Holyrood committee: Scottish Government’s crofting bill must meet the needs of crofters in the 21st century

09.03.2017

A Holyrood report is calling on the Scottish Government to produce a new crofting bill by the end of the current session of Parliament which fully meets the needs of crofting communities in the 21st century.

The report, by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, comes in the light of the Scottish Government’s plans to produce a crofting bill and to develop a National Development Plan for crofting. Key points in the committee’s report include: 

  • The proposed bill needs to fit with the reality of modern crofting practices; and be relevant to the needs and aspirations of crofters and those who wish to be involved in crofting.
  • The bill should be comprehensive and seek to address as many of the issues identified within the crofting community requiring action as is possible.
  • Recommendations contained in the report by the Crofting Law Sump Group should form the starting point for further consideration of legislative reform proposals.
  • The Scottish Government should develop and produce an updated and clear statement of its overarching crofting policy which will, in turn, inform the proposed bill.
  • The Scottish Government to commit to ensuring that the bill timetable will be structured in a manner which will allow sufficient time for thorough and detailed Parliamentary scrutiny; and that the passage of the bill is completed comfortably before the end of the current parliamentary session.
  • Given the importance of development function to the future of crofting, the Scottish Government should seek further views on where the responsibility for this should lie.
  • The role and responsibilities of elected Crofting Commission commissioners should be carefully considered and defined as part of the crofting law reform process.

Convener of the Committee, Edward Mountain MSP commented:

“Several crofting acts have been passed in recent years, making some useful changes but without fully dealing with all of the issues the crofting communities are keen to see addressed.

“A lot of work has already been done by crofting stakeholders to identify what the priority issues are, and the Committee feels that a new bill is required which deals with these in a comprehensive manner. 

“We also agree with many of our witnesses, who told us that before identifying what should be delivered from legislative reform, the Scottish Government needs to develop a clear policy setting out  the role crofting is expected to play in the 21st century.

“In the months and years to come, the Committee expects to see development of policy and legislation which is fully fit for purpose, allowing crofting to flourish and to continue to make an important and sustainable contribution to the rural economy in Scotland.”

Further recommendations made in the report include:

  • Legislation and guidance covering grazings committees needs to be updated to reflect modern circumstances and practices. The completion of the mapping of common grazings should be given a high priority.
  • The Committee welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to introducing a new entrants scheme for crofting. The potential for areas of common grazings to be used for the creation of new crofts should be explored as part of the development of this scheme.
  • The Committee is of the view that options for the treatment of owner occupiers within the crofting environment should be examined in detail as part of the Scottish Government’s consultation.
  • The issue of the retention of shares in common grazings on the sale of crofting rights should be examined as part of the legislative reform process to determine whether any changes are required.
  • The process for managing cases of absenteeism and neglect of crofts should be reviewed by the Scottish Government, to identify whether any scope exists to streamline or simplify its operation.

Background

The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee crofting report can be accessed via this link: https://digitalpublications.parliament.scot/Committees?utm_source=RuralHomepage&utm_campaign=Fonto&utm_medium=website#ruraleconomyandconnectivitycommittee

The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee scrutinises policy proposals relating to rural affairs, transport and connectivity. It comes to a view after taking comprehensive evidence from, and engaging with, a wide range of stakeholders ‘on the frontline’ and applies authoritative, expert, effective and influential scrutiny to policy.

On 2, 9 and 13 November 2016 the Committee heard evidence at the Scottish Parliament from a range of organisations, including the Scottish Crofting Federation, NFUS, Scottish Land and Estates, a range of crofting law experts and the Crofting Commission.  It took evidence from the Scottish Government on 23 November 2016.

Photographs of the Committee and Convener are available free of charge.

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