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The Social and Industrial history of Scotland, from the Union to the present time
Nineteenth Century: 2. The Progress of Agriculture


A great impulse was given to Scottish agriculture by the French Revolution war. In 1795 the price of wheat rose from 50s. to 81s. 6d. per quarter, and in the following year to 90s. In 1812 it attained the record of 126s. 6d. A large amount of waste land passed under cultivation, and the rapid progress between 1795 and 1815 is apparent from the fact that the rent derived from agricultural land in Scotland rose from 2 millions to millions sterling during these twenty years.

Agriculture, like other industries, had, however, its ebbs and flows from the conclusion of the war in 1815 onwards. During the next ten years, for instance, there was a marked decline, due to trade depression, from the inflated prices of the previous years, and in 1822 the quarter of wheat had fallen to 44s. 7d. The Government might attempt by means of the Corn Law, limiting the importation of foreign com, to maintain the price. But trade depression by limiting the capacity of the people to purchase food, tended to frustrate the effect of this protective measure. Then came another period of prosperity in consequence of the revival of trade which the close of the war had depressed. Another factor which materially affects the industry is the weather and thus, in spite of protection, bad trade and bad seasons periodically lessened the farmer's profits. The artificial stimulation of prices by the Com Law was removed by its abolition in 1846 and agriculture had henceforth to depend on the law of supply and demand and the resource of the agriculturist. Moreover a prosperous period tended inevitably to bring about a rise in rents owing to competition in the letting of farms. During the thirty years following the middle of the century rents rose nearly fifty per cent., and when a series of bad harvests supervened, as in the years between 1872 and 1881, the resulting loss and distress were little short of calamitous. The industry was also hampered by the laws relative to it, especially the law of Hypochee, which were conceived in the interest of the landlord rather than the tenant. On the whole, however, judging from the increasing acreage under cultivation, the industry made a substantial advance during the first three-quarters of the century. The number of acres of farmed land, including grasses under rotation and under permanent pasture, rose, for instance between 1857, when statistics first became available, and 1877 from 3,500,000 to 4,440,000.

Despite this substantial advance, the landlord and tenant system, under which agriculture was largely prosecuted in Scotland, was far from satisfactory to the tenant. Apart from the disadvantageous effects of recurring trade depressions and bad harvests, the conditions on which the land was held by the tenant was not suited to encourage enterprise by the farmer, or yield an adequate returns for his capital and labour. Farmers are proverbial grumblers, but the grievances incident to the system sixty years ago were by no means merely grumbles. So serious had the situation become in 1879 - owing partly to a series of bad harvests, partly to the evils inherent in the current tenure of land - that the Government was compelled to nominate a Royal Commission to enquire into the causes of the prevailing distress. In consequence of its report a beginning was made in the legislative removal of the farmers' grievances in the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1882, which was extended by those of 1900, 1904 and 1908. The act of 1883 gave to the tenant at the expiry of his tenancy compensations for improvements made by him during it as far as these were not justly due to the inherit capabilities of the soil. The sum paid in compensation is defined as that which "fairly represents the value of the improvement to the incoming tenant." Hitherto all improvements made by the tenant accrued to the landlord at the termination of the tenacy. "if," writes Sir Issac Connell, "the tenant by use of expensive manures had brought up the land to a high state of fertility, if with or without the approval of his landlord he had spent money on additions to the buildings, or in drainage operations, it was quite open to the the landlord but of the consumer and farmer himself, whose industry, it is contended, would benefit far more from the stimulus of economic competition, than from Government protection and control.

Another grievance arising from the havoc to crops caused by the preserving of game was mitigated by the Ground Game Act of 1880. Before the passing of this Act the tenant was, indeed, entitled by the common law to kill rabbits for the protection of his crops and to claim compensation for damage from this cause. But the right might be limited or excluded by the terms of his lease and it did not extend to hares. It was, moreover, difficult to substantiate any claim for compensation and such a claim was apt to induce friction with the landlord, which might easily react unfavourably on the tenant's interest. "In most cases," says Sir C. N. Johnston (Lord Sands), "landlord and tenant found it easy so to adjust and respect their mutual rights that the landlord enjoyed his sport and the tenant suffered no injury greater than he ought fairly to have counted upon on entering into the lease. Unfortunately, however, there were cases, exceptional no doubt, but quite numerous enough to attract general public attention, in which game preserving was carried by landlords, or more frequently by game lessees to an extent which was most oppressive." Hence the Ground Game Act, which gave the tenant the right to protect his crops by killing not only rabbits, but hares, and made the right inalienable by any contract or agreement. In the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1908 the right to compensation for injury to crops by winged game or deer was granted.

