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In the 12th century an act was passed providing that the highways between market-towns should be at least 20 feet broad, Over the principal rivers at this early period there were bridges near the most populous places, as over the Dee near Aberdeen, the Esk at Brechin, the Tay at Perth and the Forth near Stirling.

Until the 16th century, however, traffic between distant places was carried on chiefly by pack-horses. The first stage-coach in Scotland was that which ran between Edinburgh and Leith in 1610. In 1658 there was a fortnightly stage-coach between Edinburgh and London, but afterwards it would appear to have been halted for many years.

Separate acts enjoining the justices of the peace, and afterwards along with them the commissioners of supply, to take measures for the maintenance of roads were passed in 1617, 1669, 2676 and 1686. These provisions had reference chiefly to what afterwards came to be known as “ statute labour roads,” intended primarily to supply a means of communication within the several parishes. They were kept in repair by the tenants and cotters, and, when their labour was not sufficient, by the landlords, who were required to “stent “ (assess) themselves, customs also being sometimes levied at bridges, ferries and causeways.

By separate local acts the “statute labour” was in many cases replaced by a payment called “conversion money,” and the General Roads Act of 1845 made the alteration universal. The Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act of 1878 entrusted the control of the roads to royal and police burghs and in the counties to road trustees, from whom it was transferred by the Local Government Act of 1889 to county councils, the management, however, being in the hands of district committees.

The Highlands had good military roads earlier than the rest of the country. The project, begun in 1725 under the direction of General George Wade, took ten. years to complete, and the roads were afterwards kept in repair by an annual parliamentary grant. In the Lowlands the main roads were constructed under the Turnpike Acts, the earliest of which was obtained in I750. Originally they were maintained by tolls, but this method, after several counties had obtained separate acts for its abolition, was superseded in 1883 by the act of 1878.

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