The Inquiry had two aims:
1)To inquire and report how far it may be desirable
and practicable to institute an equitable system of
assessment in lieu of the present mode of maintaining
the Public Roads in Scotland by Tolls and Statute Labour,
or whether any other change might be beneficially introduced
in the said mode, which in our opinion, would be calculated
to secure a more economical and equitable system than
that which presently prevails
2) To inquire and report on the existing management
of Public Roads and whether any changes might be introduced
into the management, by the consolidation of Trusts
or otherwise, which in our opinion would be calculated
to secure a more economical and efficient system.
In view of the aims, they set themselves to:
1) determine the lengths of roads, how they were managed
and their finances, viz. income, expenditure and debt;
2) how the existing system, as determined by these findings,
could be improved.
It describes how they obtained up to date information
from those responsible for roads, including Burghs and
how the Burghs were affected by the current system and
how they would be affected by any changes.
They also examined witnesses, representing the different
interests in each community, to gather their views on
the present and any future system.
The roads are treated under three classes, viz. Statute
Labour Roads, also known as Commutation or Parish Roads,
Turnpike Roads, and Public Roads not falling under either
of those heads.
The Report gives the background to the development
of the Statute Labour system. In 1617, Justices of the
Peace were authorised to mend highways and passages
to any market town or seaport and from any town to churches.
They could impose penalties on those who refused to
mend the roads or who damaged them. They were also able
to identify where new roads were required.
The 1617 Act was renewed in 1661 but when it became
obvious that the system was not working, an Act of 1669
was introduced which required the Sherriff and Justices
to meet each year and identify roads needing repair.
They would appoint overseers who would then require
tenants, cottars and servants to work (unpaid) on road
repairs for up to 6 days in the first 4 years, and for
4 days yearly after that. There were penalties for absence.
A tax was also raised on Heritors in a shire to ensure
sufficient funds for repair were available. Tolls could
be raised on bridges, causeways and ferries.
The Report noted that this system still operated in
Bute and Zetland although it had been changed everywhere
They then said that in Scotland the only obligation
for construction and maintenance of roads was that imposed
by statute whereas in England, even without statutory
powers, there would still be an obligation for parishes
to do this under common law. In Ireland, Baronies would
be responsible. In Scotland, this had led to cases where
a road, being neither a turnpike nor a Statute Labour
road, was not being repaired as no one was responsible
Since 1669, various statutes were passed that modified
the Statute Labour system. None, however, applied to
the whole country until the General Statute Labour Act
of 1845. In the intervening period, counties had obtained
local Acts that modified the system, particularly allowing
for actual labour to be replaced by a monetary payment
(commutation). The 1845 Act recognised the commutation
system (which was fairer) and made it permissible for
counties to adopt it, and exempted poorer people from
having to pay.
By the mid-1700s, the general progress of the country
had led to a situation whereby the Statute Labour system
was unable to provide an adequate road system. It was
realised that new roads would need to be built but to
do this authority from Parliament had to be obtained
to allow funds to be raised by borrowing.
The first Scottish Turnpike Act was in 1713, for the
County of Edinburgh. There had been powers before this
to levy tolls into Edinburgh from time to time, the
proceeds to be used to repair the roads and burghs in
the County but the Act established this on a firmer
footing allowing toll gates to be erected and specifying
the amount of the tolls. Trustees were to pay particular
attention to the Post Road to Haddington.
The Act was renewed in 1750, and other Acts then began
to be passed, allowing a rapid growth of good roads
and bridges throughout the country. There were drawbacks,
however. One was that an Act was often for only a short
section of road and not a whole county; another was
that they had to be renewed at great expense every 20
or 30 years.
They noted that in England the revenue from a turnpike
was used primarily to pay interest on the loans that
had been raised to build the road, there being other
means of funding a turnpike, whereas in Scotland this
took second place to using the money on the actual roads.