Though the conditions of tenure were materially improved by successive Acts of Parliament, the increase of cultivation, characteristic of the first three-quarters of the century, was not maintained in the last quarter of it. The fall in prices due to increasing oversea competition tended to lessen the production of grain and led to the increase of stock raising. The acreage devoted to wheat growing, for instance, fell from 223,152 acres in 1857 to 81,185 in 1877. Forty years later, in 1917, it had fallen to 60,931. Similarly the production of barley decreased from 269,845 acres in 1877 to 159,135 in 1917, whilst in the case of oats the increase was insignificant, being respectively 1,024,882 and 1,041,543 acres. In the case of green crop there was also a considerable decrease. On the other hand, the acreage of permanent pasture and grass under rotation shows a marked increase from 2,542,088 acres in 1877 to 2,903,711 in 1917, and nearly the whole of this increase is assignable to permanent grass. Stock raising thus displaced arable farming to a considerable extent during these forty years.

The effect of the last two years of the war has, however, been to bring more land under grain and other cultivation and with the quickened sense of the importance of corn-growing, which the war has produced, and which the Act of 1920 is intended to foster, there seems to be a likelihood that this increase will continue, though a portion of the additional land ploughed has been found to be unsuitable for this purpose.

In the cultivation of garden produce Scotland has attained a well merited preeminence. The Scottish gardener has taken the lead in his profession in the United Kingdom in which he may be described as ubiquitous. Fruit growing under glass is carried to a state of perfection unsurpassed and probably unequalled in any other country, and the open air cultivation of fruits and vegetables, suitable to the climate, is correspondingly advanced. Much of the progress is due to the energetic and enlightened efforts of the numerous horticultural societies and to the increasing attention devoted to scientific training and equipment. Market gardening has likewise become an important industry and a considerable area in the neighbourhood of the larger towns is devoted to this purpose. Fruit farming for the purpose of jam-making has developed in certain regions, particularly in Perthshire and Lanarkshire, where the soil has been found to be specially adapted for the growing of raspberries and strawberries. Crieff, Auchterarder, Blairgowrie, and Lanark are the chief centres of this thriving industry.

There has been a remarkable advance during the nineteenth century in stock breeding, which is largely due to the interest in the subject fostered by the Highland and Agricultural Society and the county and local agricultural societies. The Clydesdale breed of horses is superior to that of any other country for heavy draught work. It has long ceased to be exclusively raised in the region from which it originally took its name and is bred in other parts of Scotland. Large numbers are exported to the United States, the British Dominions, and other oversea lands. The premiums offered by the agricultural societies to induce the owners of first-class stallions to circulate them for breeding purposes in particular districts have contributed to maintain this superiority.

Scotland possesses four native breeds of cattle—the Ayrshire, the Polled Aberdeen or Angus, the Galloway, and the West Highland. In addition to these the Shorthorn breed was introduced from England into Scotland early in the nineteenth century and gradually extended northwards through the eastern lowlands to the Pentland Firth. Its introduction was due to Mr Robertson of Ladykirk, in Berwickshire, and Mr Rennie of Phantassie, in East Lothian. Early breeders in Aberdeenshire were Captain Barclay of Ury and Mr Cruickshank of Sittyton. Shorthorns are imported in considerable numbers from Ireland and the North of England for fattening in the southern and eastern counties. The Ayrshire cow, whose improvement by crossing with the English shorthorn dates from about the middle of the eighteenth century, is first favourite with the dairy farmer in virtue of the quantity and the quality of her milk, the average per cow being from 480 to 500 gallons of rich milk. Consequently cheese and butter making has greatly developed in Ayrshire and the south-west of Scotland. Dairy farming has, however, spread to other districts, and is now more or less extensively prosecuted in the neighbourhood of the larger towns and even in some of the remoter districts which have quick through communication by rail. The native supply of butter and cheese is, nevertheless, far below the demand, and an enormous quantity is imported from abroad.

