Category Archives: Crofting Conference

Political Consensus on the need for Crofting Law Reform

Crofting Question Time - Crofting Law Conference 2016

 

At the Crofting Law Conference (organised by the WS Society and the Crofting Law Group) held in the Signet Library, Edinburgh yesterday there was cross-party agreement on the need for crofting law reform.

Trudi Sharp, Deputy Director of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, in the Scottish Government stood in at the last minute for Dr Aileen McLeod MSP, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, who was unfortunately unwell and unable to deliver the keynote address on behalf of the Government.

Trudi Sharp - Crofting Law Conference 2016Trudi Sharp indicated that she had yet to speak to anyone who would disagree with the sentiment that there was a need to simplify crofting legislation. She said:-

The Minister is clear that crofting legislation should be well thought through with stakeholders and deliver law that is modern, simple and fit for purpose.

Crofting Law Conference 2016 - Views from the OppositionThe Conference heard the views of the opposition from Rhoda Grant MSP, Scottish Labour; Tavish Scott MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrats; Donald Cameron, election candidate for Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party; and Andy Wightman, election candidate for Scottish Green Party.

Crofting Law Conference 2016 - Jean Urquhart MSPThis was followed by ‘Crofting Question Time’ moderated by Jean Urquhart MSP with the opposition MSPs/election candidates being joined for that session by Rob Gibson MSP, Scottish National Party.

Crofting Law Conference 2016 - Rob Gibson MSPThere was little in the way of disagreement about the need for crofting law reform.

Rhoda Grant MSP - Crofting Law Conference 2016Rhoda Grant MSP said:-

The 2010 Act is a mess and probably needs to be revoked altogether.

Crofting Law Conference 2016 - Tavish Scott MSPThis was echoed by Tavish Scott MSP who said:-

The less said about the 2010 Act the better. It is one of the worst pieces of legislation ever passed by the Scottish Government.

He added:-

Crofting Law has been a mitigated mess and devolution has not helped take it forward.

Crofting Question Time at Crofting Law Conference 2016Both Tavish Scott and Rhoda Grant were of the view that crofting can mean different things in different areas. Shetland, for example, is very different to other areas that may work in a more communal way. They felt the current legislation does not recognise these differences.

Crofting Law Conference 2016 - Donald CameronDonald Cameron was of the view that it was “time for crofting law to be for the crofters and not the lawyers”. He warned though that “if you legislate in haste on crofting law you will repent at leisure”.

Crofting Law Conference 2016 - Andy WightmanAndy Wightman, quoting Dr Jim Hunter, referred to crofting law as a “highly unsatisfactory guddle”.

Crofting Law Conference 2016 - Brian InksterBrian Inkster, Hon Secretary of the Crofting Law Group, commented:-

It is heartening to see such cross-party support for crofting law reform. The word ‘mess’ was used more than once to describe the current state of crofting legislation. It is to be hoped that the next Scottish Government take cognisance of this and put crofting high on their agenda for new legislation during the next parliamentary term.

Photo Credit: All photos are by Rob McDougall for the Crofting Law Group

Crofting Law Hustings

Crofting Law Hustings at the Signet Library

The calm before the crofting law storm at the Signet Library!

Part of this year’s Crofting Law Conference (organised by the Crofting Law Group in association with the WS Society) will take the form of a hustings on crofting law. With the Scottish Parliamentary Elections looming there is great interest in crofting circles as to what the next Scottish Government might do to resolve the many problems in existing crofting legislation identified by The Crofting Law Sump Report.

The conference will take place at the Signet Library in Edinburgh on 17th March 2016 and is Chaired by Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw Bt., QC, Chairman of the Crofting Law Group.

