Another system [...] is the letting of farms to non-resident tenants, from which great evils have arisen, and that consists of good farm-houses now occupied by uncultivated menials, instead of gentlemen and their families, who possessed these farms at one time, and who were not only an acquisition to society, but a great credit to the country at large.
This is a quote from Appendix XXXIII of the Napier Commission Report, and I just wonder if the Reverend Macrae of North Uist had a point. Leaving to one side the use of terms like "uncultivated menials", which is doesn't help the debate. Those in the north of Scotland are aware of the current debate (and I'm now talking 2010) around crofting - a debate that to my mind equates to tying the horse behind the wagon, or locking the door when the horse has bolted. Many a croft lies unused, or feud off to infinity for house building or (more accurately) property speculation.