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 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.
The 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.
This 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.
There was little in the way of disagreement about the need for crofting law reform.
The 2010 Act is a mess and probably needs to be revoked altogether.
This 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.
Crofting Law has been a mitigated mess and devolution has not helped take it forward.
Both 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.
Donald 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”.
Andy Wightman, quoting Dr Jim Hunter, referred to crofting law as a “highly unsatisfactory guddle”.
Brian 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