timber? There has just recently been this case of one of the few outlets of our timber, a chipboard factory in Inverness, closing down. This is a great loss, and I only hope that some alternative market will be found for the timber being grown.
Labour will also depend upon housing. Who is to build the Forestry Commission workers' houses? The Commission have been stopped building. If the local authorities are to build for the Commission, are the local authorities to build for other people, such as British Railways? Are they to build for the private enterprise projects at Aviemore? If every industry is to have houses built for it, what about existing growing industries? My forestry is growing. I need 12 new houses. Are the county councils going to build houses for me? I doubt it, but where do you draw the line? There is no policy decision, and I think one must be made. My 1027 own view is that the Commission should be allowed to start building again.
There is another wastage. There is a new form of fishing in the inshore waters in the Beauly Firth called pair trawling. This is mainly for sprats, but if there are a certain number of herrings in the trawl net then they have to be dumped. This is a most appalling waste of fish, and I feel that, as has happened in the Clyde, this fishing should be stopped in these inshore waters.
§ LORD LOVAT
My Lords, if I may interrupt, is the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, listening to what is being said? It is extremely important.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I do not see any reason why the noble Lord should assume that, although I have spent the whole afternoon here, I am not listening to what is being said. I think that that is a most uncalled for remark.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, I have had great kindness from the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, in the past and he was probably preparing to answer a previous query which I had raised. However, this pair trawling must be stopped. There is a precedent; for it has been stopped in the Clyde. It must be stopped in these Highland waters, also, because the herring fishing industry is quite a useful industry and it will shortly be ruined. I have taken up this matter with the Highlands Development Board and have had no answer. I have taken it up with the Herring Industry Board, who say that it must continue. But I hope that this matter will be very carefully looked at, because we are killing our heritage.
In addition to losing all the herring, we shall find that in thirty or forty years' time the arable land will have been built upon by petrol complexes and the like, and the middle regions will be planted with trees. So what is going to happen to the high ground? There will be no wintering, so no sheep; and with people swarming over the hills there will be no deer either. So, unless great care is taken, there will be no food production from the Highlands. For all these reasons, we must look very carefully to the future.
Meanwhile, perhaps I may make one plea for the present. We should be 1028 allowed to put cattle into the woodlands—State as well as private—as soon as the trees are old enough; that is, at about twenty years. A forest can raise the temperature by as much as 15 to 20 degrees, so that on cold days, even if a wood does not have much feeding, a great deal of food can be saved by having a warmer climate within it.
My noble friend the Duke of Atholl has mentioned litter. This morning I walked through Covent Garden; and what a fantastic mess it was! Apparently, when people come for their holidays they think they can treat the countryside in exactly the same way. But the country does not have a swarm of sweepers constantly behind people, and it costs money to collect litter. I do not entirely agree with my noble friend that the best solution is to change the law. I am quite convinced—and I have given this problem a great deal of thought—that education must start in schools. We must get the point over to the children by education. This is very much the case in Denmark, where they are very conscious of the problem. There, if you throw down a bit of litter the person next to you will immediately jump upon you. It would be very nice if we could get that kind of feeling in this country.
I should like to say a final word on the Cairngorms Report. It has made an extremely good attempt at integration. The planners have consulted and heeded all the interested parties, or all they could think of. Mr. Evans, as Chairman, has obviously done a very good job, and I can see many facets which have obviously come from Mr. Calder, our Inverness Planning Officer, so I should like to take this opportunity of thanking them. One does, however, wonder how much value there is in these Reports, for in many respects this one is already out of date; and if bodies like the Highlands Development Board are not going to look at them, as it appears has happened with other documents, what is the point of them?
It is scarcely surprising that there are one or two points in this Report which I do not like. There is a fascinating map showing how few areas of Scotland are more than five miles from a public road, yet there is a top priority proposal to run a main road through the biggest of 1029 these areas. In my view this would be a great pity, for it would bring one of the few remaining areas within the orbit of the motor car. I feel that this cannot be the correct priority. I think that in due course it will be time for a road to run through there, but I would put in a plea that the A.9 should come before it.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, may I for a few moments trespass on your indulgence? As a Sassenach living South of the Border I do this with some trepidation, and I hope that I shall not be regarded as a transgressor, for I realise that the way of transgressors is hard. But there is one point which I thought might be mentioned, and which may unintentionally have been omitted. I listened to the whole of the speech of the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, and when he came to that part of his remarks relating to the recreational facilities which the Highlands of Scotland afforded, I thought he might mention this point and I was disappointed that he did not.
As I say, I am a Sassenach and I know very little about Scotland. My only knowledge of it is as a tourist. But may I say that in that part of Scotland north of Inverness I think your Lordships from Scotland have a bit of the Paradise of Britain, which is worth talking about and crowing about. I rise because of two very interesting articles in the Guardian a few weeks ago, respecting a piece of territory north of Inverness. I was filled with some fears and apprehension that it might be spoiled, and its attractiveness denied to many of the tourists from South of the Border. I refer to that lovely bit of territory known as Glen Affric and Glen Cannich.
What troubled me, reading those two articles and the editorial comment in the Guardian, was that it was hinted (I do not know whether there is any substance in the report, and it may be that my noble friend who is to reply will be able to make some comment upon it) that there was likely to be an intrusion of these lovely glens for military training. Coming from a part not quite so lovely, but equally important—the land of Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest—I had some experience of this both during the war and for a number of years after, and I 1030 trust that the apprehensions of the Guardian have no foundation. I hope that my noble friend will be able to give an assurance that this lovely part of Britain, with its attractiveness and its flora and fauna, will not, as a result of military training operations, be denied to many thousands of tourists from South of the Border.
§ 6.18 p.m.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair, on his speech. Not only was it very acceptable to the House, but this debate would have been very incomplete without some reference to the South-West, to the rich and very beautiful country of Galloway.
We have been talking a good deal about the Highlands. It is curious how little has been said about crofting. I think this is right. For nearly a hundred years we have tried to support crofting, and I think we now realise that the future of the Highlands does not lie in crofting. Crofting is a way of living, but it is not necessarily a livelihood. So we have to look to other things; and, frankly, anyone who does not look to other things must regard the Highlands as somewhere to be fossilised. That I do not believe we want. There are many other things, such as forestry. I was very glad to see how sensitive the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, was about forestry, and I can assure him that we will keep him sensitive, so far as it lies in our power to do so.