The north-eastern counties, on the other hand, form the chief beef-producing centre and their polled breed deservedly takes first place in the English meat markets, "prime Scots," as it is termed, invariably heading the quotation lists. The magnificent herds of these animals which may be witnessed grazing in the fields in summer, or stalled in winter in the byres of any fair sized farm of the north-east, are perhaps the finest achievement of the Scottish farmer. The high state to which the breed has been brought owes much to men like Mr Watson of Keillor, and especially to Mr McCombie of Tillyfour, whose exhibition of these splendid animals at the Paris Exhibition of 1878 beat that of any other country in this particular competition. Their fame has spread the world over and extraordinary sums are paid by home and foreign breeders for breeding cows and heifers. At the Montbletton sale, near Banff, in 1882, for instance, a seven-year-old cow fetched 325 guineas, and her three-year-old daughter 295. In the same year at the Earl of Airlie's sale at Cortachy Castle three cows realised 300, 400, and 500 guineas respectively. In the following year the price of a yearling heifer belonging to the herd of Mr Auld of Bridgend rose as high as 510 guineas. At Perth in 1918 Mr Kerr of Harvieston paid 2100 guineas for a bull calf bred at Ballindalloch, and a year later 4000 guineas were obtained at Perth for a bull belonging to Lady Cathcart. This record was broken by the price paid in 1920 for a ten months' old calf belonging to Mrs Stewart of Millhills, which fetched 6600 guineas.

Galloways are similar to the Polled Angus, but do not mature so early, whilst tougher and thriving better on high-lying, exposed pasture and, therefore, much in vogue as recruits for the prairie herds of the Far West. In this latter respect the splendid West Highland cattle are unique, with their shaggy hair, grand horned heads, magnificent proportions, and their adaptability to the mountain pasture and wild winter climate of the Highlands. In many districts they are never stalled and require artificial feeding only in the severest seasons.

Of sheep the two native varieties are the Cheviot and the Blackfaced, but Border Leicester, Half Breeds, Blackfaced Cross, and Shropshire Downs are also reared in large numbers, whilst Orkney and Shetland have their own particular breed of a small, but hardy variety with soft, silky wool. The mountainous character of a large part of Scotland explains the prevalance of the two first-named breeds, which are adapted to high altitudes and maintain themselves on the wild pasture of the hills and moors. This fact lends an agricultural value to these elevated regions which they would not otherwise process and sheep farming is the staple industry of the Southern Uplands and the Highlands of Scotland. From about the middle of the nineteenth century attempts were made by Mr James Brydon to improve the Cheviot breed, and the improved breed was in high favour until it was found that the attainment of size and beauty had been achieved at the sacrifice of hardihood—an essential of a mountain sheep. The Cheviot was introduced by Sir John Sinclair into the Highlands about 1790 and thrives well in the lower altitudes. But on the higher altitudes only the Blackface, which was introduced from the Southern Uplands, can stand the inclemency of the Highland winter.

The total number of sheep maintained in Scotland in the year 1917 was 6,873,234, of cattle 1,209,859, of horses 210,048. Pig breeding is also extensively carried on, though this industry shows a decline in recent years compared with forty years ago, the figures being 132,945 for 1917, 153,237 for 1877, and 188,807 ten years earlier. It has, however, been taken up as a special industry in districts with a large concentration of population, where the supply of appropriate feeding stuffs is available. The same is true of poultry farming, which is being specially prosecuted in many districts.

The breeding and feeding of cattle has in recent pre-war years been less profitable than formerly. The importation of foreign cattle for fattening has been forbidden because of the risk of disease, whilst the importation of fat cattle has been permitted. The farmer has accordingly to face a growing competition in the finished article, whilst he is prevented from importing what we might call the raw material of this branch of his industry. Moreover the foreign and home products are allowed to be sold in the shops without any compulsory discrimination between them. This is distinctly unfair to the home producer, who complains that the middleman gets the lion's share of the profit.