Brian Inkster, Hon Secretary of the Crofting Law Group, will provide an introduction as to where we are at with ‘The Crofting Law Sump’. Then Dr Aileen McLeod MSP, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform will keynote on the current Scottish Government’s position on crofting law. She will be followed by the ‘Views on Crofting Law from the Opposition’ from MSPs and representatives from other political parties. The crofting law hustings will culminate with an opportunity for delegates to put their own questions to the panel in a ‘Crofting Question Time’ session. Participants are:-

  • Jean Urquhart MSP, Independent (moderating ‘Crofting Question Time’)
  • Rob Gibson MSP, Scottish National Party
  • Rhoda Grant MSP, Scottish Labour
  • Tavish Scott MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrats
  • Donald Cameron, election candidate for Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
  • Andy Wightman, election candidate for Scottish Green Party

Following on from the crofting law hustings several recognised specialist speakers will present on Crofting Succession and Crofting Mortgages and representatives from both the Crofting Commission and Registers of Scotland will be there to discuss current issues. There will also be a case law update. Speakers and panellists include:

  • David Findlay, Solicitor, Crofting Commission
  • Rod Maclean, Solicitor, Murchison Law
  • Jill Clark, Head of Civil Law Reform Unit, Justice Directorate, Scottish Government
  • Eilidh Ross MacLellan, Solicitor, Inksters
  • Catriona Maclean, Chief Executive, Crofting Commission
  • Martin Corbett, Head of Policy Development, Registers of Scotland
  • Rhona Elrick, Registers of Scotland
  • Donald Cameron, Westwater Advocates

WS/CLG member: £180 + VAT
Non-member: £205 + VAT
Trainee/student/retired: £115 + VAT

All rates include lunch at the Signet Library.

To book, please contact Nicole Hatch at the WS Society:-

0131 220 3249

E-mail: nhatch@wssociety.co.uk

Download: crofting law conference booking form

The event is supported by First Title and Wesleyan

Future of Crofting Conference in Tweets

Future of Crofting Conference - Jean Urquhart MSPI was live tweeting from @croftinglaw yesterday at The Future of Crofting Conference in Inverness. Here is what I tweeted:-

The Future of Crofting Conference gets underway #croftingfuture

Future of Crofting Conference gets underway

Importance of crofting to the economy and need for practical measures to assist being espoused by @JamieMcGrigor #croftingfuture

We can now see but not hear @AileenMcLeodMSP. Technical issues with video sound hopefully be resolved shortly! #croftingfuture

We now have @AileenMcLeodMSP on screen both vision and sound. #croftingfuture

Hearing about @AileenMcLeodMSP’s visits around Crofting Counties (including Orkney and Shetland) and visits to @CroftingScot #croftingfuture

Meant to tweet a pic of @AileenMcLeodMSP at #croftingfuture conference. Here it is:

Aileen McLeod at Future of Crofting Conference

Now hearing from @AileenMcLeodMSP about the Vision for Crofting being formulated by various stakeholder groups #croftingfuture

Discussion by @AileenMcLeodMSP about @CroftingLawSump and taking crofting legislation forward in next parliamentary session #croftingfuture

Importance of young crofters being highlighted by @AileenMcLeodMSP #croftingfuture

Reference by @JamieMcGrigor to @AileenMcLeodMSP being an early SPICE girl! #croftingfuture

Next up @MarkShucksmith #croftingfuture

Crofting “a smallholding entirely surrounded by regulations… OR a model for the 21st century?” @MarkShucksmith #croftingfuture

Four main issues emerged from @MarkShucksmith’s report #croftingfuture

Mark Shucksmith - four main crofting issues

Working the land was the message @MarkShucksmith got over and over again #croftingfuture

Key diagram for better governance @MarkShucksmith #croftingfuture

Mark Shucksmith - Key Crofting Diagram for Better Governance

Regulation half the story need development @MarkShucksmith #croftingfuture

Early cross party support but that turned by some into bin @MarkShucksmith #croftingfuture

Bin @MarkShucksmith’s Report image #croftingfuture:

Mark Shucksmith - Bin the Crofting Report Campaign

Unfinished business @MarkShucksmith #croftingfuture

Mark Shucksmith - Unfinished Crofting Business

Evidence from @MarkShucksmith’s Report still there but does anyone refer to it today? Should still do so when considering #croftingfuture