I should like to make two points on which I want information. The first is with regard to the Cairngorms Report, to which the noble Lord, Lord Burton, referred. I agree that it is an admirable Report, covering a most interesting range of subjects, including ornithology, botany, geology, farming, population, communications and a variety of other matters. In the introduction, the Secretary of State very properly says:No other area in Britain can offer more dramatic opportunities for all-the-year round out-of-door recreation than the Cairngorms".That is splendid. But then he goes on to say:I commend it for study".Is that all that this Report is for? Can the noble Lord really not suggest that this is more than a subject for study? Surely something is to come out of it. I know, 1031 of course, that there is a big sum involved; that it envisages an eventual expenditure of some £35 million. But that is spread over 10, 20 or perhaps 25 years. Can we have no indication that a beginning is going to be made on some of the recommendations?
I am going to talk for a moment or two on the subject of winter sports—and here I declare an interest. I am President of the National Ski Federation of Great Britain. My Lords, this is something which is not new. To my knowledge, it has been developing over 35 years in Scotland. At the present time there are some 5,000 beds in the Spey Valley alone, and the advent of winter sports means that they are open both winter and summer—a matter of very great economic importance to the hotel industry. It is something which is of some considerable size. In the Scottish clubs alone there are 10,000 members taking part. There are probably an additional 20,000 actually taking part in winter sports who are not members; and I dare say there are 5,000 or 10,000 individuals coming from elsewhere. That makes a total number of somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 people taking part each year. This is of not inconsiderable importance, not only to the balance of payments as such but in offering a wide opportunity of physical recreation, which all of us are so anxious to encourage, on our own hills. In fact, I may say that never have so many people known the hills of Scotland in winter as do so at the present time. Not only this, but there are (and I have this information from those who are there) some 3,000 children receiving instruction in schools in Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Central Belt. That was the figure two years ago, and it may well be that the number is double that to-day.
This in itself is adding a great deal to the economy and variety of Highland life. Ski-ing is not simply a narrow thing. It extends not only to hotels but to retail shops and to transport, and, indeed, brings a new way of life into the whole area. I ask the noble Lord to believe that this is something which is already big and expanding steadily. What we have to-day is the position that there are hills with snow on them, and hotels and facilities for visitors; but the access is so bad that they practically cannot get there. That is the 1032 position which we have reached to-day. Indeed, British Railways may well suffer from over-advertised opportunities for winter sports in Scotland, not because they are not there but because the access roads are so bad that people cannot get there. I was told that last week-end the access road was closed absolutely at 12 o'clock in the morning because the congestion was such that people could not get on it. This is silly. Let us face it: it is absolutely silly that people should be in this position.
What I am asking the noble Lord is: Can we not have an undertaking that some of these things will be carried out? They do not involve a great deal. It is chiefly a question of access roads. Roads are difficult because they are public; there is no private organisation which can run them. The Inverness County Council, I know, is not in a strong position: there are rating difficulties. This is something on which, frankly, I think the Government could help through the Development Board. I am not going to say that the Development Board are not sympathetic towards this; I think they are in many ways. But I suggest that there is something which could be pressed on, and I am going to ask the noble Lord to look at this and see if the position can be helped. I refer particularly to the Aviemore—Cairngorm Road, and to the improvement of the A.93, over the Spital of Glenshee. There are a number of other points I could mention, but those are the two which are of the utmost importance. Unless something is done, this expanding and developing industry may well be throttled at birth, or at least at much too early a stage. This is something upon which it is well worth expending money.
I am not going to say very much about the Highland Development Board. I criticised it when it was established. I said that its powers were too undefined, and I said that its responsibility was fused between the Secretary of State and itself. But we all wished it well, and I still wish it well. I am sure the Secretary of State was perfectly correct in accepting a resignation—whether he accepted it or whether he compelled it I do not know—from the Board. We all wish it every good fortune; but I think we ought to know more about it.
A great deal has been said about the development at Invergordon. I am not 1033 necessarily opposed to that. It may be a very good thing. I believe that in Europe to-day there are only about three or four ports which can take some of these big tankers. I believe that Invergordon can, though I have not checked the depth of water there. This could be a matter of some importance. It would clearly be a port or a development with export potentialities. Has the noble Lord considered whether this could be a free port, like Shannon, in Ireland? These free ports have been developed in different parts of the world.
The noble Lord said that what we do about it would be a matter of policy when it came up. What people are afraid of is that this would be an American monopoly—a monopoly run purely by Americans. This idea cannot possibly be accepted. We have heard all sorts of stories about Government guarantees. My own guess is that the report that this will be an American monopoly is completely untrue; but I think the noble Lord should say so. I think he should tell us what is true and what is not.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I am delighted. We want to know how far it has gone. We certainly do not discourage adventurous Americans, no matter who they are, from putting their money into Scotland. We have benefited a great deal from them over the last 150 years, may I say—and we still welcome them. But let us know what is happening. Suspicion has been created, and it must be dissipated. Otherwise, the future value of the Board will be greatly diminished.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, as we come towards the end of the debate I should like to begin by congratulating my noble friend the Duke of Atholl very much indeed on having made it possible, and not least on the excellent speech he has made. I should like also to apologise to him for having missed the first few minutes of his speech. I am not quite certain whether he knew exactly what he was starting to-day, but he certainly gave the debate a very good "kick-off". I should also like to congratulate, as others have done, the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair, on an excellent and 1034 most charming maiden speech. He based it, as maiden speeches should be based, on the land he loves and knows best, and for that reason it was all the more effective. He also filled a gap—a geographical gap. We heard a great deal about the Highlands, and we heard a speech about the Borders; but of course there is other land in use in Scotland.
I do not want to take up time by going over ground that has already been covered as regards the Highlands and, not least, the Highland Development Board. The Board has had its difficulties. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, say that he is going to answer the questions which have been put. May I caution him on one thing, if he will allow me and if I may take the liberty? Will be avoid any moral indignation in his reply, because we really want to get the facts completely straight and, so far as possible, non-Party as opposed to ex parte.
§ LORD HUGHES
I can assure the noble Lord that I will not be worried by anything that has been said—for instance, the remark to which I took exception. I wished my words to be so carefully weighed that I prepared them in advance.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
The noble Lord must have been very clairvoyant to know all the questions he was going to be asked.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
We look forward to the noble Lord's reply on the Highland Development Board. For my part I shall leave it at that. I do not intend to add to what has been said, except to say one thing. When you are envisaging great changes I think it is necessary to prepare the way for them carefully. It is easy to criticise in matters of this description, but when suggestions are made that some of the most prized land in the Highlands is to be occupied by what is described as a "linear city", containing the entire existing population of the Highlands, people are apt to be rather alarmed about it. I do not want to appear to read them any lectures, but I hope that the Board will at least have learned one lesson in this respect: that is, that the need to proceed from step 1035 to step and to take everybody with you as you go is very important in these matters.
