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I have omitted all those in- mission; but rather with the House stances, and many are very strik- of Commons, which too gladly ing, where the names of widows escaped from a difficulty by enactstand in the rent-book, except ing a law in terms so vague as to in the last, where the rent of court abuse. Under the Act as it two widows is compared, so as stands, the tenant who has paid to eliminate those sentiments of his way meets with positive injussympathy which in dealing with tice, while he who has made no one's own property are entirely effort has a large reward. When laudable.
Parliament made up its mind to These instances are not culled reduce arrears, it should have with care and difficulty from long limited such recluction to cases tables; the reports absolutely teem where the existing rent was found with them; they could be multi- to be unfair, and in these cases the plied scores of times, and every excesses should have been allowed township in the Highlands can for a definite period, say,
years quote case after case to illustrate in every instance. Thus, A, B., how perfect a lottery is an applica- owing £10 in arrears on
on & £5 tion to the Court, and men are left rent, has his rent reduced to £4. with no certainty but one - that He will be entitled to the differhe who pays his debts is a fool, ence between the old rent and the since he receives no consideration, fair rent for five years, that is, £5, while the man who has incurred and the arrears he has to pay are the largest arrears generally ob- reduced by that amount. O. D. tains nost favour. The direct paid a similar rent and received a consequence has been non-pay- similar reduction, but having been ment of rents, in the hope that a punctual in his payments, he has huge accumulation of arrears may to receive, and does receive, by secure—whether the rent be judged instalments, the amount that he fair or no—the compassion of the has overpaid. If the law had Court and nullification of the debt. stood thus, there would have been It has become common in some no temptation to accumulate arparts of the Highlands for the rears; all would have received crofters frankly to state that this equal measure, and there would is their purpose in refusing to pay have been no just discontent. rent, and I can scarcely blame Taking the Act as it stands them; they are but taking advan ind administered as we find it, tage of a system which has received I repeat it has been a disaster to the reckless sanction of Parlia- the country. Men have profited ment. From whatever point of inversely with their energy, inview the question may be re- dustry, and thrift. Those who garded, the reader will admit have made no effort to keep square that the teaching of the Legisla- with the world, but have allowed ture and Commission coinbined year by year to pass without an is in this matter the parent, effort to meet their obligations, are as I have said - of dishonesty rewarded; those who in good and and unthrift; while the result of evil times alike have done their fitful and uncertain administra- best to meet all engagements, are tion must provoko jealousy and dis- left to the reflection that courage union among those whoso interests and bonesty aro not qualities that have been so unequally affected. meet with appreciation, and that The fault is not with the people : they would have been far wiser to it is not primarily with tho Com run up debts at their pleasure for
the charitable to pay or for the has been passed in their interests. Legislature to cancel.
Who is there, however, that, knowMr Malcolm MacNeil, in his in- ing the country, will pretend that teresting report from the Lews, whatever gains have accrued to the comments on the “listless apathy” crofters have not, even in their of the population, and gives as his exclusive interest, been purchased opinion that this is mainly owing at a destructive price ? Confidence to the fact that in every circum. has been destroyed, capital has stance of difficulty and distress taken swift alarm, improvements “some agency to them unknown have been postponed and relin. has stepped in to their rescue," quished, and the terrible lesson, 80 and, they argue, “Why should not hard to eradicate, that " honesty the like occur again ?” The crofter is not the best policy,” has been who has been suddenly relieved of sedulously impressed on the people. three, five, seven, ten, or even Sixty thousand people still struggle fifteen years of arrears, naturally to live in a country where there is argues what has happened once no manufacture, and where the gross may happen again, and his prin- yearly value certainly cannot now cipal inducement to vigorous effort exceed from £75,000 to £80,000 is removed. His neighbour, who &-year. The “crofter question' has not succumbed but who has is as acute as it ever was, and as annually met his obligations, is things stand there are but three forced to the conclusion that he alternatives. Development of new has made a sad mistake which it industry; emigration ; discontent, would be folly to repeat.