Report by @MarkShucksmith been translated into Japanese. Norway, Ireland and West Virginia all looking at it. #croftingfuture

Introduction given by @iangeorgemacdo1 in Gaelic. Now speaking (in English) about the ‘new’ Crofting Commission #croftingfuture

Latest @CroftingScot Plan more fully aligned with legislation @iangeorgemacdo1 #croftingfuture perhaps depending on your interpretation 😉

Large amount of cooperation with @coftingscot at roadshows from all stakeholders #croftingfuture

5 main areas to focus on in #croftingfuture….

1. Simplify crofting legislation #croftingfuture

2. Make crofts available to new entrants #croftingfuture

3. Increase affordable housing with meaningful grants and loans #croftingfuture

4. Provide specific ring fenced funding to a lead body to develop crofting #croftingfuture

5. Provide financial incentives through Pillars 1 and 2 #croftingfuture

RT @culcairn Mr Inksters addressing conference #croftingfuture

Future of Crofting Conference - Brian Inkster - The Sump

View from the fank: Young crofters need help with housing and crofters need less forms to fill out. #croftingfuture

Strong sense at #croftingfuture conference that croft mortgages should have been introduced in 2010 Act as originally intended. @scotgov

Get @BillGates to come to crofting counties + use renewable energy on crofts to power @Microsoft servers located in Scotland #croftingfuture

Prof @FrankRennie‘s #croftingfuture presentation ‘The Wider Cultural Context’ is available here:

Now Neil Ross of HIE on Crofting development #croftingfuture

Importance of working together – collaboration #croftingfuture

Future of Crofting Conference - Neil Ross - Collaboration

Now discussing wooly willows in species re-introductions to Scotland #croftingfuture

Panel discussion on crofting development #croftingfuture

Future of Crofting Conference - Panel on Development

More crofts needed #croftingfuture – perhaps reallocating absent and neglected crofts first rather than creating more that may go that way?

How do you actually bring crofting to Moray and Nairnshire? #croftingfuture – no easy answer to that one!

RT @kate4SLB Great quote at #futureofcrofting ‘should do away with the word ‘remote’ – anywhere outside the Highlands is remote for us!’

Only crofters themselves and those that aspire to be crofters can drive the future of crofting @JimHunter22 #croftingfuture

Can buy 200,000 acres of land in Sutherland and no regulation affecting it but not the case with a 5 acre croft @JimHunter22 #croftingfuture

Land Reform the elephant in the room. Crofting not a poor man’s farm. Need to know what we want, clarify that + move forward #croftingfuture

#croftingfuture afternoon session opened and to be facilitated by @JeanUrquhartMSP

Gordon Jackson of @scotgov now looking at the Vision #croftingfuture

Future of Crofting Conference - Gordon Jackson - Vision

Average age of a farmer = 58. Crofter probably a bit higher. #croftingfuture

Hearing about croftingconnections.com -exemplary and of national importance #croftingfuture

Now hearing about @SCFYC #croftingfuture

View from the fank on #croftingfuture is an optimistic one.

Final panel Q&A of the day at #croftingfuture

Future of Crofting Conference - Final Panel Session

Landlords who created crofts made them too small to force crofters into other work as well @JimHunter22 #croftingfuture

Very positive to hear young folk positive about the future of crofting @JimHunter22 #croftingfuture

Need to expand @WoodlandCrofts being discussed #croftingfuture

Commitment from @SCFHq to help create new crofts #croftingfuture

Can create new crofts from large ones. One big croft could be divided into several smaller ones. #croftingfuture

Best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago. Second best time is today. @JeanUrquhartMSP recommends we take action asap #croftingfuture

RT @SCFYC “Let’s not stand back & watch while crofting disappears, we are a vital part of agriculture in Scotland” – Jean Urquhart MSP

#croftingfuture conference comes to an end. Interesting day and look forward to @scotgov action on @CroftingLawSump in 2016.

