Amendment to crofting legislation required

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The Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse announced that the Scottish Government will bring forward a Bill as soon as possible after the Easter recess to address the difficulties owner-occupier crofters are facing when decrofting their croft land.

Decrofting land can enable a house to be built on the land and facilitate crofting land being passed from one generation to the next.

It was the intention of the Government and Parliament that tenant and owner-occupier crofters be treated equally under the Act however currently the Crofting Commission have suspended all decrofting directions for owner-occupier crofters following legal advice.

Mr Wheelhouse said: “It has come to light recently that there is an issue with the Crofting Act and the Government, along with the Crofting Commission, has taken a number of steps to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.

“By bringing forward a Bill as soon as possible after Easter I hope this provides some comfort to crofters that a solution is on its way. I look forward to receiving Parliament’s support in the coming months to resolve this issue.”

Western Isles SNP MSP, Alasdair Allan, has welcomed anouncement. He said: “Clearly, the Crofting Commission believes, on legal advice, that one section of the 2010 Crofting Act does not do what was it was intended to. This has the effect of creating a loophole in the law preventing some owner-occupiers from decrofting land.

“The decision by the Environment Minister today to take the unusual step of legislating to put this right is very welcome. It means that a very brief Bill will now come to Parliament to guarantee that owner-occupiers enjoy the same rights as tenants in this respect.

“The issue now is to ensure that, in the meantime, owner-occupiers have applications progressed at least to some extent, while we are waiting for the new legislation to make its way through Parliament.

“While only a minority of crofters in the Western Isles are owner-occupiers, and while the present loophole only affects those who are in the process of decrofting land, I hope the steps the government has taken today will address the legitimate concerns of the crofting community to see this problem fixed.”