Scheme of Mr George Greig for Advancing Money to Small Tenants on the Security of their Stock.
INDIA Buildings, EDINBURGH, 24th October 1883.
I have now the honour to submit in some detail the proposal I hinted at in my examination by the Royal Commissioners at Helmsdale for improving the condition of the Highland crofters.
The Government granted funds for the drainage of land, which was largely taken up in Scotland, and resulted in much permanent good, the Government loan being preferable to all other creditors. Government advances have also been made to the crofters and small tenants of Ireland, the loan in like manner being preferable to all other creditors.
My proposal was to apply the same principle of advance to crofters and small tenants in the Highlands to enable them to acquire animals to stock small pastoral farms of a size sufficient to maintain a family, and thus afford them an outlet for their energies.
In the other cases referred to the advance was made to the individual, involving the machinery necessary for collecting over a period of years at considerable expense. In this case m y proposal is to advance the money to a financial organisation, composed of leading men of respectability and responsibility, who will undertake the loans and recovery of the cash advanced by instalments or on sale of the animals bought.
The business of this financial organisation would be, by approved inspection, to visit farms and crofts, report the stock necessities of the occupant and estimate the cost, inquire into the character of the borrower, and, if trustworthy and industrious, see the purchases made on which the Association would advance to the extent of three-fourths of the gross sum required, repayable with interest not exceeding 5 per cent, per annum at fixed terms.
The Association would have right to draw from Government to the extent of three-fourths of the advance made on completion of the security, at a rate of interest not exceeding 2½ per cent, per annum. The security to the Association would be a writ under the hand of the borrower, registered in the county register, to be discharged by simple acknowledgment written on the back, and marked in the register and delivered to the borrower. The animals acquired would be branded with the Association's brand, and whatever was acquired with the loaned money would remain the property of the Association till the borrower had his recorded discharge in his hand. The Association loan on these animals would be declared preferable thereon to all other creditors for rent, furnishings, or other debts or advances, saving only Her Majesty's taxes.
The advantage of this scheme would be that it would induce landlords to divide their territorial acres into comfortable and manageable little farms, to select honest industrious tenants from the over-populated crofting centres, and to clothe the hills with stock in quantity, quality, and kind suitable for the particular district, which would necessarily result in a large increase of produce, and with it reproductive employment to the people; and in m y opinion it would operate also as a certain security to landlords for payment of their rent, for it is and can only be produce that pays the rent in the end ; and where the produce in any area increases, the security for rent is necessarily enhanced. Loans might also be made by the Government direct to landlords for building houses and fences tnd making drainage, which this subdivision would necessitate.
The scheme may be thought to have disadvantages, but I fail to see them. Adventurers, it may be said, might offer high rents and get possession of land without any capital, and leave the Association lenders in the lurch and their ordinary creditors too. But that is a matter in the landlord's own hands. Doubtless the effect will probably be to raise rents, but the responsibility of accepting tenants will always be with the landlords, so loss on these heads need not be anticipated; and then it will be kept in mind that the Association has always a margin against loss of one-fourth of the entire advance. In my humble opinion, if such a scheme as that suggested were made specially applicable to the Highlands, it would in a very short time lead to the full employment of the crofter population, and contentment and happiness would result. The proprietor would get higher rents and the country double the produce.