By the 18th century the incorporations were bodies of considerable wealth, owning land and property. The fine Trades' Hall buildings in Glassford Street, opened in 1793, cost £7,207 (approximately £10 million in today's values). In 1808 rooms for a Trades' School were attached to educate boys aged seven to eleven from the different incorporations. In addition to looking after needy members of their own craft, some of the crafts' resources were used for charitable donations to the infirmary, the lunatic asylum, to committees for relief of the unemployed and similar things. At other times funds were used to support or oppose particular pieces of legislation affecting the city.
By the end of the 18th century, as the demand for goods and services of all kinds was expanding rapidly, there was resentment at the restrictions on the growth of business which the incorporations imposed. New businessmen would set up in villages outside the city rather than submit to the costs and what were seen as unnecessarily restrictive controls of the crafts. Many employers wanted to expand their workforce much faster than would have been allowed under prevailing apprenticeship regulations. They wanted to be able to compete on price and undercut their competitors. They were thinking in terms of a national rather than just a local market for their goods.
The power of the craft incorporations began to decline and more and more "strangers" or "outentowners" were allowed to work. The annual inspection of the crafts fell into disuse. Their attempts to control wages and hours of the journeymen workers also crumbled in the face of competition and trade unionism. In 1846 the exclusive privileges of the incorporations to trade were formally removed by an Act of Parliament which declared that "it shall be lawful for any person to carry on or deal in merchandise, and to carry on and exercise any trade or handicraft in any Burgh and elsewhere, in Scotland, without being a Burgess of such Burgh, or a Guild Brother, or a member of any Guild, Craft, or Incorporation".
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