Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Act 1886

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The Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1886 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which created legal definitions of crofting parish and crofter, granted security of tenure to crofters and produced the first Crofters Commission, a land court which ruled on disputes between landlords and crofters. The same court ruled on whether parishes were or were not crofting parishes. In many respects the Act was modelled on the Irish Land Acts of 1870 and 1881.

The Act specified eight counties of Scotland as counties where parishes might be recognised as crofting parishes: Argyll, Caithness, Cromarty, Inverness, Orkney, Ross, Shetland, and Sutherland. Within these counties a crofting parish was a parish where there were year-by-year tenants of land (tenants without leases) who were paying less than £30 a year in rent and who had possessed effective common grazing rights during the 80 years since 24 June 1806.

The Act was largely a result of crofters' agitation which had become well organised and very persistent in Skye (then in the county of Inverness-shire) and of growing support, throughout the Highlands, for the Crofters' Party, which had gained five Members of Parliament in the general election of 1885. Agitation took the form of rent strikes (withholding rent payments) and what came to be known as land raids: crofter occupations of land to which crofters believed they should have access for common grazing or for new crofts, but which landlords had given over to sheep farming and hunting parks (called deer forests).

The Act itself did not quell the agitation. In particular it was very weak in terms of enabling the Crofters Commission to resolve disputes about access to land. It was enough however to make much more acceptable, politically, the use of troops in confrontations with agitators.

References[edit]

  • Ian Bradley, "'Having and Holding': The Highland Land War of the 1880s," History Today, Dec 1987, Vol. 37#12 pp 23-28

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