30 September 2008

Highlands and Islands Labour MSPs Peter Peacock, Rhoda Grant and David Stewart have revealed a comprehensive package of measures to assist crofting, following the controversy and debate about the Shucksmith Report on the future of crofting.

Coming on the eve of the Government's response to the Shucksmith Report (expected Wed pm), grazings committee clerks have had a letter from the Labour MSPs setting out a very full and comprehensive package of measures following extensive feedback from crofters on reactions to the Shucksmith Report.

The measures, which would see the Crofters Commission retained but substantially reformed, cover:

  • a new way of making appointments of Area Commissioners to a reformed Crofters Commission, through local panels of elected Assessors
  • powers to a reformed Commission to compulsorily purchase new land for crofting
  • a requirement on Ministers and their agencies (like Forestry Commission) to consider the release of new land for crofting and housing with a duty to report regularly to Parliament on progress
  • a duty on a reformed Crofters Commission to establish Area Priorities in consultation with crofters, within a single body of law and regulation
  • an apprenticeship and new entrants to crofting scheme to be funded by government
  • a duty on Ministers and the reformed Commission to report to Parliament on what has been done to reduce dereliction, with Minister being required to use their powers of Direction over the Commission to ensure the reformed Commission deals with the worst cases
  • a new and full role for the reformed Commission in the land use planning process, which would empower the Commission to protect croft land and act against purely speculative development
  • support for a return of Government backed loans for croft housing and increased housing grants
  • support for LFAS payments to be targeted more to crofting areas
  • support for a bull and ram scheme to maintain quality stock
  • support for local abattoirs
  • Peter Peacock said,

    "Right now it is croft incomes that are the real concern of crofters and debates about regulation and how the Commission is elected may seem a bit esoteric.

    "That is why as part of our package of ideas we support significant improvements to the cash support of crofting the Shucksmith Report recommended.

    "In addition, we have pulled together a comprehensive range of ideas to address issues around speculative development on croft land and to protect and enhance the amount of land available for crofting.

    "The ideas we set out avoid going down the route of imposing real burdens on crofts, which crofters the length and breadth of the Highlands and Islands have been opposing, but do give new powers and duties that will impact on speculation on croft land.

    "The ideas are drawn from what crofters have been telling us and developed in light our experience of legislation.

    "We have been keen to support the Shucksmith recommendations where they made complete sense and had the support of crofters, so the ideas on reforming agriculture support come largely from those recommendations.

    "We have given the Scottish Government a copy of the ideas and we hope some will appear in what the Government say about the future of crofting, or that they will be prepared to consider them as the discussion about the future moves forward.

    "As and when we get a Crofting Bill before Parliament we will be prepared to propose some of the ideas as amendments if the Government don't accept them willingly.

    "In the meantime though we are looking for more feedback from the crofting community about what we have set out. Nothing is cast in stone, this is a contribution to the debate and an attempt to move the arguments forward and in favour of the constructive comments we have been receiving from crofters."

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    Peter Peacock :

    Rhoda Grant :

    David Stewart :

    Highlands and Islands Labour :




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