Crofting law needs 'repeal not reform'

A former Crofting Commissioner has called for a fundamental review of crofting law to replace the “current morass and lack of clarity”.

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 9:35 am
Updated Thursday, 7th October 2021, 9:36 am
The croft tourism business in Northton is being marketed by CKD Galbraith's Inverness office for £1.5 million

Murdo MacLennan, who was the Commissioner for the Western Isles, believes that a Commission to define the purpose of the crofting system in current circumstances and to modernise crofting law accordingly is now essential.

In a letter to this week’s Gazette, Mr MacLennan writes: “A Commission freed from political and civil service interference is urgently required and the Scottish Government has the major responsibility in this matter”.

While Mr MacLennan has been a critic of the Crofting Commission in other contexts, he believes it is unfair to hold them responsible for the free-for-all market which has developed in croft land, most spectacularly in Harrris.

As reported last week, a tourism development on a one hectare croft in Northton is on the market for £1.5 million.

Mr MacLennan recalls a hearing he presided over when the same family sought to acquire the assignation of another croft in Northton.

“In this instance, the Commission refused the application and subsequently the croft was assigned to a young local crofter.

"My experience was that there were cases when the Commission refused croft assignation applications where there was widespread crofting community concern.

“These were subsequently appealed to the Land Court which, on the basis of then extant and current legislation, the Crofting Commission decision of refusal was overturned … . Crofting law is a matter for the Scottish Government.

"The Commission and the Land Court only seek to interpret legislation”.Mr MacLennan writes: “There have been 13 Acts relating to crofting legislation including the seminal Act of 1886. These have dealt with reform mainly of previous legislation and resulted in the current legal morass and lack of clarity.

“In my opinion what is required is repeal and not reform”.

Our story last week of a Harris tourism croft on the market for £1.5 million has generated huge interest on social media.

(See pages 6 and 7.)