Unveiling the Crofting Reform White Paper at Roy Bridge, Lochaber, minister for environment and rural development Ross Finnie said:
'As well as stripping away bureaucracy and opening up much greater scope for diversification, we plan a right of appeal which will be open to all those whose interests are affected by a regulatory decision. This will provide a comprehensive system of review with a regard for the rights of individuals which meets the highest standards of fairness.'
The Crofting Reform White Paper will:
modernise administration procedures, simplifying and updating where appropriate and thereby removing unnecessary bureaucracy and costs in time and money which currently face crofters
offer greater empowerment to individual crofters - with easier subletting for tenants and new ten-year leases which will allow owner occupiers to make proper arrangements for temporary use of their land by other crofters and farmers
empower crofting communities by giving then the opportunity to play a major role in crofting regulatory matters including determining the way regulatory policy should be applied in their community
offer crofters greater opportunity to develop their crofting businesses by relaxing the rules governing the way land is used
The continual loss of croft land through resumption and decrofting has also been a matter of concern. The existing legislation provides no effective method for replacing such losses. The White Paper now proposes that landowners in the crofting counties should be able to create new crofts. In addition we propose that there should be power to return land to crofting if it is not put to the use for which it was resumed or decrofted.
The Crofters Commission will become a fully-fledged NDPB with its own budget and staff. It will have a development role and the Commission will be responsible for setting strategic direction for crofting administration.
The changes in the arrangements for succession speed up the process giving the executor greater control in cases of intestacy and give clear rights to the partners of crofters who die intestate.
The changes also impart modern standards of fairness to crofting law for example by creating new rights of appeal.
There are just over 17,700 crofts in the former counties of Argyll, Caithness, Inverness, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland, Orkney and Shetland with between 12,000 and 13,000 croft tenants (including family members around 30,000 people live on crofts).
Consultationon the White Paper will run to 27 September. Copies are available from Paul Cowie, Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department, Room 106, Pentland House, 47 Robb's Loan, Edinburgh EH14 1TY Tel: 0131-244-621.