Duty to report will “set friend against friend” says Councillor

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The Vice-Chair of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Sustainable Development Committee has called on the Scottish Government to set aside the duty on grazings committees to report unworked crofts under new crofting legislation.

In a letter to Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Cllr Donald Crichton states: “I am very concerned, however, in regard to the main substantive change proposed: the introduction of the duty to report falling on crofters.

“In Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s response to the 2012 consultation document, and previously in the Comhairle’s response to the final consultation on the 2010 Act itself, the Comhairle strongly advised against the introduction of the duty to report.

“Elected Members were opposed to the proposed new duties falling on both Common Grazings Committees and on individual crofters.

He continued: “In the Comhairle’s response to the Commission’s initial plan (2012) consultation the Comhairle highlighted the fact that a third of Common Grazings Committees were out of office at that time and was highly concerned that the proposals would discourage active participation in Grazings Committees.

“Unfortunately, and as predicted, that scenario has now materialised, with reportedly almost half of Committees now out of office.

“This is a serious impediment to the effective regulation of crofting and has to be addressed if the Commission is to succeed in its stated aim of more effectively regulating crofting.

“Given the current lack of engagement or desire by crofters to become involved with regulating other crofters, I believe it is now essential that the Scottish Government instructs the Crofting Commission to set-aside the duty to report falling on Common Grazing’s Committees and on individual crofters.

“In the present circumstances proceeding with that element of the Act would be reckless and would have the serious consequence of setting crofter against crofter and friend against friend.

“At the very least the Scottish Government should postpone this element of the Act to allow a detailed rethink and review.”