Existing support systems for crofting are failing to deliver government objectives.
That was one of the findings of a report into crofting support by Gwyn Jones on behalf of the Crofting Commission.
In his report, titled Support for Crofting, Mr Jones outlined the handicaps for smaller-scale producers within the existing support system, and the lack of incentives for them to operate or continue.
He said although croft land continued to be claimed for, claims were being made from a declining number of crofters, meaning government was failing to meet its objective of encouraging more active crofters.
While he stopped short of recommending the creation of a crofting-specific support system, Mr Jones has called for crofting-scale agriculture to be more appropriately considered in the development of future support systems. In particular, he recommends any new policy should provide minimum payments that reward activity and that steps should be taken to make it less complex for crofters to claim for small amounts of support and grants.
Mr Jones also calls for schemes to give more encouragement to crofters to retain small cattle herds and to ensure cropping is used to increase diversity.
Crofting Commission convener, Rod Mackenzie, said: “The prospect of Brexit has triggered a debate on the future of the support systems for crofting and farming, a vital issue which will affect crofters and crofting businesses for years to come. The issues raised by Gwyn Jones are extremely important, and we hope everyone involved in the debate will consider them carefully.”
Scottish Crofting Federation chairman, Russell Smith, welcomed the report and said it demonstrated the crofting support was lacking and needed to be redesigned.
Mr Smith said: “The report demonstrates what we have said for a long time, that adding crofting to a support mechanism designed for farms doesn’t work well; crofts are different and have unique challenges as well as offering exceptional public goods.
“Mr Jones favours adapting the support system to work better for crofting, rather than developing a croft-only scheme. We can go with that, the object being to deliver croft-friendly outcomes.”
He described the report as a “benchmark piece of work” and said the SCF would be promoting its recommendations.
Mr Smith added: “I would recommend everyone who has an interest in crofting to read it (the report) and use it to inform Scottish Government, whose stated objective is to have crofts occupied and cultivated – so they need to back this up with appropriate support.”