A steady improvement in the method of cultivation is apparent throughout the century and this improvement is due in large measure to the progressive application of machinery and scientific knowledge to agricultural operations. The reaping machine has almost entirely displaced the scythe in the mowing of grain and hay. Various attempts were made in the early years of the century by Mr John Gladstones of Castle Douglas, Mr Alex Kerr of Edinburgh, and Mr James Smith of Deanston, to solve the problem of constructing an appliance for this purpose, for which the Highland and Agricultural Society offered a premium. Though favourably reported on at the time, none of these proved of permanent practical value. The first to construct a really workable machine was the Rev. Patrick Bell of Carmyllie who, in 1827, invented a reaper which was used for some years on Forfarshire farms and secured for the inventor a premium of 50 from the Highland and Agricultural Society. Forty years later he was presented with 1,000 subscribed by Scottish agriculturists in recognition of his services. On coming home one day from the harvest field on his father's farm at Inchmichael, Mr Bell was seized with the desire to invent a machine that would lessen the labour of the harvester. His eye lighting on a pair of garden shears hanging near, he conceived the idea of clipping corn by machinery and constructed a small wooden model of such a reaper. With this model he proceeded to Edinburgh and showed it to Sir John Graham Dalyell, who had considerable knowledge of mechanics. Sir John encouraged him to construct a machine for trial in the following harvest and the trial was a success. The presentation was a well merited one, for, apart from its practical merits, the machine seems to have exercised some influence on the further development of the reaper. Four of the machines were sent to America and it was to American as well as English mechanical ingenuity that the reaper owed its later perfection. An exhibition of American machines at the International Exhibition of 1851 gave an impulse to the gradual adoption of the manual delivery machine which was followed by the self-delivering machine, and ultimately by the combined reaper and binder whose use is now universal.

The application of steam to agriculture was exemplified in the attempt, suggested by the eighth Marquess of Tweeddale in 1837, to construct a steam plough. In this year the Highland Society offered a premium of 500 and sent a deputation to Lancashire to examine a plough invented by Mr Heathcot. It worked satisfactorily in the moss ground in which the trial took place, and was brought down for exhibition in connection with the Society's show at Dumfries in the same year. It was tried for three days in the Lochar Moss, near Dumfries, but during the night after the third day's trial it disappeared in the Moss, where it still lies buried. The premium, having failed to produce an invention, was withdrawn in 1843. Another offer in 1851 and 1852 produced two contrivances by Mr James Usher, Edinburgh, and the Messrs Fisken of Gellyburn, Strathearn. Neither of them was adjudged satisfactory, and it was not till 1857 that Mr Fowler was awarded a new premium for a machine which was satisfactorily tried at Stewart Hall, near Stirling. Several sets of steam ploughs were later in operation on the hiring system in various districts, but the working of them was found to be satisfactory only in level land free from stones and other obstacles, and has only been adopted to a very limited extent. The motor tractor and the motor plough have, especially under the stress of the war, begun to make their appearance, and seem to have a better chance of coming into general use. The horse swing plough, which has undergone several improvements since its invention by Mr Small in 1760, still holds the paramount place in the tillage of the soil. On the other hand, steam was successfully applied to drive the threshing mill, and displaced water power on many farms before the portable threshing machine, drawn by traction engines, came into vogue. Invention has also been busy providing other implements which the progress of agriculture has demanded, such as the drill plough with double boards, the sowing machine, which has largely ousted the old method of scattering the seed by the hand, the cylindrical roller, which has displaced the old wooden roller, the grubber, the iron and the chain harrow, the milking machine, the turnip hasher, the potato planter and digger, the horse rake, the haymaking machine, etc.

The application of science to agriculture has been an essential of its nineteenth century development. The ordinary farmer is naturally conservative, clinging to the ways of his fathers and not too ready to entertain any innovation. This feeling long militated against progress. But prejudice in favour of use and wont has gradually been giving way to the conviction that agriculture, like every other industry, depends for its full success on the practical application of the scientific data applicable to it. The recognition of this fact is already apparent among the more enlightened agriculturists of the later eighteenth century, and it found expression in the foundation of the chair of Agriculture and Rural Economy at Edinburgh in 1790, which was endowed by Mr Johnstone, a member of the Faculty of Advocates, better known as Sir William Pulteney. Chairs or lectureships have since been founded in all the Scottish Universities. Institutions specially devoted to the scientific education of the young farmer have been established in the Agricultural Colleges affiliated with the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen. Experimental farms on scientific principles form part of the equipment of these colleges, and others are carried on by the Board of Agriculture, which was reconstituted in 1911, and by directing agricultural policy, encouraging research, and supplying scientific information, has been of great benefit to the industry. The wide scope and practical effects of its activity may be studied in detail in the important annual reports presented to Parliament.