Brian Inkster

The Future of Crofting Conference

The Future of Crofting Conference 2015Brian Inkster will be speaking about ‘The Sump‘ at The Future of Crofting Conference in Inverness on 4 December 2015. This conference is a joint venture involving the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Crofting, the Highland Council and the Scottish Crofting Federation.

Conference details are:-

Where: Highland Council Chamber, Inverness.

When: Friday 04 December 2015 09.00 – 16.00 (registration opens 08.30).

Background: In the wake of the near collapse of the Crofting Reform Bill in 2006, pressure from the Scottish Crofting Federation led to Scottish ministers commissioning a Committee of Inquiry on Crofting (CoIoC). This was chaired by Professor Mark Shucksmith. The CoIoC undertook many community meetings throughout 2007 and delivered their final report in 2008.

This was the most comprehensive study of crofting since the Taylor Commission, which reported in 1954.

The Scottish ministers used this report to formulate a further bill, its passage through Parliament culminating in the passing of the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010. Before the 2010 Act was published a conference called ‘The Future of Crofting’ was held in Stornoway in January 2010, hosted by the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

The Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Crofting agreed at a meeting in April 2015 that it is time to hold a further ‘Future of Crofting’ conference to look at what progress has been made since the CoIoC. The Highland Council have generously offered to host this with funding assistance from HIE.

Conference agenda: the conference offers expert speakers on the CoIoC, including Professor Shucksmith, and on the state of crofting law, regulation and development. There will also be ‘a view from the fank’ – a reflection by crofting activists. The format will give plenty of time for open discussion to gather views from the floor, which will be collated and presented by the Cross Party Group on Crofting, on behalf of the conference, to the Scottish Government.

You can download the conference programme here: Programme – The Future of Crofting Conference – 4 Dec 2015.

The conference is free and as there are limited places, advance registration is essential.

To register please email Maria Scholten.

Crofting Law Conference 2013 in Tweets

Crofting Law Conference  2013 in the Signet Library, EdinburghThis year’s Crofting Law Conference organised by the Crofting Law Group in association with the WS Society took place at the Signet Library in Edinburgh on 27 September 2013. Martin Minton provided a report on the Crofting Law Conference for The Firm. I was tweeting throughout the Conference via @CroftingLaw and now reproduce my tweets here:-

Sir Crispin Agnew opens the annual Crofting Law Conference

Sir Crispin announcing ‘the sump’ to gather crofting law problems for consideration of Scottish Government [N.B. More details on this to follow in the next post on this blog]

Now @RobGibsonMSP giving the keynote address

There is a future for crofting and need to make legislation for it

.@RobGibsonMSP quoting @LesleyRiddoch

2007 Crofting Act seen as a quick fix

Layer upon layer of laws

RT @thehealthrebel: and the listing of many croft buildings making them expensive to maintain and/or purchase!

Codifying possibly the best way forward

Depopulation an issue in crofting communities

50% of homes in some crofting communities are holiday homes only used for part of year

Scottish crofting scene is fragile

Need for more local control in crofting

Benefit of Crofting Connections and Crofting Federation Training being mentioned

Out migration, particularly by women, is an issue

Convenor and Chair of Crofting Commission now women

Challenge is to adopt a can do approach

Q&A session with @RobGibsonMSP

Can we use legislation to encourage more female crofting tenants?

Very happy for Scottish Government to look at this

Clarification on codification v consolidation being sought

Codification may do something more fundamental for this generation

New start much more noteworthy than getting all the laws into one book

Can’t have joint tenancies of crofts – that would bring females in

Re-defining crofting law politically or legally?

Hope that there is a small farm ethos that can be encompassed in laws that are not so archaic

RT @RobGibsonMSP Made keynote speech WS crofting law conf. Simplify codify underpin future croft extension to all similar small land holders I argued today

Now Susan Walker Convenor of Crofting Commission on the Residency Duty (commonly referred to as Absenteeism)

1886 “Resides on the holding”

1955 “on, or within two miles of, the croft”

1961 increased to 10 miles

2010 Act now 32km

S40A notice – are crofters complying with residency duty? Should have been done by Commission by April. Still to do.

s49A Grazing Committee duty to report on residency

We now have microphones working – much clearer audio!

