MSPs ‘taken aback’ by crofting complexity

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MSPs have been “taken aback” by the complexities of crofting according to the Minster for Environment and Climate Change - who counted himself among those surprised by the legislation minefield.

Winding up the first stage debate on the Crofting (Amendment) (Scotland) last week Minster Paul Wheelhouse said: “It would appear that the technicalities of crofting are never straightforward, and I know that a number of committee members have been taken aback by the subject’s complexity. I add my name to that list as the new minister with responsibility for crofting.”

The amendment is currently working its way through Parliament with the aim of rectifying the Crofting Reform Scotland Act 2010 after it was discovered by the Crofting Commission that it does not allow owner-occupier crofters to decroft.

Mr Wheelhouse said: “I am sure that those involved in the introduction of the 2010 act did not imagine for one moment that we would be here today addressing an unintended consequence of it, but crofting legislation is renowned for its complexities — as minister with responsibility for crofting, I can certainly vouch for that.”

Highlands and Islands MSPs took the chance to appeal for simplification of crofting legislation as a whole - and to ask the Government to take notice of other possible problems with existing legislation.

Conservative MSP Jamie McGrigor highlighted the comments of the Rural Affairs Committee who expressed concern about the intricacy of the legislation.

He commented: “I share that concern...As I have said before, there appear to be a few people with smiles on their faces, and they are not particularly the crofters—which leaves the lawyers, I suppose.”

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant suggested: “We need to look at the act and start to unpick it.”

While Jean Urquhart MSP proposed the introduction of further legislation. She said: “I hear everybody groan at the notion of further legislation, but it could consolidate and simplify existing legislation.”

She added: “I know that the Minister for Environment and Climate Change is recently appointed to his post, but I believe that, in the three years before the end of the parliamentary session, he could make his name as the minister who fixed crofting law once and for all.”