Civil Service Departments in Scotland

In 1870, during the period of Gladstone’s first government, the Earl of Camperdown and Sir William Henry Clerke were appointed by the Treasury to inquire into certain civil service departments in Scotland. They had a broad remit, but one objective was to investigate possible savings. They produced a lengthy and very detailed report on departments as varied as the Bible Board and the Lunacy Commission. As previously mentioned they also investigated the Fishery Board and summarized the arguments which had been put in favour of its abolition. It was ‘the solitary instance in which Government interferes in private trade’ 1 Edward Craufurd, the radical MP described the Board as ‘a relic of the old parental Government system … to give value to the goods of Mr. A or Mr. B … which is utterly foreign to the duty of government now.’ 2

The commissioners took evidence from Mr. Primrose, and, in keeping with the reports of the other departments this was recorded in meticulous detail, naming each and every employee, together with the date of his appointment and his salary – from Primrose, who earned £824 p.a. overall as joint secretary to the Fishery Board and the Board of Manufactures 3 , to Thomas Hardie, umbrella-collector in the National Gallery who earned £52 p.a. 4 Summarizing the results for the Fishery Board 5 gives a useful insight into the nature of the establishment:

Annual salaries for Fishery Board employees
Role Number Salary Range (£)
Secretary 1 524
Clerks, based in Edinburgh 4 115-320
Messenger, Porter 1 70
Porter 1 60
General Inspector 1 261
Assistant Inspector 1 219
1st Class Fishery Officer 10 170-180
2nd Class Fishery Officer 10 140-150
3rd Class Fishery Officer 10 110-130
Fishery Superintendents 2 70-100
Complement of fishery cruiser 22 15-200
Total 53

In the evidence given by Mr. Primrose he was able to report that the 4d branding fees more than covered the cost of branding 6 .

The Commissioners also interviewed James Methuen. It is not surprising to find that, in keeping with his father’s standpoint, he was in favour of the retention of the Board and the Brand. He described how it was his custom to have his own herring barrels branded with his initials – not in order to influence the price, but as a means of identifying his own produce – as he often was able to do in Germany 7 .

Given the wide-ranging remit of the Commission, it is not surprising that they did not agree to any radical changes in the organisation of the Fishery Board, but their report does highlight the nature of the ideological objections which still existed to Government involvement in business – even though the Board was also responsible for other useful functions which it would have been difficult to re-allocate if the Board had been abolished - such as policing the fishery 8 , fishery protection 9 and the registration of fishing boats 10 . The one issue affecting the Fishery Board in which the Commission recommended a change was in the grant for the erection and maintenance of fishing harbours. Such a change would certainly have required the involvement of the Treasury 11 .


1. Treasury Report 1870 p.10

2. Treasury Report 1870 Evidence: Question 27

3. Treasury Report 1870 Evidence: Questions 1224-5

4. Treasury Report 1870 Appendix C,Board of Manufactures Return No. 2

5. Treasury Report 1870 Appendix C,Fishery Board Return No. 2

6. Treasury Report 1870 Evidence: Question 1296

7. Treasury Report 1870 Evidence: Questions 1042-43

8. Treasury Report 1870 Evidence: Questions 1238-61

9. Treasury Report 1870 Evidence: Questions 1289

10. Treasury Report 1870 Evidence: Questions 1267

11. Treasury Report 1870 p.12