Landmark decision on shared croft land

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A landmark decision at the Scottish Land Court has overturned a 2012 ruling by the Crofting Commission, freeing the way for part owners and tenants of croft land to lodge decrofting and letting applications without the consent of other part owners.

The decision was made on Thursday, December 18, when Donnie and Liz MacGillivray, of North Ballachulish, won their fight to decroft ground for 10 new houses from their croft at Old Town, North Ballachulish.

This overturned a decision by the Crofting Commission made on July 3, 2013, issued after a packed Public Hearing at Ballachulish Village Hall.

In a policy statement issued 14th December 2012, the Crofting Commission decided it could not accept decrofting or letting applications for only part of a croft, unless it was made by all of the owners or tenants of the whole croft, where the croft was in tenancy or ownership of more than one party.

This effectively meant that one owner or tenant of part of a croft could block another owner/tenant of another part of it from applying to decroft or let, even though the owner/tenant blocking the other crofter had no entitlement to the other person’s part.

It is this policy that was upheld against the MacGillivrays by the Crofting Commission in 2013, when The North Ballachulish Township objected to the The MacGillivray’s decrofting application.

Now, a 44-page decision by the Land Court has effectively overruled the Crofting Commissions ruling, and the Commission’s decision to reject Mr and Mrs MacGillivray’s decrofting application.

The decision will affect a number of other cases which have fallen foul of the Crofting Commission’s multiple owner policy statement of 2012.

Donnie MacGillivray, a local crofter and self-employed bricklayer, said: “We are greatly relieved at the decision and hope the Crofting Commission will now give us a fair hearing.”

A press statement from The MacGillivrays’ solicitors, Fort William Crofting Law specialists MacPhee and Partners, described the decision as ‘a victory for common sense in the battle to interpret the obscure Crofting Law legislation.’