I should like to refer next to the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, and to hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, on this occasion will be able to give a reply. I should like to say how grateful we are to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, for having intervened in this debate. One thing that struck me very much in the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, was her remark that we do not really take very kindly—I paraphrase what she said—to the supplanting of elected authorities by nominated bodies which overrule them. We understand the circumstances in the Highlands. I well remember the debates we had on the Highlands, but I do not believe it would be right to carry the solution—it may be only a temporary solution—for the Highlands into other parts of the country where there are nominated bodies overriding and overruling elected bodies. This is a matter of great principle, and I think that the Government should pay attention to it.
I should like to refer also to the closing note in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair. He said, "Plan well in advance". Wherever land is involved this is of the greatest importance. It takes an immensely long time to plan land use. To start with it takes a long time to find out the facts on which to make the plans, and then it takes a long time to carry out those plans. Planning must be based on facts; you must first find out the facts. We are coming to realise this—I do not think anyone can be blamed for not doing so earlier—through the development of techniques that has taken place over the years. I was interested to hear of the survey that has been carried out at Kildonan and is being carried out in Mull, and of the survey that has been done privately in the Cairngorms. One is intended for Ross-shire, but it has not yet got off the ground for lack of funds. That survey will be useful, too. There is a survey by the Forestry Commission to which the noble Lord referred to decide on the use of land as between forestry and agriculture. This has been going on for some considerable time. I should like to ask the noble Lord whether 1036 he can tell us in what way this information will be made available. Will it be made available little by little as the areas are covered? Will it be published? Of course, that leaves a tremendous lot of country which is not yet surveyed.
In many ways this debate is taking place at an awkward time. We are awaiting the Report of the Highland Development Board and the Report of the Crofters Commission. A great deal of what we have discussed is more or less in cold storage because of the existence of the Royal Commission on Local Government. All these are great difficulties but in a way it affords a good opportunity for carrying out these surveys in the meantime so that we can be ready with the information on which the plans have to be based. For example, I noted in the one Report that has come out recently, the Report of the Scottish Development Department—and I should like to congratulate them on getting their Report out so quickly this year—that a great deal of discussion has been going on as to the need of local authorities of land for housing, first of all the land they need for housing their own people, and then land that can be made available for reception housing as well. In a country where good farming land is scarce, and particularly in certain parts of it, it is always of the greatest importance that good farming land should not unnecessarily be taken up for housing. There seems to be an absence of reference to this in the remarks made in the Report. I hope that, side by side with the discussion of housing needs, there will be the most careful consideration of how to provide those needs without taking up farming land.
There is one area which has not been mentioned, the area that I myself represented, Dumfries-shire. In my remarks I can perhaps join this with the whole of the South-West. This is an area in which the development envisaged in plan for expansion, the Government Plan for 1965–70, was more or less postponed for a decade or so. Here again, this affords a magnificent opportunity for getting the groundwork really right.
One thing I should like to add to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair, is that in the Highlands one has for long had a crofter counties road programme. Perhaps the expenditure on this programme is not going fast enough. 1037 It is still at a level of £2 million, at which it was running several years ago; and still more than one-third of the total amount of roads is yet to be constructed. It has been going on for a long time, and it could probably be quickened up. In the South-West, in Galloway, which is losing population so fast, and where the cost of building roads in relation to the rates is so great, I wonder whether consideration could be given to some kind of parallel arrangement to the crofter counties programme. It is a beautiful area; it is very accessible and relatively unspoiled, almost the most unspoilt area over the Border.
That brings me to the future of the South-West and to the Solway Barrage. Three Reports have been published, one on the Morecambe Barrage, one on the Solway Barrage and one on the Morecambe and Solway Barrages. Two points of particular interest are made here to which I should like to refer. The joint Report concludes:The Scottish Office point out that a feasibility study of the Solway scheme may well be required in the light of a programme for large-scale growth in the area.The other point is that it will be 10 or 11 years from the time that that feasibility study is commissioned to the time when even the first stage of water is made available from the Solway Barrage; not to mention the communications that may be provided across the barrage itself. Again this indicates the necessity to make preparations in very good time. I should like to emphasise that point.
This brings me to one other very difficult point in a Scottish debate—and the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, has referred to it. It relates to what I think is called the Development Committee. In the South-East, part of England comes within its purview.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
The Border Development Committee; I thank the noble Lord. If the Solway Barrage scheme goes ahead, very difficult problems will arise from having two separate legal systems involved, and all the rest of it. It is a matter which I think is just as difficult as the problem of the Common Market and it needs particular study at 1038 the present time. I shall not say any more about it now, but I invite the Government to bend their minds to considering the development of this area, which will surely come.
My Lords, I do not think that there is much more I wish to contribute to a debate which has covered a very wide range. There is one other subject to which I should like to refer and it was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Lovat. It is the erosion of our land by water. It is a striking fact that for a long period of years England has had river conservation. There have been river boards in England and we in Scotland have not got them. Over the years floods in Scotland have increased in intensity and frequency. Much of the land has gone back because of the flooding, and periodically an enormous expense is involved in restoring land. There is the whole question of reclaiming land which was at one time in use and provided a livelihood to thousands of people. Can we continue to afford not to have that land in use? In the past, land reclamation was regarded as a community task. One can see from the remains of river banks, which were built no doubt by hand, that the whole community turned out to perform this task in days gone by, much as they do comparable work in India to-day. It was a communal task. Now, with the great decline in the population and with the coming of mechanised aids, the whole situation has changed and it has become a much wider responsibility; indeed, it is a national responsibility.
I think that recommendations were made about this matter in Scotland fifteen or sixteen years ago and it is time they were taken out of the pigeon-hole. I know that they often have been, and I know that they were taken out when I was at the Scottish Office. They should be thrust forcibly under the nose of the Treasury, because here the Treasury is the "nigger in the woodpile". The proposals could not be carried out without the provision of considerable financial aid; and, let us face it, because of the nature of the country more aid would be required than would be necessary in England. Because of that, the Treasury has always shied away from the problem; but the Treasury must have another look at this matter. I look to the Highland Board to prevail on the Treasury to do so. If any body were able to get funds from the Treasury, 1039 surely it would be the Highland Board. Surely this is one task, if not the greatest task, which the Board has to perform. Unless there is a prosperous agriculture there will not be a sound basic economy for the Highlands. Although the number of people who will be occupied in agriculture in the Highlands in future will diminish—this is widely accepted, as was said by my noble friend Lord Selkirk—the basis of the Highland economy will still be forestry, agriculture and tourism. We hope to see more and more the development of manufactures which now employ a mere 10 per cent. of the total labour force. One wonders what good the announcement made by the Government to-day will be to the Highlands in that respect.
