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Future of crofting

12/05/2008

"The most significant report on crofting for the past half century" was welcomed today by Minister for Environment Michael Russell.

He congratulated the Committee of Inquiry on Crofting for the 'radical approach' it has taken in outlining its vision for the future of crofting in 21st century Scotland.

Receiving the report during an event at An Lanntair in Stornoway, Mr Russell said:

"The committee was asked to consult widely and to report back to Government with radical ideas on shaping the future of crofting. This is precisely what they have done and I congratulate them for it.

"One of our priorities in Government is to support and develop rural communities. Crofting makes a unique and significant contribution to remote rural areas. Crofting delivers environmental benefits and has a pivotal role in the cultural landscape of the Highlands and Islands that is famous across the world.

"But crofting does not exist in global isolation and in safeguarding this heritage we must also ensure that it offers a viable and fulfilling way of life for future generations.

"The Government will now consider the recommendations of the report carefully and begin its work on a response. I look forward to debating the issues in Parliament later this week."

The committee's recommendations include:

  • Abolition of the Crofters' Commission and the creation of a new Federation of Local Crofting Boards
  • All croft houses are tied to residency
  • All sub-lets and tenancies should be approved by the Local Crofting Boards
  • Registers of Scotland should be responsible for maintaining the register of crofts
  • Reviewing agricultural subsidies including Single Farm Payment, the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme and the Crofting Countries Agricultural Grant Scheme

Amongst other things, the Committee has made recommendations on crofting regulation and enforcement.

Should the Government accept the recommendation to introduce what is referred to as a residency burden to croft house sites, it may also accept the recommendation to introduce that burden with effect from May 12, 2008.

If the Government were to accept these recommendations, it could be expected to invite Parliament to apply any restrictions to croft house sites and crofts for which the application for consent to assign a croft or for which notification of the change of ownership of the land was received by the Crofters Commission after May 12, 2008.

Such restrictions would also apply to croft house sites for which notice of applications to decroft were received by the Crofters Commission after that date. Furthermore, any houses built on land that was under crofting tenure on May 12, 2008 and for which no application to decroft had been received would be subject to an enhanced burden that would tie the new owner not only to occupancy but also to working the land.

The Committee of Inquiry on Crofting was established in December 2006 by Scottish Ministers. They were asked to identify a vision for the future of crofting in Scotland in contributing to the outcomes of sustaining and enhancing the population, improving economic vitality, safeguarding landscape and biodiversity; and sustaining cultural diversity.

The Committee was chaired by Professor Mark Shucksmith, who is Professor of Planning at Newcastle University. The other members of the Committee were Jane Brown, Fred Edwards LVO, Susan Lamont, Norman MacDonald, Professor Donald MacRae FRSE, Agnes Rennie MBE and Becky Shaw.

The report makes recommendations in relation to land and environment issues, rural economy issues, affordable housing issues, governance issues and crofting regulation and enforcement issues.

English and Gaelic versions of the report can be accessed through the Committee of Inquiry on Crofting website.