Highlands & Islands

MSPs call for new '21st Century' crofting bill

Sheep

The Scottish government has been asked to produce a new crofting bill which "fully meets the needs of crofting communities in the 21st Century".

In a new report, Holyrood's rural economy and connectivity committee said "comprehensive" updates to legislation were needed.

It said these should be introduced by the end of the current session of parliament.

The government said it would take time to consider the report.

Among calls being made by the committee are that the new bill should fit with the "reality of modern crofting practices", and be relevant to the "needs and aspirations" of crofters and those who wish to be involved in crofting.

MSPs on the committee also said the bill should be comprehensive and seek to address as many of the issues identified within the crofting community requiring action as possible.

'Priority issues'

Committee convener Edward Mountain said: "Several crofting acts have been passed in recent years, making some useful changes but without fully dealing with all of the issues the crofting communities are keen to see addressed.

"A lot of work has already been done by crofting stakeholders to identify what the priority issues are, and the committee feels that a new bill is required which deals with these in a comprehensive manner.

"We also agree with many of our witnesses, who told us that before identifying what should be delivered from legislative reform, the Scottish government needs to develop a clear policy setting out the role crofting is expected to play in the 21st Century."

The MSP added: "In the months and years to come, the committee expects to see development of policy and legislation which is fully fit for purpose, allowing crofting to flourish and to continue to make an important and sustainable contribution to the rural economy in Scotland."

The Scottish government said it noted the publication of the committee's report.

'Personality clashes'

A spokesman said: "We will take the time to give the recommendations full and proper consideration.

"We are currently undertaking early engagement with stakeholders to take forward work on future crofting legislation.

"There will be full public consultation as part of the bill development process and responses to such a consultation would be welcome."

Last month, Scottish ministers demanded "urgent action" after another report highlighted "worrying failures" at the Crofting Commission.

A review ordered by the government found "personality clashes" amid issues with management at the group.

There has also been a long-running row at the commission over its leadership and the management of common grazing land.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said it was "essential" that governance was improved "immediately".

Bill Barron, the new chief executive of the commission, said the review had raised "important points" which he was "committed" to addressing.

The review followed a protracted internal dispute in the commission, which grew from a row over the running of land shared by crofters to raise livestock.

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