I hope that the Highland Board will be able to get off the ground. I hope that with the explanations that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is going to give to-day the Board will be given a chance to get on with its work. If that should prove to be an outcome, on that count alone the debate will have proved well worth while. But the debate has been notable for the range which it has covered and the depths of the points which have been dealt with. I hope it will prove of value and that the Government will take due note of what has been said.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I agree with the closing remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, that this has been a notable debate and, on the whole, has proved well worth while. I hope it will be a help to the Highlands and other rural areas of Scotland, as well as to the Government when they tackle the problems of these areas. I have a fairly lengthy task before me if I am to reply even to those points which are completely relevant to the subject on which the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, spoke. The points made were not always relevant, although I will admit that nothing has been raised in the debate which does not have a bearing on the areas concerned. It will be obvious, even to those who have raised some of the subjects, that with the Highlands and Islands Board's first Annual Report to be published within a few weeks, there will be an opportunity properly to discuss all 1040 aspects of the work of the Board, and not only those aspects which properly could be considered in relation to the subject of land use. I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, that I said the Report would be published probably at the beginning of next month and not, as he quoted me as saying, at the end of next month; although, with the way in which these things go, the noble Lord may turn out to be right. In any event it will be in a matter of weeks rather than otherwise.
Some of the subjects were appropriate to be discussed to-day and, as I say, I shall speak about them. But first I should like to join those who have congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair, on his maiden speech. It had all the qualities that we have been told ought to be in a maiden speech: it was brief, it was pleasant to listen to and (this is something which cannot always be said of a maiden speech) it was completely relevant. It contained a point which had not been raised by anyone else. That is therefore my excuse for making an answer to the noble Lord the first part of my speech. The noble Lord referred to the percentage of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright which was under trees—16 per cent.—and, if I remember rightly, or if I noted it rightly, he compared that with the figure of 9 per cent. in Argyll, the highest in any of the Highland crofting counties. The noble Lord expressed the hope that the pendulum would not swing too far against agriculture. I can assure him that it is the intention of the Government that this should not happen. The best use of land will not be accomplished if we permit too small or too large an amount of land to be devoted to tree planting.
The important thing is that land should be used in the best way and that no use, whether it be agriculture, forestry, housing or industry, should be regarded as having a prior claim. The priority must be the best use of the land, and that will apply in Galloway as elsewhere. Perhaps I am also persuaded to answer the noble Lord first because he touched on something on which I am exceedingly keen: the exploration of the tourist potential of the South West, of Galloway. I was privileged to be at the opening of 1041 the Aviemore Centre by Sir Hugh Fraser in the autumn. I know that not everybody has the same view about the buildings that have been put up there. I admit that my own family is divided, and my wife's view is probably much nearer that of noble Lords than mine. But something worthwhile has been done at Aviemore.
I came away with the idea firmly planted in my mind that it should be possible to do something similar elsewhere in Scotland, though not necessarily as a winter sports project; and it was put into my mind that we could make this massive use of tourist potential in the South-West. I am glad to be able to say that the Scottish Tourist Board have the potentiality of this area very much in mind. Together with the University of Strathclyde, they are about to mount a study of the tourist potential of Galloway, on which they propose to spend some £10,000. The Board's contribution to this will be undertaken as part of a three-year research programme, for which they have received a grant of £75,000 from the Exchequer. I am sure the noble Lord will be pleased to hear that. I am sorry that I cannot undertake that any subsequent speech he may make will receive the same sort of immediate dividend as his maiden speech has received.
Turning to the speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, I was afraid at the opening of her remarks that somehow she was going to get her grain drier into this debate again. I was reminded by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, that, if Queen Victoria was known as the Grandmother of Kings, Lady Elliot of Harwood, notwithstanding her appearance, appears to be the Great-aunt of Peers. I have lost count of the number of noble Lords, some of them looking older than the noble Lady, who have got up and proceeded to say that she is their great-aunt. However, she did not talk in a great-aunt way about her area of Scotland.
The noble Lady said that depopulation there is greater than in the Highlands. I shall come back to that. She expressed pleasure at the help given in the Price Review to the sheep industry. She said that some other farmers had said that it was not fair, and that they were not doing so well as the sheep farmers. It 1042 reminded me of the time I was in the Borders, two years ago, when so much cereal was being grown that it was said, "Three white crops and then a winter cruise." I doubt whether the sheep industry will be able to say "Three lamb crops and then a fortnight at the Aviemore Ski Centre." But it is satisfactory that some help should be given to this section of the industry, which has been so sorely tried, particularly in the last twelve months. I cannot guarantee, nor could any Minister of any Government, that all sections of the agricultural industry will be satisfied in any one Price Review. If that should ever come about, then, to quote words which were used from the Opposition Front Bench in relation to a statement made this afternoon, "We shall really have crazy taxation."
I looked at the face of the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, when the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, was talking about roedeer. Who am I to decide who was right, the noble Baroness or the noble Duke? When the noble Baroness talked about shooting foxes, the looks of horror in some of the faces opposite made me realise that in these matters the debate had reached a field into which I should not venture.
The noble Lady raised the question of the membership of these bodies. The mills of God grind slowly; and Government Departments even more slowly. All I can say is that if she keeps on asking me about this, one of these days she will get the answer she wants, particularly about getting a woman on the Board. I have told her in the past, though obviously she has not accepted my answer, that although there may not be any representative of the S.N.F.U., there are farmers on the Board and we do not say to them that they must go to meetings wearing their county council hats and must not think as farmers. We find it, in fact, much easier to do it the other way—for them to think as farmers and forget the county council.
Coming to the noble Baroness's main point about the Galashiels population and the undermining of the local authority, I think that unintentionally she was unfair to the Development Department. We did not override the county council. There has been a change in Government attitude to the Borders. This brings me back to the subject of depopulation. The previous 1043 Administration did not accept depopulation as a factor in giving grants to development areas. The present Secretary of State has for long urged that depopulation was concealed unemployment and that it ought to be as valid a factor as heavy unemployment, and that was particularly so in the South because depopulation in the Borders was even greater than in the Highlands.
Having accepted that this was to be part of the Government's activity, we had to abandon the planning which had been approved five years before and which had been related to a situation in which it was expected that every Census would show fewer people living in the area than the Census before. That meant a change of use. The only way that population can be increased appreciably and quickly in the Borders is by importing people, by getting people to come back to the area. This is a point which the noble Baroness herself made in relation to the knitwear and woollen industries, which are crying out for female labour and which are having to set up branches in other parts of the country because the men who go elsewhere to find jobs take their wives and daughters with them.
