Tag Archives: woodland crofts

New SCF Chair

Russell Smith - Chair of the Scottish Crofting Federation

Russell Smith – Chair of the Scottish Crofting Federation

With recent news of crofting commissioner appointments and a new CEO at the Crofting Commission it should also be noted that just before Christmas a new chair was appointed to the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF).

At their board and council meeting on 16 December 2016, the SCF said thanks to the out-going chair, Fiona Mandeville, who stepped down on completion of her two year tenure. Fiona handed the role to Russell Smith, a crofter from Bonar Bridge in Sutherland.

Mr Smith commented:-

The Federation has achieved a great deal in the past two years, not least the pledges made by the SNP in their manifesto and confirmed recently by the Cabinet Secretary for crofting, Fergus Ewing MSP. The pledges mirror the ‘Five Actions for Crofting’ published by the SCF just before the election.

We have brought crofting very much back on to the Scottish Government agenda with the promise from them to modernise crofting law and make it more transparent, understandable and workable in practice. This will be no mean feat but the law needs to be made to work for crofters not for lawyers. We have won a substantial improvement in the Croft House Grant Scheme and await the government’s action to re-introduce the Croft House Loan Scheme.

Scottish Government will also explore mechanisms to make more publicly owned land available to new entrants, a long running campaign of the SCF, and have promised to introduce a new entrant’s scheme for crofting and to explore the creation of new woodland crofts. At last the National Development Plan for Crofting we asked for is closer to becoming a reality.

So, yes, we have achieved a lot, but there is still much to do. With the prospect of leaving the European Union, one of the few certainties is that support to agriculture and particularly to crofting will have to be fought for. Being the only organisation solely dedicated to representing crofters means that SCF will have to fight hard to avoid being marginalised by big farmers in other parts of the country. Crofters need to stand together under one banner so that our voices can be heard.

Crofting Law and the new Scottish Government

Crofting Law and the New Scottish Government

How does the election results affect the future of crofting law?

Today’s Scottish Parliamentary election results saw the SNP form a minority administration with 63 seats. The Scottish Conservatives came second and form the opposition with 31 seats. Scottish Labour were in third place with 24 seats followed by the Scottish Green Party on six and Scottish Liberal Democrats on five.

What does this mean for the future of crofting law?

The SNP Manifesto states:-

Modernising Crofting

Crofting plays a unique role in Scotland’s Highlands and Islands heritage, bringing distinct social, economic and environmental benefits to communities. We will continue to provide public support for the continuation of crofting and to secure thriving crofting communities.

We will also introduce a new entrant’s scheme for crofting, explore the creation of new woodland crofts and publish a National Development Plan for Crofting.

Croft housing grants have been increased and we will continue to target support at those most in need. We will also re-introduce the Croft House Loan Scheme.

Crofters have long been concerned at overly complicated and outdated legislation so we will modernise crofting law and make it more transparent, understandable and workable in practice. We will also ensure new community landowners are not left out of pocket due to registering as the new landlord of crofts within their community owned estate.

So there is a clear commitment to “modernise crofting law and make it more transparent, understandable and workable in practice”. This must mean a new Crofting Bill being introduced during the next parliamentary term.

At the Crofting Law Group Conference in March there was clear cross-party agreement on the need for crofting law reform. So I can’t see any opposition to the introduction of a new Crofting Bill.

The last Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (with responsibility for crofting) was Dr Aileen McLeod MSP. She failed to win the Galloway and West Dumfries constituency seat and missed out on getting a South Scotland Regional seat in the list vote. So inevitably there will be a new Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform.

Perhaps with a new Crofting Bill in the offing and the dreadful problems within the Crofting Commission that the new Minister has to tackle it is time for Nicola Sturgeon to appoint a dedicated Crofting Minister? Preferably one with a seat in the crofting counties.

Who will be the political voices we will now hear speaking up for crofting law reform and investigation of the alleged abuse of power within the Crofting Commission?

Gone from Holyrood are the strong voices on crofting that came from Jamie Mcgrigor (Conservative), Rob Gibson (SNP), Jean Urquhart (Independent) and Dave Thompson (SNP). We will also miss Alex Fergusson (Conservative) who thought that crofting law is a complete mystery but amused us with his analogy of ‘The Crofting Law Hydra‘.

Returned to Holyrood are Tavish Scott (Liberal Democrat) and Rhoda Grant (Labour). Both of whom participated in Crofting Question Time at the Crofting Law Group Conference in March expressing strong views on the “mess” that is crofting law. I can’t see them holding back on the latest “mess” of ‘The Common Clearances‘.

New to Holyrood are Donald Cameron (Conservative) and Andy Wightman (Green Party). Again they both participated in Crofting Question Time at the Crofting Law Group Conference. Donald Cameron said there that it was “time for crofting law to be for the crofters and not the lawyers”. I think that ‘The Common Clearances’ is a clear testament to that sentiment.

Helping the SNP with the Crofting Bill, and routing out the alleged abuse of power at the Crofting Commission, must surely be all SNP MSPs within the crofting counties. Alasdair Allan (Western Isles) has already spoken out about ‘The Common Clearances’ with two ‘sacked’ grazings committees, that we know of, being within his constituency. Other SNP MSPs in the crofting counties include long time politician Michael Russell (Argyll and Bute) and newbie Kate Forbes (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch), who I had the pleasure of discussing The Crofting Law Sump with at The Future of Crofting Conference in December. Maree Todd took the SNPs only Regional Seat in the Highlands & Islands so I would think she will take an active interest in crofting law which will affect many of her constituents.

The first opportunity for the new MSPs to flex their muscles on crofting matters might be the Cross-Party Group on Crofting at Holyrood. Expect a large attendance.

Brian Inkster

Image Credit: © BBC

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