With absenteeism running at 10 per cent and increasing numbers applying to remove land from croft tenure, Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham endorsed the initiative.
Ms Cunningham said:
“Crofting is a vital part of Scotland’s social, geographical and cultural make-up yet its very existence is under threat. Nine out of ten respondents to the recent consultation on crofting reform cited absenteeism as the most important problem faced.
“Without people living and working the land the full value in terms of economic, environmental and social benefits crofting could potentially bring to communities is not being met.
“The Crofters (Scotland) Act requires the Commission to consider all the circumstances of absentee cases, including the general interest of the crofting community.
“I have asked Commissioners to conclude cases of absenteeism that have existed for 10 years or more. This will ensure we focus resources on resolving those long outstanding cases first. The crofting community as a whole will benefit from this direct action.”
Drew Ratter Convenor of the Crofters Commission added:
“Commissioners share the Minister’s view that the greatest contribution to sustainable economic development which the Crofters Commission can make is to ensure that crofts, many of them in the most fragile of our rural areas, are occupied and actively worked.
We are taking a strong line on regulatory issues and will be robust in dealing with the challenges which will arise from the absentee action.”
The Crofting Reform (Scotland) Bill was published on December 20.
Croft absenteeism was identified as the most important area for regulation in the Survey of Crofting and Rural Development carried out for the Committee of Inquiry on Crofting.
The COIC itself reported that nine out of every 10 responses received indicated that absenteeism had to be dealt with.
Provisions in the Crofting Reform Bill strengthen the Commission’s regulatory powers to tackle absenteeism.
In the case of absent tenants, the Commission will seek proposals for the occupation of crofts. Ultimately failure to reside on, or assign the croft to another, may result in the tenancy being terminated and the croft re-let.
Proposals for crofts to be occupied will also be sought from owners of vacant crofts who do not live on them.
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