The only way to keep these industries prosperous is to have male-employing industries brought into the area. That can be done in two ways. We can seek to set up small industries in individual communities, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, knows, the Hydro-Electricity Board have tried hard to do this in the Highlands, and there is no more difficult or slower task. The difficulty about getting industries to come to an area is that they do not have a choice of labour, and the difficulty of getting labour to come into an area is that they do not have a choice of job. In the Borders, it is possible, by concentrating in the first instance on a particular area, to create an industrial development to which people can travel from existing communities. After that initial industrial development, people may well be prepared to set up individual factories, and they will get workers to come to them because there will be alternative jobs within a few miles.
But in Scotland we have to get away from the idea that everybody will be provided with a job on his doorstep. If the 1044 people who leave the Borders in order to go to Birmingham or London are prepared to accept it as part of the ordinary way of life that they will spend three-quarters of an hour travelling to work in the morning, and will then spend three-quarters of an hour travelling back at night, they have to be prepared to do some travelling as part of the price of staying in the pleasanter circumstances of the Borders. That will be possible only if we improve the infrastructure; and nobody knows better than the noble Baroness that the roads run the wrong way. It is all right if you want to go North or South, but when you want to go East or West it is not so easy.
For all these reasons, it was necessary to change the Development Plan; but nobody imposed it on the County Council. It would be wrong to suggest that they jumped at any change of this magnitude with enthusiasm. They are just as cautious as people in other parts of the country. But if they had not approved the Development Plan, the Secretary of State's proposal in the area would have been frustrated. The proposal had to be approved, in the first instance, by the County Council.
I do not think I should apologise for spending so much time on the Borders, because in these Scottish debates the Borders have not had much opportunity in the past, and there is change taking place there which is worth referring to. But it means an import of population into the Borders of some 25,000 people. This can be done only by a complete re-thinking on the matter. There have been studies commissioned by the Secretary of State, through the University of Edinburgh, to see what is the best way of doing this. When these studies are available, the first people who will be made aware of them, after the Secretary of State, are the local authorities whose plans will be affected by them. But there will be no question of imposing anything. We in the Scottish Office know that if you want a job done easily the best way is to get the local authority on your side. If you want to make difficulties, you start by fighting with the local authority. I have been long enough on the local authority side to know that there is no future in attempting to do the job the hard way.
1045 On the question of the railway line, I do not think the noble Lady will expect me to say anything particularly helpful. I can offer her my sympathetic interest, and she can read as much or as little into that as she likes. Perhaps she will read more into it than is safe for me as Minister. I would say that all the points, including the social implications of the proposal to close this line, are presently before the Scottish Economic Planning Council, and the views of the Council will be taken into full reckoning before the Minister of Transport makes her decision. I hope that the noble Baroness will be kind enough not to press me further than that. I think perhaps I have been unwise in going as far as I have gone.
I did not reply to all the points made by the noble Duke in his opening remarks, and do not intend to; but there are one or two which I think I should answer. He asked for a breakdown of figures as between the Forestry Commission and private planting. The noble Lord, Lord Burton, quoted the figure for the crofting counties almost exactly, if I heard him aright: I think he said 5,300 acres. The figure that I have been given for private planting in 1966 in the crofting counties is the slightly more favourable figure of 5,700 acres; and I would not call the noble Lord wrong for 400 acres.
It was suggested by the noble Duke that the Government should make it easier for farmers who are likely to leave agriculture for other industries. This is one of the purposes of the grant provisions of the Agriculture Bill. The grants and annuities which will be payable will encourage this sort of thing. But this is only if it will lead to the creation of viable units. There is no point in paying somebody to give up a unit which is not viable merely to create another unit which is bigger yet still not a viable unit.
The final point that I wish to make to the noble Duke is on his presumption, if that is not putting it too strongly, that the best thing to be done with the Western part of the Highlands is to leave it to trees and deer. I cannot see that it is right at this stage—and I hope it never will be right—to accept that this is the only viable solution for the Western Highlands.
1046 On the matter of the Hunter Committee, having had the committee spend so much time in arriving at their conclusions, the noble Duke said: "Why consult all these bodies over again? They have given their evidence". Those noble Lords on this side of the House who are Ministers, and noble Lords on the other side who have been Ministers, know that if you have to legislate on so controversial a subject as the Hunter Committee Report there is a considerable advantage in trying to find what is the greatest possible measure of agreement which can be accomplished. That may well mean, in some cases, not the whole of Hunter, but the modification of Hunter. But at the end of the day, the decision must be taken by the Secretary of State as to the form of the legislation, and part of that may well be legislation which is less palatable to some people than to others. But this is not the sort of subject on which Parliament is going to find time to legislate every other year. What we do here may well be the solution for Scotland for many years ahead. In that connection, I submit to your Lordships that time spent in trying to get the greatest possible measure of agreement will prove to be time well spent. I hope that we shall never in the Highlands, of all places, operate on the basis that speed is preferable to accuracy—not that many Governments are in danger of being accused of moving too speedily.
The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, spoke about "his" island, and then he disclaimed responsibility. He also hoped that the people would not be forced to plant trees on the best land. I think I can paraphrase what I read of what is being done. The Forestry Commission are carrying out a survey on Mull at the present time. This has created a certain amount of erroneous fear on the part of the people there. The idea has got around that the Forestry Commission have been given, as it were, first choice on the island; that they will select what they want and then the rest will be made available to other people. That is not the case.
Somebody has to make a start, and it seemed to be reasonable—this has happened in other places—that we should look, from the Forestry Commission's point of view, first of all at the land which they consider is unsuitable for planting, 1047 where they cannot get results in planting trees on it; secondly, at the land which they reject as being too good agricultural land for them to be able to justify their planting proposals, and, thirdly, at the land which they wish to plant. Consultations then take place with the other parties—for instance, the Department of Agriculture—and the Forestry Commission have to discuss with them that part of the land which they consider is suitable; and I can assure noble Lords that the Department is a strong protagonist in favour of the agricultural use of land. They do not say "agriculture in every circumstance", but they do have the primary object of conserving good agricutural land for agricultural purposes.
When all this is done, if the Commission are to acquire land for forestry it will be after this consultation has taken place and agreement has been reached; and, as I think at least two noble Lords opposite know, if there is a disagreement between the Department and the Commission as to whether land should be acquired the matter goes to a Minister for adjudication. I should think both noble Lords have been involved in such adjudications in the past, as I have been. So the survey will produce a fair examination of the best use of land, and I would remind noble Lords that the Highlands and Islands Development Board are involved in this, and they have no preconceived ideas in favour of forestry, agriculture or other purposes.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? In the Islands the Forestry Commission have already planted some of the best hill land, so in some respects the question of the survey is a little late in the day.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I can talk only about the situation as it is. It may be that this is one on which noble Lords opposite have adjudicated at some time in the past. I have no reason to believe that they were involved at all. I just cannot exclude the possibility. But there will still be arguments. There will be a decision on land that is to be used for forestry, and there will be people who will argue that this is the best agricultural land to be found anywhere on the face of the globe. If a man does not want trees 1048 he will find merits in his land which he did not see when he was buying it.
