Minister issues statement on decrofting

28 March 2013

Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Minister for Environment and Climate Change with responsibility for crofting, has issued a statement regarding the Crofting Commission's decision to cease the processing of decrofting applications from owner occupier crofters.

The Minister announced this afternoon that legislation will be passed to remedy what the Scottish Government have now acknowledged was an error in the legislative drafting that has prevented the new class of owner occupier crofter from making an application to decroft.

Mr Wheelhouse said: “I wish to inform Parliament that the Scottish Government intends to bring forward a Bill, as soon as possible after the Easter Recess, to address this issue. It is my intention to propose a timetable for the Bill which will enable the Parliament to consider carefully the proposed changes, whilst ensuring the matter is resolved quickly.”

However, there is still some ambiguity over the timescales involved. Several MSP’s requested some idea of how long this will take. Mr Wheelhouse stated that the Scottish Government cannot dictate the timetable of when a Bill is passed – it would be down to the will of Parliament.
In a debate on crofting earlier this month, Mr Wheelhouse had stated that in the event of legislative change being required he would look to the Parliament for ‘support to encourage smooth passage of that legislation.’ Several members gave their support to enable the bill to progress quickly.

Mr Wheelhouse went on to provide examples of how the issue had affected individuals, with around 60 crofters facing uncertainty,  including owner-occupier crofters being unable to start building their house until decrofting takes places, potentially causing issues with time-sensitive planning consents. It has also hindered wind turbine development.

Calls had been made for Parliament to direct the Commission to process the applications under Section 1 (3) of the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993. The call was due to the policy decision being taken on the basis of an interpretation of the legislation that may have been wrong. Failing this, it would have required any person or organisation affected by the decision to challenge the policy in the Land Court.

The move is good news for those who had their applications placed in abeyance, as well as those currently planning to decroft. Several members asked if work could be done by the Commission to progress applications as far as possible before the Bill is passed, and Mr Wheelhouse stated there had been communication with them to consider this.
It will be hoped that the outcome of the Bill will remove any interpretive confusion surrounding the badly drafted legislation and create certainty for crofters, legal practitioners and the Commission.

If you are affected by these latest developments, and need advice, Brian Inkster and Eilidh Ross are specialists in crofting law. They can assist you from our offices in Glasgow and Inverness.


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