Land issues in the Highlands and Islands

The Crofters Act of 1886 ended the Highland Clearances and meant that crofters could not be suddenly evicted from land they rented from the landowner. However, poverty and shortage of good quality land meant that protest and discontent continued in the Highlands.

The 'land raids'

When the war ended, many soldiers from the Highlands and Islands returned home with the firm belief that they had been promised land, as a reward for fighting for their country. When it was not given to them fast enough, many began land raids.

Land raids involved men occupying an area they believed they had a right to work on, without the current landowner’s permission.

Returning soldiers simply ‘squatted’ on land throughout the Highlands. Some cited an old law that they claimed gave them the right if they could build a wooden shelter and a hearth on which they could make a fire.

Government response to the land raids

In response, the government passed the Land Settlement Act of 1919. It stated that land would be made available for men who had served in the war. This left the problem of how to obtain enough ground to provide for them. For the Act to be successful land would have to be purchased from the current owners but the government could not afford to do this.

Land raids continued and the government was in a difficult position. It was too expensive to meet the demands of the ex-servicemen and to punish the land raiders would be very unpopular. However, to do nothing would undermine the authority of the government.

By the end of the 1920s the problem of land ownership, overcrowding and poverty had still not been resolved in the Highlands, and many people saw emigration as the only option.