This often meant that insufficient revenue was available
to repay debt.
|Roads neither Turnpike
nor Statute Labour
The first of this type of road they considered were
the Military and Parliamentary Roads which were similar
to turnpikes as in some cases they were supported by
tolls. These roads were in 10 different counties, mostly
in the Highlands.
The Military Roads were formed during the period of
Jacobite unrest and there were still about 250 miles
being maintained. The Parliamentary Roads, of which
there were about 940 miles, were constructed under an
Act of 1803, with half the cost coming from the government
and half from the districts or counties.
Subsequent Acts applied to both categories with 25
per cent of the costs being defrayed by the government
out of an annual grant of £5000. One Act allowed
tolls to be levied and this was applied to some roads.
The second of this type of road was in Argyll and Orkney
where funding was obtained under special statutes and
the management was under local control.
The third of this type of road were roads, which although
public, are not the responsibility of anyone to maintain
- these are noted only incidentally by the Report.
This refers to a separate levy for the purpose of repairing
bridges on statute labour roads that had its roots in
the 1669 Act. However, in many counties it had fallen
Abstracts for each county were provided that give the
lengths of the different types of road, the Acts under
which they were authorised and details of their finances.
Based on this, they estimated that the 21,000 miles
of road in Scotland cost £252,000 annually to
maintain and manage, viz.
Turnpike Roads and Bridges 5678 Miles £145,068
Statute Labour Roads 14,446 Miles £88,909
Military and Parliamentary Roads 1194 Miles £12,307
County Bridge Money and Inverness Bridge £5939
The amount of turnpike debt they estimated at nearly
£2 ½ million, noting that most of this
was irrecoverable. They considered that unless it was
removed, it would be a major obstacle to any change.
They noted that one class of creditors, those living
near main trunk roads considered that they had loaned
more money than was strictly necessary to accrue personal
benefits to their properties and were therefore entitled
to special treatment. The Commissioners felt however
that it would be difficult to make separate provision
Another class of creditor was Railway Companies who
had often taken over some of the road debt to reduce
opposition to the construction of their railways. Their
prospects of repayment were now remote.
The Commissioners referred again to the situation in
Scotland, unlike England, that only when income is spent
on road maintenance can any remaining funds be spent
on reducing the debt.
They suggested that Commissioners be appointed to determine
the amounts of the debts as had been done in South Wales
and Ireland. The debt of each county should then be
charged as a burden on the county. They felt this the
fairest method as the whole county would benefit from
They distinguished between the construction of a road
or bridge, saying that as it is a permanent improvement
it could fairly be charged against the owners of the
property who benefit; and their ordinary repair, which
should be chargeable on all who benefit, whether as
tenants or owners.
They noted that a proprietor living beside a prosperous
line of road which had no debt would object to paying
for less successful routes, but said that it would be
unfair for him to reap such benefits when he had not
contributed to the building of the road.
They suggested that Burghs containing a portion of
a turnpike in their bounds should pay a proportion of
the debt; and that this should also apply to those parts
of the Glasgow - Carlisle Road and the Greenlaw Turnpike
that lie within England.
They referred to an Appendix (F) that shows the nominal
debt by county, noting that in some counties it had
either been paid off or was very small. In counties
where it was large, it should not prove too onerous
to raise money to repay the debt provided that the true
value of the debt was taken and not its nominal value.
In any case, many of those assessed would receive money
back as they were the ones to whom money was owed.
They concluded by examining ways in which counties could
raise the money and reiterate the importance they attach
to removing the road debt if any progress was to be
|Aim 1 To see if a means of
funding other than by tolls or statute labour could
be identified that would result in a fairer and
more economical system.
|Objections to the
They noted that the "objectionable nature of tolls"
had been taken for granted in their inquiry and that
tolls were only considered in assessing whether a substitute
would be a better way of raising money. The Inquiry
had shown that there were other disadvantages to Turnpikes
- there were no consistent principles and Acts had been
passed without proper consideration which had led to
In speaking about the objections to tolls they referred
to the value of the work of William Pagan of Cupar in
Fife, who was one of the witnesses and had written about
the drawbacks of the present system.
