Thursday, 10 December 2009

HIGHLANDS & ISLANDS SNP MSPS WELCOME CROFTING BILL

News Release - for immediate use
10 December 2009
ATTN: News desks

Dave Thompson and Rob Gibson, SNP MSPs for the Highlands & Islands, have this morning (Thurs.) welcomed the launch of the new Crofting Bill which Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham announced in Inverness.

The legislation will address issues of widespread concern that crofting is in decline and a consequence of persistently high levels of absenteeism, growing levels of neglect and the continuing removal of land from crofting tenure.

The first part of the Bill proposes reforms to make the Crofters Commission more effective in delivering its core function of regulating crofting by allowing for directly elected members, greater flexibility in developing regulatory policy and changes to its powers to bring it into line with more conventional non-departmental public bodies.

Part 2 of the Bill will create a new Crofting Register which will be map-based and clearly define the extent of, and interest in, a croft and other land in crofting tenure.

Part 3 of the Bill defines 'owner-occupier crofters' and places a duty on the Commission to take action in respect of absenteeism and neglect by both tenant and owner-occupier crofters - requiring crofters to be resident on, or near, their croft and put it to some form of productive use.

Part 4 of the Bill tackles speculation on development of croft land by strengthening grounds under which the Commission may reject an application to decroft where it considers the cumulative effects of such applications to have a negative impact on crofting in the area, the long term sustainability of the community and the corresponding environmental, cultural and landscape benefits derived from crofting.

Rob Gibson MSP welcomed the announcement, saying:

"This legislation is very welcome and long overdue in improving crofting regulation. In particular, I have consulted many constituents across the Highlands who will welcome new powers to reject decrofting in the wake of applicants gaining outline planning permission. This should be able to stem the haemorrhage of good croft land for housing speculation.

"As the bill progresses it will become even more relevant to building sustainable crofting communities for the future.


Dave Thompson MSP praised the removal of burdensome requirements contained in the previous draft bill, such as the high cost of the register and the housing occupancy requirement:

"The Scottish Government is committed to developing a sustainable crofting sector, and the new Bill will set out measures to ensure crofting survives as a unique way of life.

"I have travelled around my constituency listening to crofters concerns and what they hope to see in the legislation. The SNP is a listening Government and that is reflected in today's Bill. As it goes through Parliament I look forward to scrutinising the legislation in detail and would urge everyone with an interest to make sure they give me their input as it travels through Parliament.


ENDS

NOTES

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham laid out the details of the Bill at a press conference this morning at Scottish Natural Heritage in Inverness (9:40am).

Details of the announcement can be found at:
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2009/12/10100603