Tag Archives: spin

What happened to the six non owner-occupier crofters?

The six who are not owner-occupier croftersAt the stage 1 debate on the Crofting (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill on 6 June 2013 Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Environment and Climate Change (with responsibility for crofting), stated:-

“There was of course a question over what to do with… the 44 applications that are currently held in abeyance. The observant will have noticed that the figures have changed slightly from the earlier announcement in Parliament on 28 March‚ÄĒthe number of outstanding applications has reduced from 50 to 44 as a result of checks undertaken by the Crofting Commission at our request, which have verified that six of the outstanding applications did not in fact relate to owner-occupier crofters.”

What pray did those applications relate to if not owner-occupier crofters? Aliens perhaps ūüėČ There is no explanation that I can find in the Stage 1 debate and no MSP enquired as to the fate of the six involved. So I made my own enquiries of the Scottish Government and was advised that these were, as I suspected,¬†owner-occupiers who were not owner-occupier crofters.

Thus, whilst on the face of it, Paul Wheelhouse’s announcement looks like the decrofting problems of some have been reduced the fact of the matter is it may only be beginning. Those owner occupiers are likely to be owners of part of what is technically classed by the Crofting Commission as one croft unit. Thus, given the Crofting Commission’s recent policy (apparently based on legal advice which as usual remains top secret), decrofting applications will only be considered by the Crofting Commission if all the distinct¬†owners of that croft unit concur in the application. That could happen in all six cases but it may only happen in some or indeed none. If the latter you then have six people who simply cannot decroft land that they own. The six¬†are therefore potentially in a worse position than they would have been if classed as owner-occupier crofters with a resolution in sight, by virtue of the Crofting (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, possibly as soon as the end of this month.

Thus¬†this latest¬†spin actually hides a problem that the Scottish Government is¬†at the moment¬†continually sidestepping. Whilst they have indicated an intention to tackle the¬†numerous other problems that exist in crofting legislation this is one that certainly¬†needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Remember… crofting is not a perfect world.

Brian Inkster

[Photo Credit: Nature’s number 6 by David M. Goehring]

Decrofting Spin

Decrofting SpinPoliticians are good at spinning. No exception when it comes to crofting law.

At the evidence gathering session on the Crofting (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill by the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee on 22 May, Paul Wheelhouse MSP stated:-

The existing legislation clearly does not work as it was intended to do. Although some crofting lawyers, such as Brian Inkster, disagree, the concern that I have expressed is shared by others including Sir Crispin Agnew and Derek Flyn. The Commission’s legal advice appears to have drawn the same conclusion.

Not quite correct. As blogged about previously on this blog at the evidence gathering session by the same Committee on 15 May, Sir Crispin Agnew QC said:-

I think that the Bill will solve the particular problem by making it clear that the Crofting Commission can decroft owner-occupier crofts. Brian Inkster might well be right but Derek Flyn might well be right that he is wrong. Until a case has gone to the Land Court and it has made a determination, it is sensible to clarify the situation for the avoidance of doubt.

Sir Crispin did not therefore pass any opinion on whether the existing legislation worked as it was intended to do. He remained neutral on that point but was of the view that given the confusion surrounding the issue it was sensible to clarify it by way of amending legislation. On that point Sir Crispin, Derek Flyn and I are all in agreement. The challenge for Paul Wheelhouse is to deliver such amending legislation that does indeed work without leaving any further confusion. Let’s hope he concentrates on that and not on the spin.

Brian Inkster

[Picture Credit: Rainbow Humming Spinning Top from PoshTotty Designs]