Objections to the toll system were detailed:
- Expense of obtaining and renewing a turnpike act
- Cost of toll houses, gates and steelyards
- Cost of advertising and letting toll bars
- Profits of the tacksmen
- Salaries of collectors
- Providing a ready cause for litigation
- Inequality in their operation - some journeys required
several tolls to be paid, others none
- The multiplicity of trusts, each with their own toll
- Damage to other roads by people taking a longer route
to avoid payment.
They countered the argument that those who use the
road should pay for the road by noting that on some
roads several tolls have to be paid where on others
there may be long stretches where there are no tolls.
They referred to the much reduced revenue from tolls
where a railway had been built, giving several striking
examples. They also noted the effect the siting of railway
stations had had on the use of other roads. This in
fact had resulted in making many Statute Labour roads,
rather than the turnpikes, major routes and this had
removed much of the difference between them.
|Financing the maintenance
As they were now so similar, and Statute Labour roads
were funded by assessment, this justified the same principle
being applied to turnpikes. They recognised that any
sudden change in compulsory legislation would meet much
opposition but nevertheless recommended that future
legislation should be directed towards assessment rather
They then examined how this assessment could be carried
out. They proposed firstly that all the public roads
in a county, of whatever kind, should be united under
a common system of management and financing. Bridges
should be put on the same footing as roads. Highland
Roads and Bridges should devolve on the counties in
which they are situated - in any case, counties are
already paying the major share for their maintenance.
Where a road extended over more than one county or into
England, costs should be proportional to the lengths
of road involved.
They recommended that the roads and bridges then be
financed by an assessment on occupiers whilst they held
an existing lease. Where there was no existing lease
and in future leases where it was not otherwise stipulated,
tenants could retain half of the assessment from the
rent payable to their landlords.
Occupiers under the present system paid for the maintenance
of the roads as well as having to pay tolls which itself
helped to pay for the interest on the road debt. There
was a lack of fairness in this and placing the burden
of debt on proprietors and of maintenance on occupiers
would ensure a more equitable system
Many different opinions had been offered by witnesses
as to how assessment should be carried out, viz:
- A uniform, or a classified rate on horses
- A rate on lands and heritages, supplemented by a horse
- A rate from lands and heritages, subject to classification
- A uniform rate on all descriptions of lands and heritages,
as contained in the Valuation Roll for each county.
They recognized that a rate on horses would be fairer
than a rate on property as it would be better at showing
the use of roads by individuals. However, they felt
that the idea quickly became very complex and did not
in fact adjust itself easily to reflect the actual use
of the road. It was also likely to lead to a great many
As the idea was favoured by many, the Commissioners
in Appendices L - O, provided data on what rate on horses
would be required.
With regard to a rate on lands and property, they considered
that a uniform rate based on the valuation roll was
by far the easiest method. They recommended that Railway
and Canal Companies be included, as they benefitted
from good access roads and would profit from the abolition
Appendix G shows the value of counties and burghs, Appendix
K shows the likely rate in each county for the Statute
Labour roads, Turnpikes and Military and Parliamentary
roads. Appendix H shows the likely rate for all roads
in each county.
They noted that there was wide variation between counties
but accept that this was inevitable in view of the circumstances
of each county.
They recognised a need to prescribe a limit on the rate
so that excessive expenditure did not take place, noting
that this was the practice of Parliament with Turnpike
acts. They suggested however that the rate could in
exceptional cases be exceeded provided safeguards were
It had been pointed out that a drawback to a uniform
rate was in the case of quarries, mines and public works,
the value of which was low yet which caused great damage
to the roads. In view of this they recommended that
these should be assessed at up to four times the normal
rate, but no more than this.
New roads should be assessed separately upon owners,
using the same argument used on road debt being placed
on proprietors, viz. that it is a permanent improvement
which benefits owners. The principle appeared to be
fair and was already used in some counties.
