Sir LEICESTER HARMSWORTH
asked the Secretary for Scotland if he is aware that nine crofters, including two women, one of whom is a widow, were sentenced the other day to ten days' imprisonment for breach of interdict for pasturing cattle on the farm of East Garty, Portgower; whether he is aware that the extent of the holdings of these crofters is between 3 and 4 acres arable each, and that they received from the 75W present proprietor a promise that the grazing in question would be let to them at Whit-Sunday, 1915, and will he state the reasons for the breach of this promise; whether he is aware that application was made to the Board of Agriculture for the securing of these grazings for these crofters in 1912, and will he say what was the result of the application; whether he is aware that the accused persons were summoned from their beds at five o'clock in the morning to proceed to the Court; and whether, in view of all these circumstances, he will at once order the immediate release of these people and take steps to put in force the powers he possesses under the Landholders Act in 1911 to secure for them the land in question?
§ Mr. MUNRO
The crofters in question were sentenced, the men to a fine of £5 or imprisonment for ten days, the women to 10s. or one day. Before passing sentence the sheriff allowed them an opportunity of giving an undertaking not to trespass again, but they refused to give any such undertaking. After sentence they were offered time to pay the fine, but they declined to pay at any time, and accordingly went to prison. As regards a promise from the proprietor, I can only say that I have no knowledge of any such promise. Applications were made to the Board of Agriculture for Scotland in 1912, and renewed prior to the expiration of the farm lease in 1915. They received full consideration from the Board, but, having regard to the small acreage of the farm, taken in conjunction with the limit of size for compulsory acquisition under the Landholders Act, the Board considered that it would in any case be inexpedient to break up the farm. As my hon. Friend is aware, it is undesirable to interfere with a type of holding to occupation of which small landholders may reasonably aspire. The crofters had ample opportunity to attend the Court on citation, and it was only on their deliberate failure to attend that they were arrested, brought to trial, and sentenced for contempt of Court. They were duly released on the expiry of the sentences.