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Crofting Bill

29/09/2009

The long-term damage caused by property speculation on croft land must be tackled, Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said today.

However an occupancy requirement, which would mean houses built on former croft land have to be used as main residences, will not be included in the Crofting Bill.

Alternative ways of keeping land affordable to those who want to take up crofting will be explored instead.

Addressing the Scottish Crofting Foundation in Grantown-on-Spey, Ms Cunningham said:

"Crofting is part of the social, cultural and economic fabric of Scotland. It is a unique way of life which we must ensure has a sustainable, profitable future in the 21st century.

"That means tackling the problems of absenteeism, neglect and speculation. There is consensus on this issue.

"In our draft Crofting Bill we consulted on an occupancy requirement for houses built on land taken out of crofting. The majority of respondents did not think this was the best way forward. We listened to those views and have decided not to include this measure in the Bill.

"But doing nothing is not an option if we want crofting to survive and thrive. Alternatives will have to be found, which is why it is vital to have constructive debate on this issue."

Ms Cunningham also confirmed there were no plans to end the Crofting Counties Agricultural Grants Scheme and the Croft House Grants Scheme.

She said:

"Both of these schemes are here to stay. Neither is under threat and nor will they be merged. They provide vital assistance to crofters and are an integral part of our future plans. Those that suggest otherwise are deliberately misleading crofters and causing unnecessary alarm."

The Scottish Government set up the independent Committee of Inquiry on Crofting (also known as the Shucksmith Inquiry) to consider how best to ensure a thriving future for crofting. This reported in May 2008

Following the Inquiry, the Scottish Government published a draft Crofting Reform Bill for consultation in May 2009.

Responses to the consultation are currently being analysed and a final Bill is planned for introduction to the Scottish Parliament later this year.