By Patrick Krause
The Scottish Government’s commitment to continue the process of reforming crofting legislation within this parliamentary session continues with a 12 week-long consultation having been launched. This is another stage in the long process of crofting law reform, with the intention of making it fit for purpose now and for the future. Over the years since legislation was formed in 1886, amendments have introduced inconsistencies and errors, has rendered current crofting law difficult to access and, in some aspects, unusable.
Whilst exploring ways to make the legislation fit for purpose we must not lose sight of the fact that crofting legislation was formed to protect crofters’ rights, not to serve lawyers. The crofting act is the heart of crofting and has evolved over 130 years, adapting to work for crofting in a changing world. This is another time of change, but the basic principles of protection must not be lost.
The consultation suggests a range of options for taking this forward. Neither of the two extremes of merely consolidating the acts with little change or starting all over again with a ‘clean sheet’ are going to achieve a desirable result, so we are being asked to choose between the workable options of amending and then consolidating the law or ‘restating law’. To help potential respondents understand the proposals in the consultation, the government’s Crofting Bill Team is travelling to the crofting areas to hold information events.
What Scottish agriculture and rural development will look like post-Brexit is on everyone’s minds. There is a promised transition period where some support, but not all, will continue under terms of the European Common Agriculture Policy potentially until 2022. So there will be a gradual change to a UK agriculture and rural development policy. How much of that will be devolved to the nations that comprise the UK is being contested, but there will be some sort of Scottish policy needed and this is the time to be forming clear objectives of what we want.
Leaving the CAP provides the opportunity to have an agricultural and rural development programme tailored to Scotland, encouraging more small-scale land use, delivering high quality, high animal welfare, High Nature Value food, with provenance we are proud of. We can move to a system of using public money to deliver public goods through a shift in balance from untargeted income-support payments to a targeted rural development programme, giving fairer pricing for high quality produce, fairer payment to producers and better use of public money.
SCF has been meeting with Ministers, MSPs, other organisations, crofters and SCF members to gather information and opinions in order to put together a draft policy of what will be needed for crofting post-Brexit. This has been sent to the Scottish Government and SCF members for comment, and SCF will be holding meetings in the Outer Hebrides to discuss this, crofting law and any other crofting issues.