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P arliamentary and police burghs


In the second half of the eighteenth century and the first decades of the nineteenth century there were growing calls for reform of the burghs. Many suffered from financial mismanagement and corruption, particularly regarding parliamentary representation, and larger towns faced problems coping with industrial pollution, sewerage disposal and water supply. In 1800 Glasgow obtained a local act of parliament to set up a system of policing, whereby a body of police commissioners, elected by householders, oversaw a police force, and the maintenance of paving, lighting and cleansing the streets. Other Scottish burghs obtained similar local acts in the next few years, including Edinburgh in 1805. In 1832 and 1833 legislation converted royal burghs and many burghs of barony and regality into parliamentary burghs with elected councils.

The Burgh Police (Scotland) Act allowed burghs to adopt policing, paving, lighting and cleansing powers through a sheriff court process (this was less expensive than an act of parliament).

Under the Police of Towns (Scotland) Act 1850 and the General Police and Improvement (Scotland) Act 1862 these (and further public health) powers were extended to populous places, and the result was the creation of over 100 'police burghs'.

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