Protecting land rights in rural areas

4 November 2011

The recent highly publicised case of a crofter on the 13,000 acre Nevis Estate losing part of his croft to landlord Sir Cameron Mackintosh has caused much debate around the issue of the rights of the crofter and indeed around the land ownership conversation in Scotland.
The case has been well documented in the media but to summarise: Donald Cameron, an 87 year old crofter whose family has been on the land since 1905 had initially been successful at challenging his landlords attempt to resume (which means take out of Crofting tenure) 50 acres of his croft – a part that Mr Cameron asserted was the best and most productive part of his land. The area was part of a much larger 711 acre holding that Mr Cameron is the tenant of, and now wishes to buy. However, the Sheriff court’s decision was over-turned on appeal at the Land Court earlier this year, with Sir Cameron Mackintosh winning the right to resume 27 of the 50 acres he had initially requested. Mackintosh wants to use the land for a community development. The court found that the economic viability of the croft would not be significantly affected by the resumption, and allowing the landlord to take control of the land was in the public interest.
In this case, the landlord had stated that the development was for the benefit of the wider community, and that ‘self-interested’ crofters were preventing that benefit. On the other side of the argument, land that has been worked by the same family for generations is lost, and there can be little compensation or comfort to Mr Cameron who says he has lost some of his best grazing.
Clearly, a disappointing outcome for the crofter, and a lot of negative publicity for the landlord. This ruling could have implications for crofters who are tenants of large or multiple crofts with areas that are suitable for development, or who might be seeking to purchase their land.
Whilst we don’t have a crystal ball when it comes to your crofting business, there are a number of options you can take to ensure your rights to your croft are protected for you and future generations. This can include exercising your statutory right to buy the land at 15 times the annual rent (subject to any call for a rent review by the landlord). If some of your croft includes an apportionment, there can be implications for attempting a purchase and we can guide you through the process to ensure you achieve the desired outcome, particularly in light of the new Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010.
And as a landlord, we can advise you on the most judicious way to proceed if you are considering resuming croft land on your estate, and the rights and responsibilities that may arise for you and your tenant. Inksters are experts on crofting law with Brian Inkster in Glasgow and Eilidh Ross in Inverness to advise you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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