To ensure that new roads were constructed only where
needed and not to benefit individuals, they recommended
that half of the finance be raised by the promoters
of a scheme, the other half to be supplied by the county.
|Management of the
roads and bridges
They referred to precedents for the raising of funds
by assessment, such as a Turnpike Act of 1811 for Perthshire,
and the 1834 Biggar and Leadhills Turnpike Act. They
proposed that the management of the roads and bridges
be vested in the Trustees under the existing Acts, along
with the Commissioners of Supply and some occupiers
or tenants as determined by the rent they pay.
Trustees should meet annually and appoint a County Road
Board as well as fix the amount of the assessment. Counties
could if so wished be divided into districts and these
would be the responsibility of trustees residing in
the area, and with the advice and assistance of the
county surveyor. In case of disputes there would be
a right of appeal to the County Road Board.
|Appointment of County
They recommended the appointment of County Surveyors,
saying that this would help to ensure the efficient
working of the system. Duties would include:
- The laying out of new lines of road
- Advising and executing improvements
- Preparing plans and specifications form bridges, masonry
- Adjusting and supervising the execution of contracts
- Supervising sub-surveyors and workmen.
It was desirable that he should be of some social standing
to allow him to feel and maintain a degree of independence,
and who would be acceptable to all. He should possess
a firm character yet be diplomatic when the wishes of
influential parties had to be declined or work had to
remain unapproved because it was not up to standard.
In Ireland, surveyors were examined before a Board of
Inquiry to ensure that they had the necessary qualities
for the position. They advised paying a suitable salary;
setting a low salary or not appointing a surveyor at
all would be a false economy. The surveyor need not
be confined to one county.
Each year, he should prepare a report on the roads along
with proposed work and estimated costs. He would appoint
sub-surveyors and be responsible for them.
On the formation of a County Road Board, all funds would
be transferred to the care of a general clerk along
with a collector and treasurer. District clerks would
also be required. Toll houses etc should be sold and
proceeds paid in to the County Road Funds and all accounts
would be audited with an abstract made available for
the rate payers and the public. Powers of prosecution
for roads offences and similar powers would be transferred
to the Trustees and officials.
Burghs should become responsible for all roads within
their boundaries, with powers to assess lands and heritages
in their valuation rolls as for counties.
Appendix J shows the cost to burghs of taking over
the turnpikes and the corresponding relief on counties.
The latter would be very low except where large burghs
were concerned. Statute labour roads within burghs are
paid for by rates on property and as the sum raised
is usually more than required there would be a loss
rather than a gain to counties if the statute labour
roads within burghs were paid out of burgh assessments.
However, burghs, especially the smaller burghs, should
have the option of having their roads paid by the county
road funds provided they place themselves under the
county assessment, and the roads themselves under the
County Road Board, on which they would be represented.
The Commission also said that if tolls are abolished
there should be no levying of causeway-mail in burghs,
or any tax placed on cattle passing through the town
although the loss of revenue would be made up by assessment.
They argued that there was a need for enforcing the
repair of roads and streets in counties and burghs though
it was not clear where this responsibility for enforcement
Having made its case for maintaining roads and bridges
by assessment, the Commission recognised that it might
be inexpedient to make this compulsory throughout Scotland.
Instead, the Roads Trusts in counties should be given
the power to abolish tolls and statute labour and introduce
assessment, but only after full consultation.
Although some had argued that allowing a county to abolish
tolls without this applying to the whole country was
a bad thing, this situation already existed as in Argyll
and Sutherland. The fact that they might have to pay
tolls elsewhere was exceptional and not worth considering.
In any case, if a county chose to abolish tolls, the
fact that they existed elsewhere would not materially
affect its own circumstances.
|Aim 2 To look at the
way roads were managed and see if any improvements
could be made.
Leaving aside the question of tolls versus assessment,
the Commissioners felt that the existing system could
Although there were serious drawbacks to tolls, these
were not necessarily the cause of what was inadequate
about the present system; it could be possible to make
changes that would improve the system.
