The level of grant support available to help crofters build and improve their homes is to be significantly increased, Environment Minister Aileen McLeod has announced.
From April 1 this year, crofters will be able to apply for up to £28,000 under the new Croft House Grant Scheme – and up to £38,000 if they live in island and specified mainland communities.
After considering all the feedback and evidence, the three previous funding rates will be replaced with a new standard level of grant and a higher level for the islands and some mainland areas.
These new rates are significantly higher and mean some crofters will be eligible for more than double the funding available under the old scheme.
The changes have been made following extensive consultation with the public and crofting representatives.
Dr McLeod said: “Good quality housing is essential to help attract and retain people in Scotland’s most remote and rural communities, and to help crofters fulfil their duty of living on or close to their croft.
“The Scottish Government’s Croft House Grant Scheme has invested £14 million to build or improve almost 700 homes since 2007 and the changes I am announcing will help ensure this support is fit for purpose in the years to come.
“I am pleased to confirm that - despite on-going cuts to our Budget as a result the UK Government’s continuing austerity programme - we are committed to continuing to provide funding for croft houses.
“Clearly, we need to balance the number of grants with the level of funding available which is why each application will be assessed on its merits with support targeted at those most in need.
“I also intend to review whether the grant levels and geographical areas remain appropriate three years after the scheme comes into operation.
“Our review also revealed an appetite for the return of a loan scheme to help crofters build or improve their homes. This wasn’t among our original consultation proposals and so my officials are investigating the feasibility of introducing such a scheme as a separate piece of work.”
Crofting Commission Chief Executive Catriona Maclean said: “The CHGS provides important financial assistance to attract and retain people in our crofting communities and also in helping crofters to fulfil their duty of living on or close to their croft.
“The Commission welcomes the revision in payment rates and the flexibility of the scheme to include home improvements and non-croft land. This will ensure that the grant helps crofters in genuine housing need.”
Scottish Crofting Federation chief executive, Patrick Krause, said: “This is a very welcome outcome from the review of the Croft House Grant Scheme.
“We have been campaigning for a review and for an up-dating of the scheme for many years. The Scottish Government has conducted this consultation exercise in a very participatory and inclusive manner and has clearly listened to what we have said. Those involved are to be commended for this.
“The next part of this process is to review, and we hope, reinstate, the loan element of the scheme. We appreciate that this is not straightforward but have high expectations given the process so far.”