Marginal Land Cultivation

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons on 17th November 1942.

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Photo of Mr William Snadden Mr William Snadden , Kinross and Western

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is now in a position to make a statement of Government policy on the subject of marginal land cultivation in Scotland?

Mr. Johnston:

Yes, Sir. As the statement is long, I propose, with the hon. Member's permission, to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT: but I may say the main points are that assistance will be given towards the cost of carrying out approved operations on marginal land, and for the maintenance of breeding cows on hill and upland grazing.

Following is the statement:

Until now it has been possible to obtain the desired expansion of cultivation in Scotland without making more than a moderate call on land which, from the character of the soil, climate, or other conditions, is not capable of increased output on an immediately economic basis. Land of this character was for the most part devoted before the war to the rearing of stock. In order, however, to maintain and if possible increase the tillage acre- age in 1943 and subsequent years, it will be necessary to some extent to plough some of this marginal land if only in place of land which has undergone heavy cropping since the war and must now go back to grass. To yield satisfactory crops much of this newly ploughed marginal land will require manurial and other treatment. There is also much need for the reseeding of poor grassland on this type of farm to enable it to carry a greater head of stock. But it is clear that many of the farmers concerned, who have been unable to grow crops, and secure returns, on the scale open to farmers on good land, have not the resources to undertake without assistance the work which Agricultural Executive Committees may require of them.

The position has been carefully examined by the Departments concerned, with expert economic assistance, and it has been decided to institute a scheme under which, in respect of operations or projects directed by an Executive Committee, a farmer may apply for a grant in reduction of the cost of certain goods or services required for the carrying out of the directions. It will be in the Committee's discretion to give assistance, on cause shown, in respect of the goods and services in question within limits which will be notified to the Executive Committees. In certain cases applications must be referred to the Central Department for sanction.

I have already indicated that, in Scotland, the class of farm which is mainly in need of assistance of this kind is that which is devoted to stock rearing. The goods and services scheme will not suffice to enable such farms to make the maximum contribution to food production. In the case of the hill sheep farm, where little can be done in the direction of extensive renovation of land under war conditions, the economic difficulties are being met in the meantime by direct subsidy. In addition, however, encouragement has been given to the keeping of cattle on hill grazings by the scheme which has been in operation since May, 1941, for a subsidy of £2 per annum for three years for each breeding cow kept on the hills under certain conditions.

It is proposed now to extend the cattle on hill grazings scheme in two directions, first by allowing for a higher rate of sub- sidy (up to a limit of £4 in special cases) on the recommendation of the Agricultural Executive Committee, and secondly by making the scheme applicable to any upland farm in respect of which the Agricultural Executive Committee would be prepared to offer assistance under the goods and services scheme. With the aid of this grant an upland farmer will be better able to meet his share of any project or operation, including particularly the ploughing of grassland for crops or reseeding, to which he may be directed and thereafter to purchase or rear additional stock.

There is no doubt that the hills and uplands of Scotland are understocked, particularly with cattle, and I hope that the combined effect of the two schemes will be a very material increase in the home-breeding of cattle of suitable types. I have already announced that all restrictions on the breeds of cattle qualifying for the cow subsidy have been removed, but the new scheme will require that the cows themselves should be approved. It would be undesirable to give any assistance to the rearing of inferior stock.