Issues on housing and land in Wester Hailes were provoking debate right back in the 1930s, long before the decision was made in 1964 to rezone the area for housing development. Entries in Hansard reveal that the use of the land that formed Wester Hailes farm was being discussed in 1930 and 1931 in Parliament. Land ownership and land rights had continued to be a contentious topic for Scotland. In 1914 only 11% of Scotland was owner occupied. By 1930 it was over 30%. At the same time, there remained a shortage of land for those who wanted to farm as tenants. In 1886 the Crofters Holdings Act had been passed to give legal status to crofters in the Highland counties. It included the right to secure tenancies, fair rents and the right to pass on the tenancy to a family successor. The Small Landowners Act extended these rights to the whole of Scotland in 1911, redefining crofts as small landholdings. There were continuing calls for land reform and there was an acute shortage of small landholdings for all those who wanted them.
In 1930 the Department of Agriculture purchased 164 acres on the farm of Wester Hailes for about £50 per acre. The land was to be used to provide small holdings with tenancies. The purchase was disputed by Sir Archibald Sinclair who represented Caithness and Sutherland. He queried what he saw as the use of the Agriculture Fund to build houses within the city of Edinburgh when there was a shortage of small holdings in other areas of Scotland, presumably his constituency being one of these areas. In particular he challenged the location of the houses which would in his opinion lie within Edinburgh’s city boundaries, saying
“surely this wealthy corporation should be able to build houses for its own people inside its own boundary without drawing upon the scanty resources of the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund?”
William Adamson, who was the Secretary of State for Scotland pointed out that the costs included land as well as houses and that this was a permitted use of the Fund. He also confirmed that the tenants for these houses would be agricultural tenants and that each house and steading would be treated as agricultural units.
In 1931 the smallholdings at Wester Hailes were again referred to when James Scott for Kincardine and Western raised the issue of the rents being paid by the tenants and whether these rents were competitive. He also queried why these tenants were not being dealt with through the Small Landowners Act. Joseph Westwood confirmed that the rents were not competitive and that the cost of the scheme was being met through the Agriculture Fund.
For more details of these discussions click here