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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 Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

I speak on behalf of the committee. Crofts, as it is said, are small pieces of land surrounded by thick, prickly hedges of legislation. That has never seemed more appropriate than in scrutinising this bill, which the Scottish Government introduced under an expedited process to correct an anomaly that was uncovered in the 2010 act, which itself amended the 1993 act.

The 2010 act intended to put the newly created category of owner-occupier crofters on an equal footing with tenant crofters and landlords and, as a consequence, to allow such crofters to apply to the Crofting Commission to decroft their land. The relevant provisions of the act were brought into force in October 2011, and the Crofting Commission began to accept and process decrofting applications from owner-occupier crofters. All was well—or so it appeared.

Some 159 applications had been considered when it was identified that there was, in fact, no provision in the law for such decrofting applications to be considered. Following legal advice, the commission suspended consideration of applications from owner-occupier crofters until the situation was resolved.

We now know that 44 applications had been made but not decided upon when that happened. Therefore, 44 or more crofters are currently waiting on decisions that would allow them to use their land for suitable purposes. The suspension of the applications took place back in February, so now more owner-occupier crofters might be waiting for the matter to be resolved so that they can make applications.