Not the least share of the merit of this development on the practical side is due to the numerous agricultural societies, chief of which is the Highland and Agricultural Society, founded in 1784 under the name of the Highland Society for the improvement (including agriculture and manufactures) of the Highlands. In 1787 it received a royal charter, and two years later a grant of 3000 to enable it to carry out its objects. It strove at first to realise these objects by giving prizes or premiums and medals for essays on prescribed subjects relative to the Highlands, and for merit in practical farming in the Highland districts. Premiums were given, for instance, for the best results in the cultivation of grasses and potatoes, in the rearing of stock, the reclaiming and improving of waste land, the improvement of agricultural implements and machinery, draining and irrigation, butter and cheese making. In addition to the sums expended in furthering these practical objects, the Society evinced a keen interest in the language and literature of the Highlands. It published a valuable contribution to the Ossianic controversy, and made a collection of Gaelic manuscripts. now in the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh. In 1855 it published a Dictionary of the Gaelic language. and fifty years later voted 100 guineas towards the endowment of the Gaelic chair in the University of Edinburgh. In 1809 it offered for the first time honorary premiums for aforestation. and such premiums were awarded in 1821-22 to various proprietors in the Highlands who had planted considerable areas of their estates, the lead being taken by Mr Mackenzie of Kilcoy with over half a million of trees covering 379 acres, and Sir James Colquhoun of Luss with about 400.000 in about 61 sores. This departure became a regular part of the Society's policy, but the progress of forestry in Scotland in the nineteenth century slackened considerably owing to the decline of the early enthusiasm for planting, and only revived late in the century. This revival was due to the energy of the Royal Scottish Arboriculrural Society, with which the Highland Society has co-operated. and latterly of the Board of Agriculture. Early in the century it turned its attention to the encouragement of farm management by the improvement of various kinds of grasses, the breeding of stock, the growing of turnips and potatoes, the curing of butter, beef, and pork by means of premiums for such objects. In 1801 it instituted the first ploughing match at Hoddam, in Annandale and in 1822 organised its first show, which was held in December of this year in an enclosure behind Moray House. Edinburgh, and consisted of an exhibition of fat stock of various breeds. From this modest beginning the great annual exhibition-of stock, implements, and produce gradually developed, and this development may be measured by the fact that whereas the drawings at the first exhibition amounted to 51 10s.. the sum drawn at that at Edinburgh in 1919 rose to about 17.000. It also gave an impulse to the formation of the numerous county and district societies and shows,, which have contributed so much to energise local effort.

Equally praiseworthy was the endeavour to further agricultural education. To its advocacy was due the grant by the Government of 150 for ten years for the better endowment of the chair of Agriculture at Edinburgh University in 1868. to which it guaranteed an equal sum for the same period. In 1856 it took up the question of the education of young agriculturists and obtained a supplementary charter entitling it to grant diplomas in the science and practice of agriculture to successful candidates after examination. Sixteen years later it appointed a Board of Examiners in Forestry, which granted certificates to students of approved practical efficiency. Its work in this direction has, however, been superseded by that oi the agricultural colleges, in whose institution it bore a creditable part, and of the County Councils which provide lecturers and demonstrators in rural districts in methods oi agricultural production. In 1523 it made a grant for veterinary instruction to Mr Dick, certificates being awarded to students who passed the requisite examination entitling them to practise as veterinary surgeons. This venture developed into the establishment of the Dick Veterinary College at Edinburgh in 1839 under its auspices. It was, however, rather backward in taking up the project oi an experimental farm, which was repeatedly brought before it from 1821 onwards. The expense of maintaining such a farm was the chief obstacle, and there was no: a sufficiently general sense of the value of science to agriculture to induce the members to face the financial risk involved. It was not till 1877 that it leased two experimental stations in East and West Lothian for the purpose of determining the agricultural value of various manures in the production of a rotation of turnip, barley, grass, and oat crops. This policy has been energetically taken up in recent years by the Board oi Agriculture, which has acquired a number of experimental farms throughout the country.

One effective result of the more general sense of the value oi scientific farming is apparent in the application of chemical manures, guano, ground tones, etc., which enabled the farmer to cope to some extent with the fall in prices by increasing his produce per acre. By this expedient much land has been kept in cultivation which would otherwise have gone into pasture. There are large agencies for these manures in Glasgow, Leith, Dundee. Aberdeen, etc., and their produce is marketed over a wide area.

