What happened to our commons?
They were stolen. Here is what Professor Cosmo Innes (1798-1874), the famous advocate and Professor of Constitutional Law and History in this Department wrote in his book, Scotch Legal Antiquities: -
“Looking over our country, the land held in common was of vast extent. In truth, the arable - the cultivated land of Scotland, the land early appropriated and held by charter - is a narrow strip on the river bank or beside the sea. The inland, the upland, the moor, the mountain were really not occupied at all for agricultural purposes, or served only to keep the poor and their cattle from starving. hey were not thought of when charters were made and lands feudalised. Now as cultivation increased, the tendency in the agricultural mind was to occupy these wide commons, and our lawyers lent themselves to appropriate the poor man’s grazing to the neighbouring baron. They pointed to his charter with its clause of parts and pertinents, with its general clause of mosses and moors - clauses taken from the style book, not with any reference to the territory conveyed in that charter; and although the charter was hundreds of years old, and the lord had never possessed any of the common, when it cam to be divided, the lord got the whole that was allocated to the estate, and the poor cottar none. The poor had no lawyers.”
What is the commons?
Commons: refers to the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth.
Scotlands Common Good Fund: Consists of a whole pile of assets all over Scotland held in Public ownership worth tens of millions of pounds in different places.
“In its most basic form, common good has its origins in the early Middle Ages, when the ferm toun – a small settlement of interconnected families living in close proximity for mutual protection and support – took a collectivist approach to certain aspects of the farming operation.” Andrew C Ferguson
Part of our work in "opening the source" will be to look at the commons and the Common Good Fund in particular. And to ask why these funds, resourses, and assets, particularly in times of austerity are not being used for the public good, which they were intended.
The Commonweal (You can find pages here from the 'Scottish Commons' site (now unavailable). An amazing resource of common Good knowledge)