They pointed to the number of small trusts with their
own funds and accounts, management and staff and the
expense of obtaining a separate Act to set up the Trust.
They listed many examples such as Dumbartonshire with
133 miles of road and 11 trusts.
They also gave examples of the large numbers of individual
Acts that have had to be passed. Fife, for example,
had nine separate acts, eight of which required regular
(and expensive) renewal.
They saw the answer to lie in the consolidation of all
the trusts in a county. This would allow the conflicting
interests of the different trusts to be reconciled and
remove much of the nuisance of frequent toll bars and
payments. They anticipated that consolidation preceded
by the removal of the road debt would in many counties
lead to the eventual removal of tolls.
They recognised that even under an improved system there
would still be some disadvantages (this was presumably
said to appease those who would want to remove tolls
- The admitted inequality of tolls. However, they felt
that any system would result in some inequalities and
that this had to be accepted.
- The expense of collecting tolls. They were satisfied
that this was not as high as some said and was at an
- Having to make frequent small payments at tolls. They
pointed out that although annoying it was hardly less
so than having to pay a larger sum once or twice a year
They recognised that consolidation, while it might not
remove all objections to the toll system did have considerable
benefits, in association with assessment.
The similarities between turnpike and statute labour
roads since the railways now made it desirable to amalgaamate
them under the one management and financial system.
However, as the proposed legislation would still allow
tolls and statute labour where desired, they recommended
that the consolidation be restricted to their management
but that separate records of their finances be kept.
|Turnpike Roads and Bridges
The Commissioners reiterated some points already made.
They proposed that turnpikes in each county be consolidated
into a Trust with its own management and funding. Specific
- The management body to be that already stated
under an assessment system, viz. Trustees, Commissioners
of Supply and tenants
- A County Road Board be appointed annually. They
would manage the roads in the county and appoint a County
- The County Road Board could subdivide the county
in districts, if desired
- Roads in a district would be managed by Trustees
- The Surveyor to submit an annual report
- Appeals could be made against decisions of District
- Districts would have powers to take over roads
already formed, close roads, or withdraw support from
those that were not of public utility, subject
- County Road Board to appoint County Surveyor
and fix salary. Surveyor could act for more than one
county if Boards so desired
- Surveyor to assess turnpikes and statute labour
- Surveyor to allocate funding to Districts and
roads within each District
- Surveyor to appoint sub-surveyors and fix salary
in consultation with Road Board
- Existing Trusts to cease at a fixed date and
all funds be passed to Road Boards
- General Clerk, collector and treasurer to be
- County Road Board to authorise district clerks
- Annual audit of accounts with abstracts to be
- Roads in adjacent counties to be subdivided
and made the responsibility of each county. Provision
to be made for roads running into England
- Uniform tolls to be charged throughout a county
- Tolls not to be charged more than once in 6
miles, whether in one county or more
- Pass tickets to be adopted allowing return by
a different route
- County Road Board may remove or alter location
of toll bars, on application from a District
- If the consolidated toll revenues were insufficient,
the Trustees may supplement this by assessment
- County Road Board to be able to raise funding
for necessary expenses until assessment is payable.
To ensure that the Roads Trustees carried out their
obligations, the Commission suggested that as it would
be very unpopular to have a central authority do this,
the legislation should prevent them from charging tolls
or raising money through assessment.
Where a burgh decided to retain tolls, these should
be used for the roads. Causeway mail could continue
to be charged.
They mentioned that special arrangements would have
to be made for Glasgow and for the bridge at Perth.
Where a county retained tolls, these should only be
used for maintenance and repair. Funding for new roads
and bridges should be raised by assessment on proprietors
of lands and heritages contained in the Valuation Rolls.
Half the funding should be raised by the promoters of
a scheme and half by the county. Bridges on rivers that
form a boundary between two counties should be managed
jointly by the counties.
A new General Roads and Bridges Act would be required
to replace the General Turnpike Act and local acts.
