Here, from the 13th to the 16th Centuries, the region's clans plundered land and livestock and endless blood was shed. Straddling the border, the Debatable Lands flourished as a sort of anarchic no-man's land, not independent but too dangerous and lawless for either Scotland or England to be able – or want – to take control of.
This was highlighted in a remarkable parliamentary decree issued by the governments of both countries in the mid-16th Century, some 300 years into the Debatable Lands’ story: “All Englishmen and Scottishmen are and shall be free to rob, burn, spoil, slay, murder and destroy, all and every such person and persons, their bodies, property, goods and livestock… without any redress to be made for same.”
While this decree was made into law, it was more of a legal “out” for England and Scotland. Neither side wanted the responsibility of dealing with the Debatable Lands; and as they could not agree on who owned it or how it was divided, neither could be held responsible for it, either.