In the landward areas of Scotland, valuations were compiled from the 17th century by the Commissioners of Supply, who were responsible for this on a county basis. The surviving rolls are mostly in the National Archives of Scotland, although a few also survive locally. In the burghs, the survival of "stent rolls", as they were called, is largely a matter of chance. Glasgow, for example, has one roll for 1697, none at all for the 18th century, and then about 1,000 rolls for individual wards in the city, providing a very incomplete coverage from 1802 onwards.
The Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act 1854 established the modern system of assessment. Annual rolls were to be compiled, containing the names of property owners, occupiers and tenants. The act introduced the concept of "annual value". If the property was let at an economic rent, this would be accepted as the annual value. If not, the annual value would be an estimate by the assessor of the amount at which the property "might... be reasonably expected to be let from year to year", net of the cost of repairs, insurance, and certain other expenses. The Act also provided for an Assessor of Railways and Canals (from 1934 known as the Assessor of Public Undertakings), who compiled a separate valuation of these undertakings, and also, at their option, for suppliers of public utilities, such as gas or water companies. Certain properties were exempt from assessment, including schools, churches, the premises of certain charities and crown properties, which included prisons, post offices and military establishments.
The Act also provided that one copy of each roll was to be sent to the Keeper of the Records of Scotland. Consequently the National Archives of Scotland now have a complete set of these rolls for the whole country from 1855 until the radical changes brought about by the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987. Because the electoral franchise originally depended on property qualifications, valuation rolls soon came to be used as the basis of electoral registers, and additional data began to be included primarily for that purpose, including the amount of any feu-duty or ground annual (annual charges on the land). Thus Scottish valuation rolls are not only better preserved than the corresponding English rate books, they also contain more information.
The removal day for annual lets in Scotland, or "flitting term" as it was called, was 28 May, and tenancies usually ran from that date. In general poorer households would be more mobile than those further up the social scale. They would have fewer possessions, and might want to follow the employment of the head of household, or in some cases to leave behind debts to a landlord or local shops. As soon as this annual upheaval was over, the work of compiling the new roll would begin. The city would be divided between a number of surveyors who would each take a portion of the old roll and go from house to house noting every change in tenancy and every new or substantially altered property. Most entries would, of course, be unchanged from one year to the next.
At the same time every property owner or house factor would receive a printed form to be returned with the information required for the roll. The two sets of data would then be compared and discrepancies investigated. New or altered properties would need to be valued.
By 25 August every owner and occupier had to have received a notice of the entry applying to him or her. The final date for appeals against valuation was 8 September and a committee of the town council, sitting as a Valuation Appeal Court (with right of appeal to the Court of Session) would hear the appeals during the month. The deadline for this procedure was 30 September and the roll would then be printed. In the meantime the actual rates payable could be calculated, an extremely complex process in itself. In 1913-1914 there were twenty-four separate municipal rates for different purposes, ranging from parks and libraries to sewage, Clyde embankments or prisons. Some rates were paid wholly by the owner and some wholly by the occupier, but most were shared equally between the two.
The valuation rolls contained the following information in 1913-1914: a running number within the survey book; the description of the property; street number and street; the proprietor's name and address; name and occupation of tenant; occupier and "inhabitant occupier" (a small category, usually blank, for those such as janitors who lived in a building as a condition of their work); the feu-duty or ground annual; the annual rent or value and a remarks field (almost always blank). Most of these are self-explanatory, but care is needed with street numbers and also street names, many of which have changed, often to remove duplicates. These were an especial problem due to the city's successive boundary expansions. While Maryhill or Partick were independent, for example, there was no need to avoid giving a new street a name which already existed in Glasgow (or vice versa). Later this would cause confusion, and re-namings took place from time to time. They were especially numerous around 1930. Glasgow City Archives include printed street indices, compiled every few years and often marked up with changes of name or ward number, and also a modern card index of name changes.
For those whose interest is in tracing individuals, the geographical arrangement of the rolls can make them frustrating to use. There was, of course, no contemporary index of personal names, either of tenants or proprietors, and the only such indices that exist are from modern computer databases for 1861, 1881 and 1911. Processing of this kind creates various research possibilities, including analysis of the structure of property ownership in the city, the level of rents, or the geographical distribution of occupations.
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