The Scottish Crofting Federation has outlined three key areas it believes the Scottish Government needs to take forward to ensure crofting legislation is fit-for-purpose in future.
In its response to the government’s crofting consultation, the crofters’ body said it wanted existing law to be retained, but improved.
“Having consulted with our members over a long period of time, it is clear that crofters do not want to lose any of their existing protection and rights and therefore want existing law – law that has evolved over many years – to be made fit for purpose,” said federation chairman Russell Smith, who runs a croft at Bonar Bridge, Sutherland.
“There is the perpetual hope that crofting legislation will interfere with crofting less and help it more.”
He said the federation’s three wishes were: for existing law to be fixed, drawing on the work already done by the Crofting Law Group; for crofting development to be returned to the Crofting Commission; and for steps to be taken to ensure common grazings are effectively regulated and grazing shares are used.
By returning the crofting development remit to the Crofting Commission, the agency would have a “more holistic role” to help it best serve crofting, said Mr Smith. “However, the Crofting Commission cannot carry out all its functions if adequately resourced,” he added.
“So we call on Scottish Government to sufficiently resource the commission. If it cannot, this needs to be stated and an alternative plan for crofting put forward.”
On the issue of common grazings, he said shares getting separated from crofts was a failure of the law and that steps needed to be taken to ensure shares are reconnected to active crofts and used.
He said if government took on board the federation’s proposals on these three issues, the crofting sector would have a chance to flourish.
However, he questioned the need for another consultation on crofting legislation.
“A common theme from our membership has been to question why we are going through this navel-gazing again,” added Mr Smith.
“There is a feeling that this is wasting valuable time given that the Scottish Government have set the target of ‘modernising crofting law and making it more transparent, understandable and workable in practice’ within this term of government.
“This has already been a long road and needs to be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.”