News / Crofting law consultation

CROFTERS in Shetland are being invited to have their say as the Scottish Government looks to modernise the law covering their industry.

The public consultation will run until 20 November and the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) has welcomed the move.

But Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said modifying law “cannot mask” some of the challenges currently facing the industry, including the Scottish Government’s late payments of subsidies and the uncertainty over Brexit.

Crofting legislation has been amended many times over the years since the first Crofting Law Act was passed in 1886.

The government said this week it is “committed to reviewing the modernisation of crofting law within this parliamentary session.

“This consultation seeks views of crofters, and those with an interest, on the pathway of any potential new legislation to reform crofting law.”

But Scott said the “acid test” in crofting law reform is if it can improve the financial situation of the industry.


“The crucial reform of crofting is about the practical support for the industry,” the Lib Dem politician said.

“Yet another attempt at crofting law changes cannot mask the reality of the challenges facing active crofters. Brexit, the continuing shambles of the Scottish Government’s agricultural payments system and the bureaucracy that crofting has been bogged down in for too long, are greater priorities.

“Can a review of crofting law – the third in 10 years, and another crofting bill, again the third in 10 years – improve the financial fortunes of the industry? That is the acid test.”

Conservative Highlands and Islands list MSP Jamie Halco Johnston agreed that there are “real issues” facing Shetland crofters.

“Some of these issues can be addressed without the need for additional legislation – the delays to payments just require the Scottish Government to finally get on top of the issue,” he said.

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“However, some can’t and so it’s crucial that this consultation hears from as many local crofters as possible about the problems they face now, what they see as the challenges for the future and how these can be overcome.”

SCF chairman Russell Smith said crofting law has been “difficult to access and in some respects unusable” due to “layers of legislation” and amendments following the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993, which consolidated legislation made between 1955 and 1993.

“It is widely agreed that the law does need to be reformed further and there are suggested a range of options for taking this forward but neither of the two extremes of merely consolidating with little change or starting all over again with a ‘clean sheet’ are going to achieve a desirable result,” he said.

“So, we are being asked to choose between the workable options of amending and then consolidating the law or ‘restating’ it. The consultation document helpfully explains the difference.”

To take part in the consultation online, visit here.

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