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Call for new approach to get crofts back into use from Scottish Crofting Federation

By John Davidson

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Donald MacKinnon is calling for more resources for the Crofting Commission.
Donald MacKinnon is calling for more resources for the Crofting Commission.

The body representing crofters has called for a new approach to help improve access to crofts.

The Scottish Crofting Federation wants to see more absentee crofts brought back into use and reduce the number of crofts lost by being sold as house sites.

It recently ran an online workshop on access to crofts and had to run a second one as it was oversubscribed.

SCF chair Donald MacKinnon said the main issues centred around the need for regulation and effective law.

“Unused crofts are not being passed on, or are being sold as house sites for prices outwith the reach of young folk and locals," he said.

"This has been going on for a long time and, frankly, no one with the power to do anything about this shameful situation seems to care enough to act.

"This is supposed to be a regulated system of land tenure, but the regulator, the Crofting Commission, seems to be bogged down in a reactive role dealing with administrative procedures. The commission is making efforts to tackle absenteeism but is not even managing to scratch the surface on the issue of neglected crofts that are in breach of crofting law.

"Crofting desperately needs a regulator that can be proactive. This will only happen if the commission has the resources to do its job properly. The situation is worsening and it is obvious that whatever strategy is being adopted is not working. There has to be a new approach.”

Mr MacKinnon added: “We will help the Crofting Commission in any way that we can but we will also take this issue to the Scottish Parliament, asking for it to press the government to resource the Crofting Commission so that it can do the job of freeing up crofts, making crofts available, bringing croft prices down. The message is clear – action is required now before it is too late.”

A spokeswoman for the Crofting Commission said: "The Crofting Commission agrees that we need more opportunities for new entrants to crofting, and we are increasing our enforcement of crofters’ duties. However, that alone will not create all the opportunities that are wanted – as the SCF has noted, this is an issue of economics as well as of regulation.

"There are approximately 400 new entrant crofters every year, but demand still outstrips supply. The one area we have little control over is the price that a croft can change hands for, and this is a problem for many young people.

"We look forward to having discussions with the SCF to see if we can both help drive this forward."

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