I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, has left—
§ THE EARL OF CROMARTIE
My Lords, I can tell the noble Lord that unfortunately my noble friend Lord Lovat had to leave in order to catch a train.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I was afraid that might be the position. I am sorry, because it rather restricts me in what I might say. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, advised me to take a certain course of action—
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, may I just say that my noble friend Lord Lovat asked me to take notes of what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said?
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I do not know how good the noble Lord's shorthand is, but I would suggest that if it is not perfect he would do better to rely on Hansard. Even although he will have to wait a day longer, it will all be there for him to read; and I have no doubt at all that we shall hear more about it when we discuss the Highlands and Islands Development Board's Annual Report.
Of all the speeches that were made in gation, the bulk of it in private hands. was that made by the noble Lord, Lord Lovat. I do not think it was a fair speech; I do not think it will be helpful to the Highlands, and I certainly do not think it will be helpful to the Highlands and Islands Development Board. The noble Lord repeated almost every rumour and innuendo which has been circulating, and he doubted the accuracy of some of the statements which had been made. For example, he referred to the fact that the Highlands and Islands Development Board were reputed to have said that they had brought 1,200 jobs to the area. He doubted very much whether that was the case, and then he expressed the hope that he was wrong. If he did not know, why should he start off on the basis that the Board were putting out false information? It could not be anything other than that. If the Board said a particular thing and it was wrong, they are the people who know the right answers in the first instance, and it was virtually an accusation of the circulation of false information.
1049 In the first instance, the Board have never said that they brought 1,200 jobs to the Highlands. But the way in which this was put, and its relation to fact, is an example of the way in which distorted stories are going about the area—just as for many years the same thing was said about the Hydro-Electric Board. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, if he is a grateful man, ought to go down on his knees at night and thank God that the Government set up the Highland Board, which has taken a tremendous weight of criticism off his shoulders, because the Hydro-Electric Board used to get it all, whereas now they get it only after there has been a flood.
What are the facts with relation to the 1,200 jobs? I said I would give the facts, and here they are. Up to March 31, 1967, the Board had approved 267 projects. They have offered loan assistance of £962,177; they have offered grant assistance of £197,978. These two figures total £1,158,000-odd. The amount which has been paid out so far is £619,765. The number of jobs estimated to accrue from that grant and loan assistance is 1,285. In total, this is equivalent to one big industry being located in the Highlands. It is approaching in employment the value of the pulp mill. However, when the previous Government said they had approved the pulp mill and made the necessary legislative arrangements, and said that there were expected to be a certain number of jobs accruing from it, no one understood from that statement that the Government of the day were claiming that at any given point in time they had already reached that figure.
The indications are that the estimates there are being confirmed. Obviously, when there is a proposal spread over 267 different projects there is a possibility of big percentage differences in what is achieved. If a man says he is going to employ four people and in fact he employs only three, the figures are 25 per cent. out; but it does not follow that they will be 25 per cent. out over the whole lot, because somebody else who says he is going to employ four people may in fact employ five. The merit of these proposals for the Highlands—and this will always be an important part of the Highland Board's work—is that this is where the maximum amount of the employment will come, in the spreading of 1050 employment in small packets over the area.
Now I will come to the point which has caused so much concern. Not only rumour, but certain newspapers, predicted that the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, was going to do this and to say that. They might have been proved wrong, but I had my notes prepared on the assumption that in this case he might raise some of the things which the Scotsman said he would raise. I wish to weigh these words carefully, because they are important, so I will read what I prepared with great care in advance.
The noble Lord, Lord Lovat, referred to the proposal which has been the subject of considerable public comment, to develop a major petro-chemical industry at Invergordon and to the consequences such a development would have on land use in the area. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has already made a Statement in another place, on March 23, which noble Lords may have read. I should like to repeat what my right honourable friend made clear then: that what is involved is a major industrial project which is under consideration by the private interests concerned. They have commissioned certain feasibility and marketing studies in order to enable them to make up their minds whether, from their point of view, the project is worth pursuing further. The project could be of great value to Highland Development, and to help in its consideration the Highland Development Board and the County Council are also examining certain aspects of infrastructure which such a major industrial development might entail.
It has been made abundantly clear on several occasions that the whole matter is still at the stage of study and investigation, the bulk of it in private hands. Until the studies being undertaken by the private company concerned have been completed, decisions reached by them, and formal propositions made by them to the Government and fully considered by the proper Departments, there can be no question whatever of any commitment or undertaking by the Government.
Naturally any formal proposals put by the company to Government Departments would be considered in the light of all the circumstances, in which land 1051 use would obviously take its place, and those affected by the proposed development would have a right to make representations and be heard. It is not possible—nor would it be proper—even to attempt to anticipate the consideration which would have to be given by the Government to any specific proposal involving an industrial development of the magnitude which seems to be indicated.
Having said that, I wish to go on to say this. This project may come to nothing or it may become a live issue—I do not know and I doubt very much whether the Occidental Petroleum Company know what it is going to be. Obviously it is something which has possibilities from their point of view or they would not have embarked on the expenditure. But we do not know what the outcome will be, and I am sorry that because of the fears which have been expressed it should have been made the occasion of a wholesale attack on the Board and, almost without exception, its members. Willie Logan escaped attack because he died. John Rollo escaped attack because his record in the Highland Fund places him beyond attack, but the others have been subjected to a campaign of vilification in the Highlands which the Highlands will regret as they realise that they have been unfair to people who have been trying to help them.
When the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, spoke about only Highlanders, and I asked about John Robertson, it was a matter of regret to me that some noble Lords opposite laughed when he said, "He is not a Highlander; he comes from Aberdeen." This is part of the trouble of the Highlands. One of the things which was said to me before the Board was set up was, "I hope you do not make the mistake of assuming that the only people able to help the Highlands are those born there". I do not know Mr. Robertson; I have never met him. At least he farms in a crofting area. He has shown it is possible for a crofter to make a living in doing things other than crofting by showing a spirit of liveliness in the area. I do not know where he came from. I do know this: that there are noble Lords, perhaps even on these Benches—certainly there would be if these Benches were as full as they were, say, during the Steel debate or the Land 1052 Commission debate—who would claim to be real Highlanders but who may well have been born in a London nursing home and who may have spent more years of their lives in schools in England than Robertson ever did in Aberdeen; but it does not make them any less Highlanders. This, I think, is part of the thing from which the Highlands suffer: that it should be regarded as a subject for laughter that Mr. Robertson came from Aberdeen.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords I do not want to associate myself with the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, on this point, but Mr. Robertson is very far from a crofter he is a very large farmer.
