Section 2 — General functions of the Crofting Commission

Crofting Reform (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 9:15 am on 1st July 2010.

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Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None 9:15 am, 1st July 2010

We start with group 1. Amendment 2, in the name of Peter Peacock, is grouped with amendments 144, 4, 123 and 124.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I believe that the crofting commission should retain a role in the development of crofting. It is a unique body and the future of crofting is a central part of its concern. It seems wrong to pass in its entirety the development function to Highlands and Islands Enterprise at a time when the crofting commission is to become democratically elected. I believe that the commission should retain a role in development, albeit one that is defined in its strategic plans. It would be regrettable, to say the least, if in years to come we wanted the commission to do something only to discover that it was not legally empowered to do so. Retaining the development role and defining it through the strategic plan seems sensible. Amendments 2 and 123 seek to deal with that by leaving the development function with the commission.

Amendment 124 was drafted in the same spirit as the amendments about development. I seek clarification from the Minister for Environment about the provisions in the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 that the bill will delete. Should they be continued? They cover matters to which even the Government is committed. I look forward to hearing what the minister has to say about that.

Amendment 4 is a probing amendment that seeks to ensure that what the commission is currently doing to hold maps is permissible under its powers.

I move amendment 2.

Photo of Karen Gillon Karen Gillon Labour

Amendment 144 seeks to place within the functions of the crofting commission a role in supporting population retention in the crofting counties and in the newly designated areas. It is similar to an amendment that I lodged at stage 2. I thank the minister and her officials for their support for the amendment. Population retention is absolutely crucial to the crofting counties if we are serious about crofting for the future and amendment 144 is part of that, so I hope that members will support it.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

I support Karen Gillon's amendment 144. Although it is at one level symbolic, it is also more than that. From the beginning of the bill, it will remind the commission that part of its statutory function is to have regard to

"the desirability of supporting population retention ... in the crofting counties".

Ms Gillon's amendment is useful in that it will remind the commission that it is there not only to serve individual crofters, but ensure the future of the wider communities around them and to take decisions that benefit not only individuals but the wider community. It will also serve to give crofting the status that it deserves in our wider economic strategy for the Highlands and Islands.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

The Scottish ministers decided to remove the development function from the commission and hand it to HIE. Like many others, the Liberal Democrats had concerns about that approach, but we recognise that at this stage it serves little useful purpose to try to reverse the decision. However, Peter Peacock's amendments in this group usefully make explicit the crofting commission's on-going interest in and responsibility for the development of crofting in the crofting counties. I think that that view is widely held across the parties and I hope that Peter Peacock's amendments will be supported.

Karen Gillon's amendment 144 is also helpful in underscoring what we all believe is one of the principal achievements of crofting: sustaining communities by retaining population in some of the remotest areas. I recall the minister accepting that general principle at stage 2 and I hope that, like the other amendments in the group, amendment 144 will be agreed to.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

I welcome Karen Gillon's amendment 144, which deals properly with the desirability of supporting crofting—something to which I know the whole Parliament aspires.

Peter Peacock's amendments 123 and 124, which seek to return development powers to the commission, are perhaps bolting the stable door after the horse has gone, as the development functions have already been given to Highlands and Islands Enterprise. If the bill is passed today, we will give the commission significantly more regulatory powers and, indeed, more work to do, perhaps not with adequate funding. I do not believe that the commission needs even more work. Its core burden will be regulation and enforcement; HIE should be left to get on with development. I do not support amendments 2, 123 or 124.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

Due to members' diligence, I can offer the minister two minutes to wind up.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I will take Peter Peacock's amendments first and then Karen Gillon's.

As members said, the Government has already transferred crofting development to Highlands and Islands Enterprise. That transfer took place on 1 April 2009. We considered that crofting communities would benefit more if the function became the responsibility of the agency whose primary responsibility is the social and economic development of the Highlands and Islands. We believe that the commission can best contribute to development by ensuring that crofting is properly regulated and that croft land is occupied and used. I therefore urge members to reject amendments 2 and 123.

