The Scottish Government is to consider reopening a loan scheme to help build and renovate croft houses.
Crofting Minister Aileen McLeod made the announcement in response to a consultation on plans to target and extend levels of support through the existing Croft House Grant Scheme (CHGS). The CHGS was launched in 2006 and provides up to £1.4million in grants every year.
Proposals to change the scheme include changing the three geographical priority areas to two – one for island crofts, classed as higher, and one for non-island crofts, classed as standard.
As a result, it proposed a change in the grant rates from £11,500 (low), £17,000 (standard) and £22,000 (high) to £28,000 for the higher rate and £23,000 for the standard rate.
Ms McLeod said she had written to Holyrood’s rural affairs committee to confirm some proposals were being investigated further, including the possible reinstatement of a loans scheme.
“Feedback from our consultation has been extremely helpful and we are now refining our proposals to further improve this important scheme. For example, we are looking again at the geographical areas eligible for the standard and higher rate of grant under the scheme, and the appropriate level of grant. We are also considering introducing a more formal method of targeting the scheme to those who need it most,” said Ms McLeod.
“As a number of these changes differ from those set out in the consultation paper, I believe that it would be beneficial to undertake a further engagement with key stakeholders who responded to the consultation. This is expected to conclude in time to revise grant arrangements during this parliamentary term, with changes coming into force shortly after that.”
She said any move to reintroduce a loan scheme would be taken forward separately as this was not originally proposed in the government consultation.
Crofting Commission chief executive Catriona Maclean said: “The CHGS provides important financial assistance to attract and retain people in our crofting communities and also in helping crofters to fulfil their duty of living on or close to their croft so it is important that it is fit for purpose and helps crofters with a genuine housing need.”
Jamie McGrigor MSP, who convenes Holyrood’s cross party group on crofting, said: “Some crofters will be disappointed and frustrated that the Scottish Government has still to come to a conclusion on the new CHGS and confirm the final rates for the new CHGS but I understand that ministers want to finesse the new scheme in consultation with key stakeholders and that they are still committed to bringing in these changes in this session of parliament. I hope this proves to be the case as the review of the CHGS is long overdue.”