In the early 1890's there was widespread discontentment amongst Highland crofters. They had little security of tenure. Few had written leases and many were dependent entirely on the goodwill of their landlords. All too often crofters were still moved off less fertile holdings to make way for sheep, grazing or for shooting.
Many crofters also faced crippling poverty. Plots were too small to support families. But crofters were frequently prevented from increasing their holdings to a size that was sufficient and sustainable.
Eventually matters did boil over. In April 1882 there was the Battle of the Braes on Skye at the foot of Ben Lee.
Lord MacDonald tried to deprive crofters of some pasturage to which they claimed a right. Crofters then refused to pay rent. On 7th April an attempt was made to serve a "summonds of ejection" on them. The crofters responded by burning the "summonds" and by chasing off a sheriff's assistant. On 17th April some 50 Glasgow police officers were sent to effect the arrest of six ringleaders. They too were set upon by the crofters.
The Government was worried. So much so that at one stage a gunboat appeared in Portree Harbour!
Eventually, in March 1883, a Royal Commission was set up in response to the unrest. And in 1885 two Highland Land League candidates and three "independent Crofters" won seats in the North West of Scotland in that year's General Election.
In 1886 the Crofters Act was passed as a result. It gave security of tenure to most smallholders in crofting communities. It also established a Crofting Commission to hear appeals and determine fair rents. Rents fell by 30% as a result. Arrears fell by 60%.