poverty, and wretchedness, borderThe number of crofters in the ing, in any chance bad season, on islands is not less than 6900. An actual starvation. In this comexhaustive series of visits by the munity, as in every other, the Commissioners has disposed of surest and the best solution is 3518. Among the large balance to be found in the vigour of the are many who have resisted for a people; but the Legislature have longer or shorter period—many taken the question up, so far they altogether — the temptation to have made a mess of it, and they withhold payment of rent. With cannot leave it where it stands. these men virtue is its sole re- The visit of the Secretary for ward; bitter are the feelings with Scotland, particularly directed to which they see advantage accruing these islands which make the to the least worthy of their class, exclusive subject of this article, and utterly destructive of manli- proves that the Government are ness, self-reliance, independence, convinced their duty is not terminand thrift are the lessons which ated, and that they are resolved so the Commission have taught. to proceed on remedial lines that
In legislation, however, there is failure—if such there be-shall no going back. Landlords and not be chargeable to them. The tenants alike know the best and directions in which legislative the worst of the new system, and action is sought are fourfold : first, the future must be faced.
by facilitating the occupation of The crofters of the Hebrides new holdings; second, by relieving are now starting fair. They have to some extent the fearful pressur3 a clear field, and an opportunity of local taxation; third, by bringof justifying the legislation which ing work to the people through the
fostering of local enterprise; fourth, small farmers, gradually grading by bringing the people to work by up to the tacksman with some emigration
thousands of sheep. To place the If any man recommends the oc- whole of any country in the hands cupation of new holdings by legis- of any one class is absurd. lative enactment, let him glance 2. Relief from local taxation. through the reports of the Crofters -A sum of £30,000 has been Commission, and observe how the placed in the hands of the Secretownship system has produced tary for Scotland, out of the pronothing but debt, misery, and dis- ceeds of the Probate Duty grant, content. To seize the grazings now and this has been distributed by occupied by farmers, now bearing him among the parishes of the stock of sheep and cattle of the Highland counties. How sorely best breeds and highest value, it is needed, especially in the island now producing all that they are districts, is shown by one fact. capable of food-supply for the na- But for this grant the school rates tion, to place them in the hands alone would stand at 7s.6d. in of crofter communities, would not Barvas, 7s. in Loch, 4s. in Uig, and only be an act of robbery against 6s. 11d. in Harris ; besides which, the interests of individuals, but of the poor-rates amount to 5s. 6d., folly unredeemed in those of the 5s., 2s. 6d., and 3s. respectively. people themselves and of the na- Adding the county and road rates, tion at large. Farms are indeed the local charges in Barvas would too large : there is abundant room exceed 15s. in the £; and with a defor a gradation of holdings by creasing rental the rates must grow. means of which the saving crofter By the Scottish Local Government may step into the small farming Bill, the Government proposed to class. Men, however, who can take make this grant of £30,000 perfarms at £50, £30, £20, or even petual; but they have so far yielded £15, and stock them at their own to the clamour of debate as to reexpense, will not want oppor- duce this figure to £10,000. The tunities. They would be as wel- total average charge for every kind come as rain to a thirsty soil on of local taxation-except poor-rates almost every Highland estate, -varies from 11.19d. in Kirkcudwhere many farms are so great as bright to 24.85d. in Banff, which to break down under their own is the most heavily burdened county weight. If, besides this, any outside the Highland line. On the Chancellor of the Exchequer can grounds of justice and of policy, be found who will deem it consis- the Chancellor of the Exchequer tent with his duty to the general must find some means of replacing taxpayer to advance money to the £20,000 diverted to other uses, assist in the purchase of stock, and of thus reducing the excepsuch action in the interests of the tional charges on the island parHighlands alone would be warmly ishes until they more nearly apwelcomed; but this is the limit of proach that levied for similar purwise legislative interference in this poses in richer and more favoured direction. What is wanted is a mix- districts. ture of occupations and of classes 3. Bringing work to the people.
