LABOUR candidate Donald Crichton has called on the SNP Government to halt the transfer of specific crofting grants from the Crofters Commission to Edinburgh after the elections in May.
In a letter to Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham the Western Isles Labour candidate said the process of transferring the Croft House Grant Scheme and the Bull Hire Scheme should be halted until after the May elections so that further consultation can take place.
Mr Crichton said: “I understand that the process for transferring the Croft House Grant Scheme and the Bull hire Scheme from the Crofters Commission to your own department in Edinburgh has commenced.
“This is a retrograde step and not only diminishes the role of the Commission but puts at risk the status of specific crofting grants.
“While perhaps you and our local MSP might not share those fears I can assure you that crofters in the Western Isles do and see the latest Crofting Act as a further erosion in the status and role of crofting in our community.”
He continued: “Along with many other damaging aspects of the new Crofting Act the transfer of specific grants from the Commission will further threaten the status of crofting.
“Leaving these grants to the fate of being distilled into a larger agriculture pot will be a disincentive and result in a decline in demand. This is something I fear that is by design rather than accident.
“The Commission has been stripped to being a mere regulative body and a spectator with its development function given to Highlands and Islands Enterprise whose own budget has been cut by 50%.
“The splintering of those functions is a smart move by a civil service contemptuous of crofting that has managed to hoodwink an SNP Government that is either ignorant or simply doesn’t care.” Mr Crichton concluded his letter to Ms Cunningham: “I urge you to reconsider these proposals before they are actioned and it is too late. Otherwise you and your government will forever by associated with legislating to accommodate the decline of crofting as we know it.”