Under the landlord and tenant system farms in Scotland are of considerable acreage, and often of large extent. To acquire the tenancy of an ordinary farm requires a considerable capital, and accordingly this system suffers from the drawback of rendering it very difficult for the competent farm servant to rise to the position of a tenant. To remedy this drawback, and also counteract the tendency to rural depopulation, consequent on the increasing emigration from country to town, the policy of creating small holdings has been adopted, and legislation has been passed conferring on the Board of Agriculture powers to acquire land for this purpose (Small Landholders' Act of 1911) in the Lowlands as well as the Highlands. These powers were amplified by the Small Holding Acts of 1916 and 1918, and in the Land Settlement Bill introduced by the Scottish Secretary in 1919.

The question of making such a provision has long been an urgent one in the Highlands. The unsatisfactory state of this region is traceable to the arbitrary action of the proprietors over a century ago in transforming the land into large sheep farms and clearing out the crofters from the interior of the counties of Sutherland, Ross, and Inverness, and settling a residue of them on patches of ground on the coast, where they formed crofting townships. The land so cleared was used for rearing sheep instead of rearing men, and when sheep farming became less profitable owing to competition in wool and mutton from the Colonies and elsewhere, large sheep farms were turned into deer forests and let at high rents to wealthy sporting tenants. The crofters who were allowed to settle in these townships were unable to find a sufficient maintenance for themselves and their families, since they were prevented from extending their holdings, although there was plenty of land of a kind for this purpose. Moreover, the population, in spite of emigration, had been greatly increased by the kelp industry which flourished during the second half of the eighteenth century and the early part of the nineteenth, until it was ruined by the reduction of the import duty on salt and barilla. It was then that the fell effects of the land policy which was clearing the people out of their holdings at a time when the population had increased and employment had materially shrunk, became most severely felt. Misery, migration, and depopulation, aggravated by bad seasons and disease, were the inevitable fruits of this hard and narrow, if, for the landlords^ profitable policy The Government appointed a commission in 1841 to enquire into the prevailing destitution, and the commission could only suggest emigration as a remedy. The failure of the potato crop in 1846 and the following four years emphasised the urgency of remedial measures, and during these years the starving people subsisted largely on public subscriptions administered by Destitution Boards in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The proprietors gave what pecuniary assistance they could, and some of them, like Lord MacDonald and MacLeod of MacLeod, spent all their resources in contributing to the relief of their tenants. Such an emergency measure left the economic situation unchanged. The State did little or nothing to remedy this situation, except to prescribe emigration, and eviction for non-payment of rent was frequent. The result was friction and unrest, which at last in the early "eighties" broke out in acts of violence in Skye, Lewis, and other regions. The crofters resisted attempts to oust them from their holdings, and even took possession of the land in some places in order to enlarge their crofts. This drastic action led to collisions with the police and even the military forces of the crown, and the trial and imprisonment of some of the offenders. It forced the Government to appoint a Commission of Enquiry in 1883, which forms the first serious attempt to deal with the problem. The Commission recommended the recognition, extension, improvement, and registration of existing townships and the formation of new ones, and these townships were not to be reduced or dissolved without the consent of two-thirds of the occupiers. In addition to enlarged townships, compensation was to be given for improvements and state aid to enable the crofters to purchase their holdings.

The result of this report was the Crofter Holdings Act of 1886, which conferred security of tenure on certain conditions, a fixed fair rent, compensation for improvements, and facilities for the enlargement of holdings. The Act also instituted a body of commissioners—the Crofters' Commission—with both executive and judicial functions. It continued to perform these functions for twenty-six years until it was displaced by the Land Court instituted by the Small Holders Act of 1911. During this period it dealt with 22,111 applications for a fixed fair rent, and reduced these rents by about one-fourth, besides cancelling arrears to the extent of 87 per cent, of the total amount dealt with. It received 4,304 applications for enlargement of holdings, and made enlargements to the extent of fully 72,000 acres. There was, however, little improvement of the cultivation of the soil, and in addition to poor crops overstocking was a prevalent evil, which the Grazing Act of 1908 attempted to remedy. To alleviate the congestion a special board—the Congested Districts Board—was formed in 1897, which up to 1912 created 640 new holdings and granted enlargements to 1,188 crofters. All this well-meant legislation and effort did not, however, allay discontent, which sometimes showed itself in lawless disturbance, and the Land Court, which displaced both these bodies in 1912, has in recent years been engaged with considerable effect in improving on the work of its predecessors. Even so, occasional crofter raids seem to show that the problem of establishing a feasible existence for the crofting population is by no means finally settled.