§ LORD HUGHES
Yes, and it is surprising how often this happens. He did very active work in his membership of the Crofters Commission. This was where he first came to notice. Two nominations for new membership of the Board have already been made; the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, nominated Mr. Jo Grimond, and the noble Lord, Lord Burton, nominated someone else whose name I forget, but I will get it from Hansard in due course. I would remind noble Lords that there is only one list in existence longer than the list of those who have been nominated for membership of the Highland Board and that is the list of those who have nominated themselves for Life Peerages. Having regard to the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, received my remark about Mr. Robertson, I found it interesting that he nominated Mr. Grimond, because, after all, if I am not mistaken, Mr. Grimond's origins are in my home town of Dundee, which has even less claim to be in the Highlands than Aberdeen has; but I should not wish to suggest that because of that Mr. Grimond would not make a good member of the Board, although I am not seconding his nomination at this stage. Perhaps I have said enough on that subject to indicate that there have been many assumptions made in the Highlands, made in this House by noble Lords and made by the Press about the commitments of the Government in relation to a petrochemical project, and those assumptions at this stage are without justification.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord could give an assurance that if any progress 1053 were made in this direction he would try to keep the House informed about it. It is obviously a matter with which a great many people are concerned.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I could not give a firm assurance on a matter of that kind without consulting my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, but it seems to me, speaking off the cuff that if there were the slightest prospect of a project of this kind going ahead, having regard to the magnitude of the proposal it is exceedingly doubtful that anything could be done without both Houses of Parliament being made aware of it in the first instance. This project runs into many millions of pounds and makes the pulp mill seem a remarkably cheap project by comparison. I think I am reasonably safe in giving that assurance.
There were specific questions which the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, asked, but none of those have any relation to land use in the Highlands. They are very relevant to the affairs of the Highland Board. I do not propose to answer them because I do not wish to turn this into a discussion of the Highland Board's affairs, and I do not feel any guilt in that, because I know that all noble Lords will have a very early opportunity of discussing these aspects. But there was one subject to which the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, referred which had not to do with the Highland Board and which I should like to answer. He spoke about the question of improvement. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, referred to this also, and particularly in the aspect of land erosion. In the Agriculture Bill a number of measures are being taken which will benefit agriculture in the Highlands, and chief among them, perhaps, is the Highland land improvement scheme which will provide 50 per cent. grants for improvements to increase productivity on hill land. This will cover land reclamation, re-seeding, regeneration of grazing, clearance of bracken and other obstructions to cultivation, fencing, shelter belts, roads, and the provision of simple shelters for cattle and sheep. The noble Lord will notice that there does not arise in all that list the question of reclaiming land from the sea or from the river.
I will, with his permission, look at that aspect. I greatly doubt whether it is intended to cover it. But I was interested 1054 in what he and the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, had to say on this subject. I will certainly undertake to have this matter explored. I was going to say that I would write to them, but I do not think that is the best way, because this is something that has interested more people than them. I have not the slightest doubt that there will be an opportunity in the not too distant future. It would be no more irrelevant to the debate than the affairs of the Highlands and Islands Board if I were to interpolate something on the subject of this erosion. So I will take an early opportunity of replying to it.
The noble Lord, Lord Burton, asked for a number of details. He will forgive me if I include them under the category that they are appropriate to a discussion of the Board's affairs rather than to land use: the number of people they employ, the cost of it, and so on. This is something he will probably be able to find out for himself, and he can get up and congratulate or castigate the Government, as appears suitable to him. It would not surprise me if it is the former.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, referred to the intrusion into Glen Affric for military training. This is essentially a defence matter, as he will appreciate, but there was some publicity given to it, not only in the Guardian but in the Scottish Press, and I am glad to be able to say that there was misapprehension about it. The information we were given at the Scottish Office was that the Army do not in fact intend to use Glen Affric in any really different way from the way in which it has been used for military training in the past. What has taken place, and has led to the misunderstanding, has been a difference in the procedure which was adopted.
This year the Ministry of Defence made a general approach to the Scottish Landowners' Federation for the use of the area, instead of, as in earlier years, the approaches being made by individual Army units to individual landowners. This created the impression that there was to be a mass descent by the Army on the area. In fact, that is not the position. Apart from this procedural matter, the only difference is that this year there will be a certain number of Regular Army units taking part in the training in addition to the Territorial units, whereas in past years it has been 1055 entirely Territorials. But it does not envisage an increase or a change in the usage to which the area has been subject in the past and which, so far as I know, has not created any complaint.
I come now to the points raised by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk. This brings me almost to the end of my reply, which I am afraid has been over long. My only apology is that when noble Lords take the trouble to come down so far for a debate on Scottish affairs, and raise points which are of importance, it always seems to me to be unfair if the Minister selects only a few of the speeches and says, "I will write to the rest of you". If my English colleagues and the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, who is sitting waiting, patiently or impatiently, for the next item, will forgive me, I still have a little, but not a great deal more. time to take up.
The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, referred to the Cairngorms Report. He quoted the words of the Secretary of State commending this for study. He said, somewhat vehemently, "Is it only for study?" Well, I hope not. But it is not for the Scottish Office in the first instance to take the initiative. In the first instance, it is a matter for study by the local authorities concerned. I would remind the noble Earl—I think this will be of some comfort to him—that the most successful project at Aviemore did not arise because of what the Scottish Office did. It arose because of local initiative—in the first place, initiative not even of the local authority, but of some private individuals.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
None the less, may I put this to the noble Lord? Roads are not a subject of local initiative.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
And the roads are not being used a great deal by people who pay rates in Inverness. That is really the problem, I think.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I will come to the question of roads. I should be disappointed if those who are interested in this area do not take the sort of action which has led to the Aviemore project reaching the success it has; and they certainly will not be dis- 1056 couraged by the Scottish Office in considering it. But having regard to what the noble Baroness said, if the Scottish Office does not watch itself it will be told, not by the noble Baroness, but by somebody else in the area, that it is dictating to the local authorities what they should do. There is a right way to go about these things. Sometimes, if the local authorities are not moving as fast as they can, there can be a little gentle prodding. But it must be their pigeon in the first instance, and at least in this case they have close to them the evidence that a project of this kind can be successfully mounted.
