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Crofting (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 6th June 2013.

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Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

Mr Gibson mentioned hedges in his definition of crofts. The definition of a croft that we usually use in Shetland is a piece of disputed land, surrounded by legislation, into which one pours money. The same principle broadly applies.

I have been very taken with the number of speeches that have, in effect, characterised crofting law as a charter for lawyers. I suspect that the concern of many of us who represent crofters across the crofting counties is that more and more of crofters’ time is taken up with seeking legal advice rather than heading to the department’s office to try to sort out the single farm payment. In a sense, that is the Government’s biggest challenge.

The minister gave a very fair answer to earlier questions about consolidation—or, as Rob Gibson put it, codification, if that turns out to be the way forward—but, to be frank, all Governments have ducked the issue so far. The Government of which I was a member ducked it, and the current Government has not yet found time to address it either.

I do not know whether any Government will decide to take on such a mammoth task, not least because, in the context of Scotland as a whole, the issue is awfully small beer. As Claudia Beamish said, we are talking about only a relatively small number of people.

However, as legislators we impose legislation on people, and at present—for the reasons that the minister gave for introducing the bill—our legislation is causing difficulties and preventing people from going about their normal, agricultural and crofting way of life. Given what crofting entails, I am sure that Rob Gibson would strongly agree with that point.