The condition of the agricultural worker was materially improved throughout the century. Compared with the second half of the eighteenth century he is better paid, housed and fed, and works shorter hours. The regular working staff of a good sized farm consists of a grieve, a foreman ploughman, ordinary ploughman for each pair of horses, a cattleman, a shepherd, and men, women, and boy labourers, with extra workers at certain times, though the increasing use of machinery has tended to reduce their number. These are engaged at fairs or feeing markets, the married men usually for twelve, the unmarried for six months. Unlike the English farm workers, those of Scotland show a growing tendency to migrate from farm to farm after a year or two's engagement. About the middle of the century regular farm work extended over 11 hours a day, besides extra time in attending to horses. The number was subsequently reduced to 10 in summer and from dawn to dusk in winter, and more recently the demand for a 48 hours' week has made itself heard. The introduction of the weekly half-holiday has, however, considerably lessened the total number of hours worked per week, and the lot of the worker is distinctly less arduous and exacting than formerly. Housing, which was still bad before the middle of the century, was improved during the second half of it, though the improvement has been much greater in some regions than in others, especially in the counties of Berwick, Roxburgh, and East Lothian, and, generally speaking, still leaves much to be desired, according to the Report of the Royal Commission on Housing. In some parts of the Highlands it is deplorable.

In crofting areas, like Lewis and the Outer Isles, civilisation, as far as housing is concerned, is still that of the primitive age. "The housing conditions in Lewis are deplorable. A great number of the houses are of the ' black type,' rough stone walls with thatched roofs, no fireplaces or chimneys. In many the cattle are housed under the same roof as the human beings, and one has to go through the byre before the living accommodation is reached. The byre and kitchen are separated from each other by a wooden partition (though in some cases this is awanting, which often does not extend to the roof. As the manure from the byre is removed only once a year, the conditions can be better imagined than described. In the living room the fire of peats is built up on the ground, surrounded by a ring of flat stones, in the centre of the room, and the smoke finds an outlet where it can. As the thatched roof does not extend to the eaves, but only to the centre of the wall, it is needless to say that the wall,—which between the two layers of dry stones of which it is built is packed with earth or turf—is more or less constantly damp. Many houses of the worst type have no window or only a small one in the roof. This so-called window is, however, often grass covered. Any light is obtained from the fire or lamps. The sites and surroundings of the houses are most unhealthy."

According to a recent statement of Lord Lovat in the House of Lords, in no fewer than 107 houses in Skye on the Government's own property cattle and men were under the same roof. In Lewis no fewer than 5,000 houses required repair, and in something like 1,000 houses cattle and men lived under the same roof, separated only by a sheet or boards. The defects of crofting housing had led to greater depopulation than any other cause during the past thirty years.

The system of lodging and feeding farm servants in the farm house declined from about the middle of the century onwards, and in the southern and eastern counties it has almost disappeared and survives only on smaller farms in these regions. The bothy system, under which the unmarried workers live in a "bothy" and cook their own food, still prevails in the north and east, but has greatly declined or become extinct in the south and southwest. It is not conducive to comfort or health and has been condemned by all the commissions of inquiry appointed in the second half of the century. "It would be difficult to say," remarks Mr Pringle in reviewing in 1894 the evidence furnished by these commissions, "which of the reports, 1867, 1879, or 1893, is strongest in its terms of condemnation; but in one point they agree: they recognise the difficulty of altogether abolishing it; but they believe that a great deal could be done by increasing the supply of farm cottages to reduce the necessity for such places." It certainly had its share of the responsibility for rural depopulation, and to those who remember what it was in the days of their youth forty or fifty years ago the wonder is that men could be got to endure its discomfort and its usually deteriorating effect.

