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On Emigration and the State of the Highlands
Appendix R.


ln reasoning on this subject I have taken for granted that according to the received ideas, there is a difference arising from the accumulation of people in the Highlands, and that the expense of making kelp would be greater if the population should fall, to its natural level. In this, however, I must he understood as speaking hypothetically; for I am by no means convinced, that those who have work to be executed in the Highlands derive any real benefit from the present low rate of wages. The same circumstances, from which this arises, occasion also a want of industry and skill, which is probably more than sufficient to counterbalance the advantage.

In several parts of the Highlands I have found that when labour was done by the piece, the prices given were higher than would have been required for similar work on my own estate; yet in the same places the wages of a yearly servant were scarcely more than half of those which an ordinary workman would have procured in the south of Scotland.

With respect to kelp-making, it is difficult to state so direct a comparison. The shores of the south of Scotland are seldom so productive as to render kelp an object of general attention, or to lead to those improved methods of manufacture which will naturally arise where the quantity is very considerable. The plan upon which the workmen are employed and paid is different in different places; and even where the same mode is followed, little instruction can be made from a mere comparison of prices, because the labour required for making any specified quantity of kelp is various, according as the situation is more or less difficult. A comparison in which so many complicated circumstances are involved, would require a more minute acquaintance with the business than I can pretend to; but I may venture to state some grounds for suspecting that there is much fallacy in the ideas commonly entertained on the subject.

A very intelligent overseer of work in the south of Scotland, who has had much experience in kelp-making, and is not unacquainted with the Hebrides, informs me that in situations not less difficult than most of the shores he has seen there, he could in a good season make five and a half tons of kelp, and in the worst season four tons for each workman employed under him. This I apprehend is considerably more than is generally done on the coast of the Highlands and Western Isles: at least in those parts I have visited I have not heard of so great a quantity being usually done. In the Statistical Account of Scotland, vol. x. parish of Harris, it is mentioned that one ton is the proportion commonly allotted to each working hand.—In the account of North and South Uist, this point is not so fully stated; but circumstances are mentioned which give reason to believe that the proportion cannot in general exceed two ton.

It is also mentioned in the same work, that the land rent of these islands is entirely paid away in wages for kelp-making; and I have heard the same circumstance reported from other authorities. From the description of these islands it appears, that on their Western coast there is a uniform range of arable land naturally of a fine quality, though from the miserable style of agriculture not so productive as it ought to be. In the island of South Uist, the extent of good land, though not accurately surveyed, seems to be at least thirty square miles, besides ten or twelve times as much of moorish pasture, partly improvable. Were this land well managed, and let at its fair value, it cannot appear improbable that the rent would exceed considerably the whole price of the eleven hundred tons of kelp which the shores are reckoned to produce; but when the use of all this land is given away for the mere expense of manufacture, at what rate is an acre to be valued, if this be an economicaI mode of management or where is the profit the landlord derives from his kelp?

The expenses of making kelp in the western Highlands and isles are, in various situations from thirty-five to, fifty shillings per ton: in some few instances as high as three pounds. Where local circumstances are similar, I do not apprehend the expenses in the low country of Scotland are much, if at all, inquiring of the same man I have mentioned above, at what rate he could undertake to make kelp in those parts of the Hebrides he was acquainted with on the supposition that he could have no assistance from the inhabitants, and that all his workmen must be hired in other parts of the country, and conveyed there for the season, he formed an estimate of prices not very widely different from those that are at present paid.

Though I am far from supposing that the natural progress of things in the Highlands will ever render such expedients necessary, yet this may be sufficient to show how little foundation there is for the idea that the manufacture of kelp may be totally annihilated by emigration.


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