Crofting reform bill “DRAMATIC” improvement says Allan

Alisdair Allan MSP

Western Isles MSP, Alasdair Allan, has today welcomed the publication by the Scottish Government of the Crofting Reform Bill, which he said was “very substantially” different from the contentious proposals in the Government’s initial Draft Bill.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“Today marks the long-awaited publication of the Crofting Reform Bill. There will of course now be ongoing debate about the Bill as it makes its way through Parliament.

However, I am certainly pleased that the many meetings which I and others have had with the minister about the concerns of crofters in the islands have paid off.

“The Bill no longer contains some of the most controversial elements which were in the Draft Bill, and which I know were a matter of real concern to many crofters.

“The Bill therefore does NOT contain any of the following measures, originally proposed following the report of the Shucksmith Commission, which was initiated by the previous Scottish Executive:

“There is now no reference to residency requirements, which would have seem local authorities given the unworkable task of assessing how much of the year many houses on decrofted land were being occupied.

“The whole section of the Draft Bill proposing ‘Standard securities’, which would have seen some crofters taking out commercial loans against their crofts, has not seen the light of day in the actual Bill either.

“The proposed Area Committees, which had caused such contention, are likewise not included.

“Finally, the proposed register of crofts now looks likely to cost substantially less to run than initially envisaged.

“I believe that it is right that the Scottish Government have listened to crofters concerns in all these areas and acted on them.

“The Bill democratises the Crofters Commission, and gives it a new impetus and authority to deal with neglected crofts. It also provides the Commission with the means to stand up against poor planning decisions which have in the past sometimes endorsed the speculation of crofting land for housing.

“Of course this Bill is not a work of perfection – it is a work in progress. Neither does it claim to be the answer to all the very real problems which crofting faces. However, I believe that, after many months of patient lobbying, we have ended up with a bill that is dramatically more acceptable to crofters than the Government’s original proposals were.

“The task now is to ensure that, as the Bill now goes through Parliament we have a reasoned debate, a debate in which crofters themselves are fully involved. Crofting deserves that, if it is going to survive.”

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