The noble Earl went on to speak of the value of winter sports. I agree with him. I have already referred to my visit to Aviemore. One of the things which I was told there—this is almost incredible, but it is absolutely true—is that at the time I was there a party of young people had in the previous four weeks been coming up by car from London. They left London on Friday night. They took it in turns to drive, and they motored all night, getting up to the ski centre sometime on the Saturday morning. They skied on Saturday, they ski-ed on Sunday, and then in turn they spent Sunday night driving back to London. I do not know whether their employers got any value out of them on the Monday, but they had done this for four weeks. This is an indication of what this area can offer to winter sports enthusiasts, that people will go to all that bother to take advantage of it. I am at one with the noble Earl in wishing to give every encouragement to this sort of thing. My next subject will be roads.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, my point is this. These people can get up to Aviemore, and they know they can get there. But perhaps they cannot get from Aviemore up to the Cairngorm Hill at all. Next week I am going up to the British Championships which for the first time are being held in this country; on every previous occasion they have been held in the Alps. I know I can get to Aviemore. But in certain circumstances. I am not certain whether I can get through Aviemore actually on the hill to see the ski-ing at all. This is the problem, and I think the Scottish Office should do something more than prodding.
§ LORD HUGHES
Fortunately, the Scottish Office is doing more than prodding. This is the position about road access in the ski-ing area. I think perhaps I should read the whole of this from my notes. In the late 1950's Inverness County Council, as highway authority, decided to improve the then private road from Coylum Bridge to Glenmore Lodge, to extend it to the foot of the ski slopes at Coire Cas, and to add it to the county list of highways. The road was built at a cost of £48,000. The Government made a 50 per cent. grant towards the net cost: that is, £30,000, after allowing for contributions totalling £18,000 from local hoteliers, the Forestry Commission, the Scottish Council for Physical Recreation, and the Edinburgh University Ski Club. The work was completed in the autumn of 1960. Since then there has been such an increase in traffic between Aviemore and Coire Cas that the county council, with the promise of further Government grant, has decided to provide the whole length of road from Aviemore to Coire Cas with an 18-foot carriageway. Noble Lords further South may think that this is not much, but an 18-ft. carriageway is a lot of road up that way. This improvement, which provides for a new bridge over the Spey and the main Inverness railway and for an improved junction with the trunk road A.9 at Aviemore, is estimated to cost £450,000, of which £270,000 will be met by Exchequer grant.
The work is being undertaken in three stages: the Coylum Bridge to Glenmore Lodge section, on which work is virtually complete; the Glenmore Lodge to Coire Cas section, where constructional work is in progress and is expected to be completed by the end of 1967; and the Aviemore to Coylum Bridge section, where preparatory work has been held up because of difficulties with land acquisition. It is not unknown for Highland lairds to be "sweird" to part with their land—that may be the case. But there are difficulties, which may be legal difficulties; or it may just be that somebody does not want to sell. I do not know. But this is the information which I am given. Some progress towards solving these difficulties has been made, but if the remaining objections to the County Council's compulsory purchase order are not withdrawn a public inquiry will have to be held. On the main approach to the 1058 area—trunk road A.9—improvements designed to assist traffic from Perth and the South are in the approved road programme. Priority among these is being given to removing the bottlenecks South of Pitlochry. Perhaps it has not moved as fast as the noble Earl would have liked. I would not wish to say that it has moved as fast as I should like; but at least it has reached the stage where a considerable volume of work has been done and the whole of it is accepted for completion. Simply because of the very difficult portion between Aviemore and Coylum Bridge there must be great difficulties, and I hope that they will not prove too troublesome.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, was not altogether right in blaming the local landlord. I know there was some objection earlier on that he was not very happy about the amenities, but the big delay was that the local councillor insisted on having it referred back in the summer, and consequently it was not possible to complete the road before winter descended on the contractors.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I did not place the responsibility on the landowner in particular. I must apologise to the Hansard writer for using a word with which he was not familiar, when I said that it was not unknown—and I will now translate—for Highland lairds—landlords—to be unwilling to part with their land, although I did not know whether that was the case. There could be many legal difficulties, but the fact remains that they are not yet resolved, and there may yet have to be a public inquiry which must inevitably hold up matters. Sooner or later, however, the last part of the road will be constructed.
I think that I have covered most of the points—in fact I hope nearly all of the points—to which I should reply in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, concluded by tying up the loose ends. He re-emphasised points to which he wished to direct my attention in particular. I am very grateful to him for doing so, because at least one of the points to which I have referred I should perhaps have omitted if he had not reminded me about it. I apologise to your Lordships for the extreme length of my reply. In particular, I must apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inch-rye. At least he has a remedy in his 1059 hands, for I have to wait until he finishes, since I shall be replying to him a little later. I thank your Lordships for taking part in this debate, and I renew my thanks to the noble Duke for having initiated it.
§ 7.45 p.m.
TIIE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, I think the time factor saves my making a detailed reply, even if I wished to do so. I expect to disagree with some of the things the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, says. That is why I have the honour to look at him full face and not at the back of his head. I disagreed fundamentally with one of the things which one of my noble friends said; and that was that details of loans and grants from the Highland Development Board should not be available to the public. I think that it is essential if the public are to have confidence in the Highland Development Board that we should know where public money is going. I am sure that this is the whole trouble about the present fuss about the petro-chemical works at Invergordon.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I am sure the noble Duke does not expect the Board of Trade to make these figures available in relation to the very much larger sums which they disburse.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
I think that the Board of Trade disburse these sums only to companies and not to private individuals.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
I thought that they had to appear in company accounts so that one could see them in that way.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
Then I apologise to the noble Lord, but I still think that these loans should be public. I personally should be proud to get a loan from the Highland Development Board; but unfortunately I am outside the area. But if I did get one I should certainly not mind anyone knowing. I hope—and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is with me on this—that the whole of the West Coast will not one day be trees up to 1,200 feet and deer 1060 thereafter. This would be a disaster. I was suggesting that there probably were places where it might be a better land use if it were trees and deer, rather than sheep.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this debate, except for the first 40 minutes, for which I apologise. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part. It has been extremely interesting, well worth while, and has raised a number of fascinating points. I should particularly like to thank my noble friend Lord Sinclair for a maiden speech which I thought was impeccable in every way. I hope that he will follow it up frequently. I admire the bravery of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, as being the only non-Scot to take part in the debate. If the Tourist Board need a publicist down in England, they ought to employ the noble Lord part-time when he is not busy in this House. After all, he could usually give them Fridays, and even occasional Mondays; and I believe they would find it well worth while.
Last, but not least, I would thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, who has made not one speech but two. He has answered the majority of our points. There were some which were reasonably clear, in that they were within the purview of the debate on land use, but which he has not yet answered. I have no doubt that in these cases he will write and tell us the answer. I quite agree with the noble Lord that there were some which were well outside the terms of the Motion. With these few words, and since we all suffer from enough paper in our lives, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.