fishermen, crofter townships, So far as this is practicable, I have no hesitation whatever in arguing recommended as being on the dithat this is the right policy to rect route of steamers through the carry through to its furthest Sound of Skye—the cost should legitimate conclusion. Sixty thou- not be an insurmountable barrier sand people are living in the West- to so vast an improvement as that ern Islands. If it is possible for involved in placing the norththem to continue to live there in western seaboard within six or active industry and enjoying fair seven hours of Glasgow. prosperity, it is in the best inter- The Highland Railway with ests of the empire that they should its present terminus at Strome remain. What can Parliament do Ferry, is within thirteen miles of to foster industry? To answer that Kyleakin, which is the most conquestion was the object of Lord venient point of access for all the Lothian's careful and exhaustive traffic passing on the west coast. inquiry in June last. Mr Smith Further north the projected lines has stated in the House of Com- from Garve to Ullapool, and from mons that the recommendations Achnasheen to Aultbean, offer of the Secretary for Scotland are great advantages to the population already in the hands of the Gov- both of the west coast and of the ernment, and that definite action Lews, and may be constructed will be taken early next session. without any excessive or prohibiIt is most earnestly to be desired tory outlay. that any scheme proposed in the I am unable within the liniits interests of the West Highlands of this paper to discuss in detail should show with unmistakable the work which is desired within clearness how far the Government the islands themselves. The proare prepared to go, and where they jects for development by railways are determined to stop. The latter in Skye and the Lews, and for is quite as important as the former, construction of numberless harfor nothing can be more dangerous bours in almost every island, have than cherishing illusive hopes of ad- been fully explained to the Secvantages which can never be given. retary for Scotland and discussed The directions in which public as- in the press. These projects can sistance may be afforded are obvious only be realised by expenditure of -by railways, by piers and har- a philanthropic rather than combours, and by greater postal and mercial character from the public telegraphic facilities. Lochiel, Lord purse. How far expenditure of Abinger, The Mackintosh, and money belonging to the taxpayer some other proprietors interested in at large, in the interests of the inHighland prosperity, have secured habitants of a particular district, their bill for a railway direct from can be justified, is a question for Glasgow to Fort William. The statesmen to settle. The Irish continuation which is necessary to Light Railways Act, just passed connect the Western Islands with into law, boldly provides public this terminus is some thirty-six money for the construction of railmiles in length. The railway ways in special districts; and juswhich it was proposed to make to tification for this departure from Roshven was estimated to cost sound economic theory has been £115,000 for twenty-seven miles, found by the Chief Secretary “in though, if carried through Arisaig, the poverty of the districts with which would involve but ten extra which they had to deal.” All adiniles, to Malaig—the terminus most mit the danger of any financial
1 Local Taxation Return, No. 153, p. 6.
laxity in such matters; but I con Even more urgent and far more tend that, if it can be shown, and easy is it for the Treasury and so far as it can be shown, that ex- Post-office to come to some agreependiture will establish industries ment which may facilitate the among the people by means of settlement of the perpetual diswhich work and money will be putes between the Department and brought into the country, and idle- the people, as to the postal and ness and want driven out, such ex- telegraph service. I give one inpenditure ought to be freely in. stance of what is constantly occurcurred. Employment is the best ring. The Kilmuir district in Skye remedy for distress, and the State contains over 5000 people. Their is not stepping beyond her proper letters lie at Portree every day for province in promoting self-support- fourteen hours, and during nine ing industry in those extremities months of the year, when there is of the kingdom which are least fa- only a tri-weekly service, thirtyvoured by climate and situation. eight hours are wasted within
It is not denied by any that fifteen miles of their destination. construction of railways and har- Every individual resident has bours in the islands would add signed a petition for redress, every enormously to the value of the courtesy is shown by the Postfishing on the coast, and conse master-General and his subordi. quently to the resources of the nate officers; but the result is a people. The only serious adverse refusal, on the ground that the answer is to point out that old- present service to this large popestablished fisheries—those, for in- ulation is carried on at a loss of stance, on the Banffshire and £56, and a better service as far as Aberdeenshire coast are barely Uig would aggravate the deficit to able, with all their advantages, to a total of £107. The wholo queshold their own. The Fishery Board tion in the wild and distant disreturns for Scotland show that last tricts should be dealt with by the
gross value of fish taken Treasury in a liberal manner, until on the Scottish coast amounted to the service is such as to afford the £2,100,000, of which a very large whole population reasonable conproportion was exported. The veniences and encouragement for balance that remains is absurdly the transaction of business by post small for the population. The fact and telegram. is, fish caught on the coast do not 4. Emigration.- Earnestly ad. reach the consumer. If the people vocating, as I do, every concession of the great inland towns could get which may bring work to the access to the supplies of food ready people in their present homes, it to the fishermen's hand on the is perfectly obvious no solution is coast, vast would be the benefit to possible which does not include both. Of all the social problems large facilities for voluntary emiready to the hand of the reformer, gration. This rightly carried out there are few of greater practical is a remedial measure of greatest moment than that of bringing a value and of greatest kindness ; cheap and wholesome supply of to look to the other methods of food to the door of the hungry relief excluding emigration would poor, and a vigorous effort to aggravate the present trouble and widen the demand for fish should lead to utter disappointment; to go hand in hand with further de- rely on emigration alone would be velopment of the fisheries.
both ungenerous and unwise, and