The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51
Manifesto. — Scottish Land Restoration League
Scottish Land Restoration League.
We, the Committee appointed at a great meeting of the citizens of Glasgow, held in the City Hall, on the evening of 25th February, at which the Scottish Land Restoration League was formed, deem it fitting, in asking the co-operation of our fellow-countrymen, to make a brief statement of our principles and our aims.
We hold that the earth was created by Almighty God as a dwelling-place for the children of men; that it belongs and can belong to no one class or generation, but is a gift fresh from the Creator to each generation whom he calls into being.
We hold that He Who thus gives the earth to the children of men is no respecter of persons, but that, as shown by the facts of Nature no less than by Holy Writ, he has intended all His creatures to be sharers in His bounty, to the end that by their labour, in the manner He has ordained, they may provide for their wants and the wants of those He has made dependent upon them.
We hold that the Equal Right which every man thus derives from his Creator to the use of the earth upon which that Creator has called him, is a Right which no human power can abrogate or impair; and which exists and must continue to exist despite any or all laws, grants, devices, or bargains which men have made or may make.
We hold that the denial of this First and Most Important of all Human Rights, the Equal Right to the Possession and Use of the Natural Elements necessary to Life, is the primary cause of the frightful poverty and misery that, in spite of all our advances m civilisation, exist in our country, and of the vice, crime, and degradation that spring from this poverty.
We hold that the fact that the Land of Scotland—the rightful heritage of the whole people of Scotland—having by a long course of usurpation and fraud been made the private and exclusive property of a few of their number, is the reason why more than two-thirds of Scottish families are compelled to live in houses of one or two rooms; why wages are so pitifully low in every department of industry; and why producers of wealth—those who earn their bread in the sweat of their brow—eat scant and bitter bread, while many of those who do nothing to produce wealth revel in profuse and wanton luxury, drawing from the Scottish people immense sums to be spent in riotous living abroad—the reason why Scotsmen are compelled to emigrate, while great tracts of their native land, from which men have been driven, are given up to beasts and sport.
We hold that those evils which are the result of transgressing and thwarting the declared purpose and benevolent intention of the Creator can be cured only by such a full and complete Restoration of the Land of Scotland to the Scottish People as will secure to the humblest and weakest of our number his just share in the land which the Lord our God has given us. To this end we have banded ourselves together, and we hereby call upon the Scottish People everywhere to follow our example and unite with us in a Solemn League and Covenant to spare no effort and no sacrifice to Restore the Soil of Scotland to the People for whom it was intended, and to remove this great shame and crime from the land we love.
This is a question of vital importance to every class in the community; it affects the operative, the miner, the fisherman, the shopkeeper, the merchant, and the professional man as certainly and directly as it does the farmer.
We draw a clear distinction between Property in Land and Property in the Results of Labour. The former, we hold, belongs in usufruct to the Whole Community; the latter, we hold, belongs rightfully to those who have produced page break it, or to those to whom the producers have transferred their right. The one we propose to Restore to the Scottish People; the other to leave with those to whom it properly belongs. And although it may be justly held that those who have so long enjoyed the proceeds of the common property should be made not merely to restore it, but to pay proper compensation to those who have been unjustly disinherited, we will not raise this question of compensation, but will be content with the Restoration of the Land to the People.
We propose to effect this Restoration by the simple and obvious expedient of Shifting all Taxation on to the Value of Land, irrespective of its use or improvement, and finally taking all Ground Rent for public purposes. As a first step to this end we shall demand of our representatives in Parliament a re-imposition of the Tax of Four Shillings in the Pound on the Current Value of Land, whether it be renter], or used, or kept idle by its holder; and we shall also demand a measure giving all Towns, Boroughs, and Cities the owner to Collect all Rates from an Assessment upon the Letting or Rental Value of Land, exclusive of buildings or improvements, and irrespective of use.
These measures can be carried only by such an agitation as will Educate the masses of the People in their Rights and Duties. For this purpose Organisation is necessary; and we therefore call upon all who may be disposed to join with us, to Establish Branches of the Scottish Land Restoration League in all parts of the country.
To carry on the work as it must be carried on funds also will be necessary.. These we cannot expect from those animated by the selfish motives which usually induce men to contribute to political funds, and we therefore urge upon those disposed to co-operate with us the necessity of making the Organisation self-supporting.
But while there must be Organisation wherever possible, there is a great field of action, outside of any Organisation, in personal inquiry and private discussion, in which every one may engage. To this work we earnestly call every Patriot and Lover of Justice, and we would especially urge upon the Ministers of the Gospel of every denomination the importance and religious character of this question—the Relation between the Soil and the People who live upon it.
Alexander Webster, Chairman,
David M'Lardy, Secretary, Glasgow,
27th February, 1884.For Provisional Committee.