More substantial has been the improvement in wages and other earnings in the shape of meal, potatoes, and free house and garden. In the case of ordinary married ploughmen, Mr Pringle calculates the approximate increase during the second half of the century at about 69 per cent., though the rise varies with the county or district. There is a similar advance in the case of other farm workers. "Wages have not suffered from agricultural depression, and the worker has also benefited by the fall in the prices of provisions. One result has been a corresponding rise in the standard of living. About the middle of the century the use of butcher meat was still very limited and oatmeal and potatoes were still the staple diet. By the end of the century the use of meat had become common, at the expense, however, of the decrease in the use of oatmeal, which is greatly to be deplored. On the other hand, the rise in wages does not seem to have been accompanied by the practice of thrift." The great increase in wages and general improvement in other things have not been accompanied by any endeavours to lay by money or anticipate old age. The fact of more money coming in only means more money going out in the case of 75 per cent, of our labourers. The few who deny themselves luxuries in ordinary everyday life can and do save; but the same took place on the miserable earnings of forty years ago." In the judgment of the commissioners of 1S92-93 the condition of farm workers is on the whole highly satisfactory. It is, however, questionable whether the workers themselves would generally subscribe to this judgment, and Mr Pringle admits the presence of a spirit of discontent, especially in regions in the neighbourhood of the industrial cities. Trade Unionism has penetrated the agricultural population, and in the Scottish Farm Servants'* Union the workers have an active organisation which agitates for improved conditions in their interest. Certain it is that these conditions are not such as to induce the people to remain on the land in the face of the attractions of the towns or the colonies, and too large a proportion of the agricultural population has succumbed to these attractions, with the result of steadily increasing rural depopulation. The use of machinery has, indeed, lessened the former scope for manual labour. Increased transport facilities, the lure of higher wages in the industrial centres, and increasing inducements to emigrate have also had their effects. But there are factors of a social as well as an economic nature which irresistibly tell in the direction of depopulation. The energetic, ambitious worker has too little scope for the realisation of his aspirations. The prospect of rising from servant to master is too limited under a system which necessitates a considerable capital to take and stock a farm. Small holdings is the policy by which a remedy is being sought under the Small Landholders Act. Whilst opinions differ widely as to its feasibility, there can be no doubt of the advisability of seeking to remedy this defect in the interest of the better class of agricultural worker. These workers form a most valuable element of the population, and it is essential to raise their status, which has long been rated on a low scale, and as far as possible give them a better prospect in life.

It is only fair to let them speak for themselves in this matter, as voiced by Mr Duncan, the Secretary of their Union, in a temperate address to the conference on the improvement of agriculture in August, 1917. " What ought first to be done is to let the workers feel in social life that they form the vital part they do in the industrial life of the community. The social defect in Scotland tells seriously on the man, but more so on the farm servant's wife, and, due to the way in which the people are scattered, there is no opportunity for the children. Often, leaving home at the age of 14, they are never again in contact with the family. Further, the" farm worker, like all other workers, is suffering from what is called 'labour unrest.' We had it before the war, and we have it now. ... In the trend of things there is the indication that there are aspirations rising among the workers—aspirations that are not confined to questions of wages and material things of life. It is the desire of the worker to have some control over the disposal of himself, some share in the control not only of government, but of industry also. This will have to be dealt with on the farm as in the industrial field. Unless we can give some opening or outlet to that spirit, there is no hope of keeping a contented or settled population in the rural districts. . . . He would then become a partner in the industry and not merely a wage earner who is directed at every stage of his work. . . . The erection of ladders like small holdings will not satisfy the farm workers. There are 70,000 of them in Scotland and we cannot provide small holdings for them all. All these fancy schemes will never touch the kernel of the problem which is to deal with the mass of the workers living on the farm. The workers' aspiration is towards more self-control, more self-guidance, and an opportunity to share in the enlightenment that science is bringing to everybody—an existence that is not merely the existence of a wage earner." A remedy for the lack of social life in the country districts, to which the speaker referred, has recently been sought in the establishment of rural Institutes for the education and recreation of the people.

To Scottish agriculture the war may be said to have been a blessing in disguise. It at least has not been devoted to the mad work of destruction, as in the case of other industries, and its prosperity was the well-earned reward of intensified productive energy in the increase of the national food supply during a protracted period of threatening shortage. Prices have risen, more land (some of it, however, unsuitable land) has been brought under cultivation, and, more important, agriculture has been shown to be still a prime industry, to neglect which is to imperil the national safety. It would be rather misleading to give figures in proof of this advance during the war period, since the conditions have been so abnormal. Such an advance is the usual concomitant of war, especially a protracted war, which produces in the industry a state of unnatural excitation. At all events the general conviction among the farming class seems to be opposed to the policy of state tutelage and regulation, and not too friendly to the guaranteeing of grain prices unless the guarantee is extended to the chief agricultural products. Even protection is no longer regarded as a panacea against agricultural depression.


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