Daily Archives: March 18, 2013

The time is ripe for a crofting law blog

The time is ripe for a crofting law blogOver the past three weeks eleven crofting law related news items have been posted at inksters.com:-

Crofting Commission halts decrofting process for owner-occupier crofters

Alternative opinion on owner-occupier crofters’ right to apply for a decrofting direction

When (if ever) is an owner-occupied croft vacant?

Call on Crofting Commission to reverse decrofting decision

Inaction over decrofting debacle – what now for crofters?

Minister re-affirms position on decrofting

Decrofting debated on BBC Radio Shetland

Raasay highlights problems with external ownership in crofting communities

Pairc legal challenge rejected

Inksters and Scottish Crofting Federation launch crofting law helpline

Crofting Law in North and South Uist and Benbecula

Most of these (the first seven listed) relate to the decrofting debacle created by the Crofting Commission when they suddenly announced that they were no longer processing applications to decroft made by owner-occupier crofters. The Crofting Commission believes that it is illegal for them to do so based on an interpretation of the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 sought and obtained by them from their legal advisers. I have an alternative interpretation on that. I may not be correct. Crofting law is complex and often open to different interpretations. However, given that it is so complex, I do not believe that the Crofting Regulator should cease the work it has been doing, without question, to date and decree that the interpretation that it has obtained is the correct one. Surely that is the job of the Scottish Land Court and should follow on from an actual challenge of the procedures adopted by the Crofting Commission.

A week before the announcement on owner-occupied croft decrofting a more low key announcement was made on a change of policy by the Commission for decrofting and letting applications. This new policy is that all decrofting and letting applications in respect of crofts with multiple owners, must be submitted by all the owners, in their capacity collectively as the ‘landlord’ of the croft, even in those cases where the application related to a part of the croft held in title by only one of their number.This policy announcement has been overshadowed by the owner-occupier crofter decrofting debacle. It is, however, also a significant matter that needs careful consideration as to the consequenses that the Crofting Commission have now unleashed on that front, again as a result of their particular interpretation of the law. We will no doubt look at this in detail in a specific blog post on the Crofting Law Blog.

The Crofting Commission is new, in that it was established on 1 April 2012 to take over the regulation of crofting from the Crofters Commission. For the first time it consists of six Commissioners elected by crofters with the other three Commissioners having been appointed by Scottish Ministers. Only one of the nine Commissioners served on the former Crofters Commission. They have been in power for less than a year and are already making their mark on the world of crofting law even although they have yet to publish their Plan (it has to date been seen in draft form only). Perhaps that should have come first before pulling apart the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993.

Just before the decrofting debacle began we had the surprise decision by the Scottish Government not to renew the lease of sporting rights to the crofters of Raasay and grant it instead to a company from Ayrshire. This caused uproar and there was a sudden U-Turn by the Scottish Government.

Crofting law appears to be in turmoil in a way that has possibly not been seen since it was introduced in 1886. The time is surely ripe for a crofting law blog to air the issues arising in an open, clear and transparent way.

Brian Inkster