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Coal Mines and Salt pans

An act of the Scottish Parliament of 1606 permanently bound coal miners, coal carriers (women and children) and salt pan workers to their workplace. Due to the use of coal to boil seawater, salt pans and coal mines were closely associated. It was felt that if workers were free to leave such harsh working conditions to seek employment elsewhere, it would be difficult to find replacements. Also, that only those accustomed to such work from a young age would become skilled in it and be able to endure it. (As the workers received wages, this was technically serfdom rather than true slavery.) If a coal mine or salt works was sold, its workforce was also transferred from one owner to another. The Colliers and Salters (Scotland) Act 1775 was intended to alleviate this 'state of slavery or bondage', and to attract more workers to expand the industries. New workers were not subject to servitude. Those already under servitude could seek freedom after serving seven or ten years depending on age, but being indebted to their employers often prevented them from doing this. The Colliers (Scotland) Act 1799 finally freed those still labouring in bondage. Both these acts contained provisions against organised labour.    

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