Amendment 4 is pointless. There is nothing to prevent the commission from requesting a map and nothing to prevent a person from declining the commission's request, so I do not see how the amendment would take us forward. As for amendment 124, it would overburden the commission with a number of ancillary duties rather than focusing it on regulation.

On the other hand, I welcome Karen Gillon's amendment 144, which is a revised version of an amendment that she lodged at stage 2. It will ensure that the commission has explicit regard to supporting population retention in the crofting counties, which I believe we all support.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I call Peter Peacock to wind up and either press or withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I do not have a lot to say, Presiding Officer. I am glad that the minister said that amendment 4 is pointless. I was hoping to establish that it is permissible for the commission to do what I describe in the amendment. I will say no more than that.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

The question is, that amendment 2 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

There will be a division. As it is the first division of the day, there will be a five-minute suspension.

Meeting suspended.

On resuming—

For:

Alexander, Ms Wendy (Paisley North) (Lab)

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Baker, Richard (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Boyack, Sarah (Edinburgh Central) (Lab)

Brankin, Rhona (Midlothian) (Lab)

Brown, Robert (Glasgow) (LD)

Butler, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (Lab)

Chisholm, Malcolm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab)

Craigie, Cathie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (Lab)

Curran, Margaret (Glasgow Baillieston) (Lab)

Eadie, Helen (Dunfermline East) (Lab)

Ferguson, Patricia (Glasgow Maryhill) (Lab)

Finnie, Ross (West of Scotland) (LD)

Foulkes, George (Lothians) (Lab)

Gillon, Karen (Clydesdale) (Lab)

Glen, Marlyn (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Godman, Trish (West Renfrewshire) (Lab)

Gordon, Charlie (Glasgow Cathcart) (Lab)

Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)

Henry, Hugh (Paisley South) (Lab)

Hume, Jim (South of Scotland) (LD)

Jamieson, Cathy (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab)

Kelly, James (Glasgow Rutherglen) (Lab)

Kerr, Andy (East Kilbride) (Lab)

Lamont, Johann (Glasgow Pollok) (Lab)

Livingstone, Marilyn (Kirkcaldy) (Lab)

Macdonald, Lewis (Aberdeen Central) (Lab)

Macintosh, Ken (Eastwood) (Lab)

Martin, Paul (Glasgow Springburn) (Lab)

McArthur, Liam (Orkney) (LD)

McAveety, Mr Frank (Glasgow Shettleston) (Lab)

McCabe, Tom (Hamilton South) (Lab)

McConnell, Jack (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab)

McInnes, Alison (North East Scotland) (LD)

McMahon, Michael (Hamilton North and Bellshill) (Lab)

McNeil, Duncan (Greenock and Inverclyde) (Lab)

McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow Kelvin) (Lab)

McNulty, Des (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab)

Mulligan, Mary (Linlithgow) (Lab)

Murray, Elaine (Dumfries) (Lab)

O'Donnell, Hugh (Central Scotland) (LD)

Oldfather, Irene (Cunninghame South) (Lab)

Park, John (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Peacock, Peter (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Peattie, Cathy (Falkirk East) (Lab)

Purvis, Jeremy (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD)

Rumbles, Mike (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD)

Scott, Tavish (Shetland) (LD)

Simpson, Dr Richard (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Smith, Elaine (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Lab)

Smith, Iain (North East Fife) (LD)

Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Stone, Jamie (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)

Tolson, Jim (Dunfermline West) (LD)

Whitefield, Karen (Airdrie and Shotts) (Lab)

Whitton, David (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (Lab)

Against:

Adam, Brian (Aberdeen North) (SNP)

Aitken, Bill (Glasgow) (Con)

Allan, Alasdair (Western Isles) (SNP)

Brocklebank, Ted (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Brown, Gavin (Lothians) (Con)

Brown, Keith (Ochil) (SNP)