Difficult but not impossible to cultivate your croft if absent

9 of 10 people in 2,500 responses in @MarkShucksmith‘s Report wanted action on absenteeism

Only 2 letters in one geographical area complaining about absenteeism legislation. Many letters seeking action on absenteeism

1801 absentees with 582 of those for over 10 years

“Ordinarily resident” taken in the round about what a crofters entire duties are. Do they have “settled purpose”.

Wouldn’t take action where relative stays on the croft

Evidence of active use of the croft

Sublets for not more than two years to absentees unless for good reason

Ministerial direction in 2010 to take action for absentee cases over 10 years. Can take 18 to 24 months to process.

Stages: Review, Proposal to Terminate, Advertise proposal to terminate, Terminate tenancy.

RT @culcairn: should never be a 2 year process. Undermines confidence in act.

Advertising not in legislation but gets info from crofting community to help decision to inform

Can apply for consent to be absent

Fixed term work contract, education, hospital, no house (need to build) all reasons for need to be absent

RT @NeilKing11 Why was none of this covered in the CC Plan? tinyurl.com/p3hrxam

Complex flowchart now being shown of s26A-K process

Easier to understand pictorially than from legislation

Results: 300 crofts now have resident crofters. Either returning crofters or assignations.

35 terminations

August 2013 – 13,616 crofters with 13% being absentees

Commission understand emotional attachment and sense of duty that people have to their croft

Do I want to be a crofter, live on and work croft and be active in community and care enough about my croft to change my life

Want to create thriving crofting communities. When holes they don’t work so effectively

Residency easier to deal with than neglect #croftinglaw Is it not better to tackle neglect than absenteeism where no neglect?

Vast manpower would be required to deal with neglect

Breaking for tea/coffee

Sump Group Results now on crofting problems

Owner-occupiers who are not owner-occupier crofters who need consent of neighbours of original croft unit

Validity of Decrofting Directions issued pre Feb 2013 to owner-occupiers who are not owner-occupier crofters

Problems of Crofting Commission identifying owner-occupiers who are not owner-occupier crofters

Need for section 5(3) Agreements to apply to tenants and owner/occupiers and binding on successors and tenants

Landlords need to pay compensation on terminations made by Commission due to absentees. Large financial commitment

Assignation of croft on First Registration needs to be intimated by assignor to Commission within 3 months or invalid

Purchase of a croft by tenant does not trigger registration

Purchase of whole croft when sasine title. Need to be sure is whole croft or deed will be invalid.

s.17/18 feu ganted when tenancy given up. Now when decroft that is not an exemption from registration in crofting register

Access rights should be registered on crofting register

Status of grazings shares still not clear

Can we divide a grazing share from the croft?

Multiple owners – can we draw a line under the sand and take previous divisions as actual divisions?

Removal of “cultivate by hired labour”. Why?

If Land Court could propose changes to Scheme for Development that might be useful

What happens when you deviate from a Scheme for Development that has been granted?

Crofters duties: neglect a bigger problem than absenteeism

2010 Act difficult to understand

Evil happening in Skye re. termination of tenancies and Landlords extracting a premium on re-letting

Joint landlords can’t make application to divide a croft so must re-let part so they become owner-occupiers of new croft

Multiple owner-occupiers and duties. Do all need to comply or just 1. Commission say 1. If only 5% complying is that sufficient

Joint tenants? Worth exploring.

Validity of corporate entities in a crofting context

Advertising costs re. Crofting Register – could be £100 per advert x 2.