The new act would give powers to levy tolls and would
incorporate provisions of the General Turnpike Act that
were consistent with the proposed alterations.
|Statute Labour Roads and
Whatever might be done about turnpikes an immediate
change was necessary with the statute labour system
which was generally defective. There was in fact no
general system - each county had its own Act, and practice
varied widely even within the same county. In some counties,
management was by districts, in others by parish, and
in others a mixture of both.
Assessment also varied widely with some organising this
by district, and others by parish. In some cases there
was definite abuse where the funds found their way back
to the proprietors to be spent at their own discretion
and not for the good of the public.
Surveyors were not generally employed - in some counties
expenditure was at the discretion of individual proprietors
or their factors, in others a committee of farmers or
others. In some cases persons with no special knowledge
or skills were employed as surveyors.
There were properly qualified surveyors acting for some
counties and sometimes a neighbouring county also. The
evidence pointed to greater efficiency when turnpikes
and statute labour roads in a district were under the
They pointed to the great variation in how assessments
were levied and how this led to unfair burdens being
placed on some. They listed the following:
- Rate leviable in 9 counties on Ploughgates,
itself a variable measure
- Auxiliary assessment on horses in 12 counties,
with many variants
- Rate in 6 counties based on the real rent under
the valuation roll; in 16 others, the old Scots valued
rent is used which was so variable that it led to unequal
amounts being levied even within the same locality.
Another inadequacy of this was that it did not apply
to mines, quarries, railways, manufactories and other
places so that they contributed nothing to the roads
- Variation in those liable to pay the statute
labour rate - in most cases it was occupiers; but in
others it was paid by landlords with relief against
their tenants; in others again it was on occupiers up
to a certain limit when it devolved upon owners. In
one or two counties it was paid by owners
- Roads in Bute and Zetland were maintained by
the old system of personal service but this was totally
inadequate to keep the roads in order
In view of this they recommended:
- One uniform mode of assessment, viz. a rate
on the real rent of lands and heritages under the valuation
- Mines etc to be rated at a higher level
- Assessment to be on occupiers (as is the case
in most counties at present) but with provision in existing
leases to retain a proportion from their landlord
if the landlord as owner paid something under the present
- A limit on the amount of assessment to be set
with provision for special exceptions.
They listed a number of points which should be introduced.
These were very similar to those for turnpike roads,
- Roads to be managed by counties or large districts,
funds to be spent on all roads in that area and be under
the oversight of a county surveyor
- Consolidating them with turnpike roads with
a management of Trustees, County Road Board and District
- Funds to be kept separate from turnpikes
- Surveyor to allocate finds of each district
to roads within that district
- District trusts to have power to adopt and existing
road, or close or cease to maintain those of no public
- Assessment in each district to be proportionate
to its requirements
- Assessment to be imposed at the AGM of the Roads
- Any changes to existing statute labour districts
to be done by County Road Board in concert with the
county surveyor. There would be benefit in having
the same districts as the turnpikes
- County Road Board to alter districts as necessary
- Separate bridge money assessment to be abolished
- With new roads and bridges, half the cost to
be paid by the promoters and half by the districts
- Statute labour roads within burghs to continue
as at present except assessment to be on real rent of
lands and heritages rather than on property
- Powers in the general statute labour act such
as being able to take land and launch prosecutions to
be transferred to the County Road Board and District
Trusts and officers
- Annual audit of accounts with publication of
- Where a ferry had its rates set by roads trustees,
this power to be passed to the County Boards.
They concluded that their proposals would reduce expenditure
on the roads and greatly improve their condition, especially
Statute Labour roads. They noted, however, that the
roads in Scotland generally, particularly the turnpikes,
were mostly in a reasonable condition, with many running
They considered that although their Inquiry had not
aroused great excitement or agitation, this was of benefit
as it did not negate their proposals and would allow
for deliberation on an important subject, and which,
because of the impact of railways, was becoming urgent.
They realised that not all their suggestions would
be acceptable to everyone but had been guided throughout
by choosing measures of the most general benefit and
which would have the least inconveniences.