Brownlee, Derek (South of Scotland) (Con)

Campbell, Aileen (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Carlaw, Jackson (West of Scotland) (Con)

Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)

Constance, Angela (Livingston) (SNP)

Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)

Cunningham, Roseanna (Perth) (SNP)

Don, Nigel (North East Scotland) (SNP)

Doris, Bob (Glasgow) (SNP)

Ewing, Fergus (Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber) (SNP)

Fabiani, Linda (Central Scotland) (SNP)

FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee West) (SNP)

Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

Gibson, Rob (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Goldie, Annabel (West of Scotland) (Con)

Grahame, Christine (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Harper, Robin (Lothians) (Green)

Harvie, Christopher (Mid Scotland and Fife) (SNP)

Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)

Hepburn, Jamie (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Hyslop, Fiona (Lothians) (SNP)

Ingram, Adam (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Johnstone, Alex (North East Scotland) (Con)

Kidd, Bill (Glasgow) (SNP)

Lamont, John (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)

MacAskill, Kenny (Edinburgh East and Musselburgh) (SNP)

Marwick, Tricia (Central Fife) (SNP)

Mather, Jim (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

Matheson, Michael (Falkirk West) (SNP)

Maxwell, Stewart (West of Scotland) (SNP)

McGrigor, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

McKee, Ian (Lothians) (SNP)

McKelvie, Christina (Central Scotland) (SNP)

McLaughlin, Anne (Glasgow) (SNP)

McLetchie, David (Edinburgh Pentlands) (Con)

McMillan, Stuart (West of Scotland) (SNP)

Milne, Nanette (North East Scotland) (Con)

Morgan, Alasdair (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Neil, Alex (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Paterson, Gil (West of Scotland) (SNP)

Robison, Shona (Dundee East) (SNP)

Russell, Michael (South of Scotland) (SNP)

Salmond, Alex (Gordon) (SNP)

Scanlon, Mary (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)

Smith, Elizabeth (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Lothians) (SNP)

Stevenson, Stewart (Banff and Buchan) (SNP)

Sturgeon, Nicola (Glasgow Govan) (SNP)

Swinney, John (North Tayside) (SNP)

Thompson, Dave (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)

Watt, Maureen (North East Scotland) (SNP)

Welsh, Andrew (Angus) (SNP)

White, Sandra (Glasgow) (SNP)

Wilson, Bill (West of Scotland) (SNP)

Wilson, John (Central Scotland) (SNP)

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

The result of the division is: For 58, Against 64, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 2 disagreed to.

Amendment 144 moved—[Karen Gillon]—and agreed to.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

We come to group 2. Amendment 3, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendments 5 to 25, 28, 30, 32, 33, 35, 36, 38 to 41, 46, 49 to 51, 54, 55, 57 to 62, 64, 66, 67, 83, 85, 86, 92, 192, 94 to 98, 109 to 114, 125 to 129, 227, 130 to 134, 137, 138 and 140 to 143. I draw members' attention to the pre-emption information that is given in the list of groupings.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

Before anyone gets started on the number of these minor technical drafting amendments, I point out that many of them will tidy up non-Government amendments that we supported at stage 2 on the basis that we would need to fix some of the drafting at stage 3. Others are technical changes and corrections to minor drafting errors, and some are minor consequentials to other Government amendments. In the interests of time, I propose not to go through each of the minor amendments in the group—members will be delighted to hear that—but to offer to expand on any amendment on which a member wishes further clarification.

I move amendment 3.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

The amendments in group 2 are essentially technical and drafting amendments, all of which we will support. In due course, we will be happy to consider voting on the amendments en bloc, if that is helpful.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

The Labour Party strongly opposes the bill's proposals for a new crofting register. We will come to the detailed debate on that in group 4, under which we will try to remove the register from the bill. A number of amendments in group 2 touch on that. However, given that we will have the opportunity to vote down the register shortly, at this stage in the proceedings we will not impede the Government's technical amendments to the register.

Amendment 3 agreed to.