Forays into Scotland

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As we researched events in our 150-year history, for the 365 ‘tweets of the day‘ during 2015, we came across two occasions when we had wandered north of the border.

The first was recorded in our Reports of Proceedings 1891, with the heading ‘Dumbarton Common’.

This considerable area of land was set apart by Act of Parliament in about 1858 as a public recreation ground, and the Corporation of Dumbarton have since maintained it as such.

Two railway companies, the Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire Railway Company and the North British Railway Company, proposed to absorb a considerable area of the recreation ground.

The society sent their solicitor to inspect the ground and make inquiries, and he had an interview with the Provost and Town Council of Dumbarton on the recreation ground, at which it was made quite clear serious detriment would ensue to the ground if these two companies were allowed to make their lines.

Mr Channing MP [Liberal, East Northamptonshire], accordingly, on behalf of the society, gave notice of opposition to the Lanarkshire Bill and Mr Hobhouse MP [Liberal, East Somerset] adopted a similar course in regard to the North British Bill.

After some negotiation it was agreed that in the event of any part of the open space being taken, the company should pay £200 to the town council, and the council should throw another five acres of land into the recreation ground.

Eventually the proposed line of railway was abandoned by the Lanarkshire and Dumbarton Railway Company.

The society is much indebted to the courtesy of the Secretary of State for Scotland in the attention which he paid to its representations.

Injury to scenery
The second was in the Report of Proceedings for 1897-8 and was about the bill to authorise the Lochearnhead, St Fillans and Comrie Railway.  The society had fought numerous railway bills in England and Wales where they adversely affected commons and open spaces.  The proceedings record

… the objectionable feature was the injury to the scenery which it was felt would be caused if the railway was allowed to be made.

At the time the matter came before the society the bill had been read a second time in the House of Commons, and had passed through committee unopposed.

It was felt, however, that a strong effort should be made to get the bill re-committed on the question of undue interference with scenery, and accordingly the Right Hon James Bryce [Liberal, South Aberdeen], when the bill came up for consideration of the report, moved to re-commit the bill to a select committee, and that motion was carried on a division.

An instruction was then ordered to the select committee ‘To inquire and report whether the railway proposed to be authorised by the bill will, if constructed along the line mentioned in the bill, so seriously injure the scenery of the valley and lake along which it is to pass, as to make it inexpedient to pass the bill, and that the committee have power to call witnesses and receive evidence on the subject.’

Although, as a result of this re-commitment, the bill was allowed to proceed subject to certain alterations for preserving the scenery, the society look upon the re-commitment of the bill, and the passing of the special instruction to the committee, as important precedents in relation to the bills where undue interference with scenery and the amenities of a district are feared.

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