Need distinction between codification and consolidation but whatever #croftinglaw needs to be simplified

Confusion over role of Commission in planning process

Issues at Commission Hearing as to who has the right to be heard

Now lunch 🙂

Clean Slate debate next

Unfortunately @JimHunter22 was unable to make the clean slate debate so Sir Crispin Agnew running solo

85 year old crofter in Barra said 2 cow croft gives you milk for 12 months. 1 cow croft 6 months. Importance of soumings

Then fridges and supermarkets came along and soumings less important

Croft rents not kept up with open market rents for agricultural holdings

Landlords receive no financial benefits from crofts. No incentive to create more or invest in them.

RT @gemzmackenzie: @CroftingLaw might be worth writing a letter to FW summarising the key issues/pointers?

Crofts are getting smaller and smaller and less economic to be used

Obligation to maintain croft difficult for the elderly

No absentee problem in 1886

The crofting bubble. Many Acts and consultations over the years. No one looked at social needs and integrate.

Scrap the crofting Acts and start again.

Review of whole policies to see what should be applied in Scotland or different areas. Local needs vary – policies may need to.

Is starting from scratch codification?

If Government not brave enough still need a clean slate re. crofting Acts and policy objectives.

Abolish the difference between owner/occupiers (crofters/non-crofters) and tenants. Same conditions whoever is in occupation.

Stop resumption unless by CPO

Put all croft rents up to a proper market value

RT @crofterbecca “@CroftingLaw: Put all croft rents up to a proper market value #croftinglaw” Aye, that’ll make crofting more financially attractive…

Incoherence of policy objectives the root of legislative problems

Ministers arrived in middle of this. Lawyers are major advisers. Simpler ways to deliver policy intentions necessary.

Economics and Social situations changed but still applying laws from 1886

RT @AngusMacNeilMP as tenancies did for landowning in 1886 we need a grazing right over tenancy but still leaving tenancies widespread wi folk

Crofting Register: Where are we now? with Martin Corbett of registers of Scotland

Transparency of extent of land #croftinglaw But not grazings shares?!

9 month challenge period

Online register and free of charge to access with no need to sign up to do so

First croft registration being discussed #croftinglaw Covered by us at ow.ly/pgZog

12 evening events on Crofting register being run from Barra to Shetland by Registers of Scotland + attending Highland Shows.

Badralloch Community Mapping underway

Compulsory Registrations from 30 November 2013 on trigger events happening

Suggest if first Registration in Land Register also do Crofting Register application at same time.

Land Registration (Scotland) Act 2012 gets rid of overriding interests other than 3 types. Crofting will no longer be noted.

Crofting Register: ros.gov.uk/croftingregist…

David Barnes – Can’t rush into new crofting legislation. Welcome collective approach of gathering problems together (‘the sump’)

28 national governments and 700 MEPs put together CAP Reform

New Basic Payment Scheme replaces SFP

Move from historic to area based payments – but can phase in (internal convergence)

Can split Scotland into different payment areas

Small Farmer Scheme = simplified option. One off application at beginning and lump sum every year without fresh applications

Crofters can claim new basic payment on in-bye land and common grazing

Common grazing claim can be individual or via grazing management committee

crofters can claim greening payment

Crofters can claim other payments where appropriate

Small Farming Scheme may not be run in Scotland – still under consideration

Now Charlotte Coutts Advocate gives us a case law update

Resumption. Deer larder and hard standing for estate vehicles = reasonable

Resumption for ponies allowed

Land once resumed is outside the jurisdiction of the Land Court

Cameron v Nevis Estates: conditions of purchase could not be varied to those originally imposed by Court. One bite at cherry

No opportunity afforded by Commission to comment on other sides comments. Breach of natural justice.

Recent case on whether part of a holding = croft. Needs to fall within definition in statute.

Shetland croft boundary case being discussed. Interesting social history of case. #croftinglaw Yes… 101 productions!

Court placed boundaries where in all the circumstances they considered them to be.

Pairc Crofters case: Protection afforded to landowners. Human rights referred to.

Conference closes

Brian Inkster

[Photo Credit: © BBC Alba]