Opposition to the Wool Marketing Board, 1951

From the Stornoway Gazette, 16 March 1951; a report of a public meeting in Uig, ending with an indication of the state of the economy in 1951, compared to the ‘fat’ war years.

Wool Scheme Opposed:– A meeting of West Uig crofters was held at Crowlista P School to discuss the wool marketing scheme.  It was the most representative gathering for years, and crofters from all the scattered hamlets of this wide district defied the elements and the darkness in order to be present and to express their opinion on a matter which affects them gravely.

Cllr Smith [John Smith 13 Ardroil] who was in the chair explained to the audience as he understood it the substance of the scheme.  This was in effect that all owners of four or more sheep must register with the Wool Marketing Board and must dispose of all of their wool to the said board for the paltry sum of 2s 2d per lb not withstanding the abnormally high price of wool all over the globe.  The WMB is to put this wool into the general market when only the highest bidder can hope for a hair.  The profits derived from these sales are to form a reserve fund from which the owners may or may not get a share in proportion to the weight of wool ‘loaned’ to the WMB individually.  But all must wait, patiently or otherwise, for five years before a single penny of this loan is repaid, and that irrespective of the lender’s financial circumstances.  All expenses of running this ridiculous and hare-brained scheme were to be borne by the treasury.

After giving this scheme, which can have more than one meaning, full and studied consideration, the meeting decided that it contained nothing to merit the crofters’ approval.  It was felt that it was a very retrograde step to impose such harsh dictatorial pressure on poor people and that by a supposedly democratic government.

The crofters decided that they want the freedom of buying and selling at the most advantageous terms to themselves and they can do without any outside interference in the conduct of their domestic affairs.

It would have been more feasible had the scheme been conceived and operated during the comparatively fat war years when money was not so hard to come by, when the cost of living had not soared to such dizzying heights and when the crofter could possibly live for a spell on his savings.  These conditions however do not exist today.

A show of hands before the meeting ended testified in no uncertain measure to the crofters’ resentment of the scheme.

In spite of this unequivocal rejection of the scheme, it did go ahead, and an unscientific survey of crofters in Uig today suggests that they feel it did them no good whatsoever, and instead interrupted the previous satisfactory system whereby the Island tweed mills took most of their wool at a fair price.  The British Wool Marketing Board website says: “a farmer run organisation, the BWMB was established in 1950 to operate a central marketing system for UK fleece wool, with the aim of achieving the best possible net return for producers.”