Crofting law described as an ‘unmitigated mess’

Crofting law has been called “one of the worst pieces of legislation ever passed by the Scottish government”, a “mess” and “a highly unsatisfactory guddle”.

At the Crofting Law Conference (organised by the WS Society and theCrofting Law Group) held in the Signet Library in Edinburgh last week there was cross-party agreement on the need for crofting law reform.

Trudi Sharp, deputy director of agriculture, rural development and land reform in the Scottish government stood in at the last minute for land reform minister Aileen McLeod MSP, who was unfortunately unwell and unable to deliver the keynote address on behalf of the government.

Ms Sharp indicated that she had yet to speak to anyone who would disagree with the sentiment that there was a need to simplify crofting legislation.

She said: “The Minister is clear that crofting legislation should be well thought through with stakeholders and deliver law that is modern, simple and fit for purpose.”

The conference heard the views of the opposition from Rhoda Grant MSP, Scottish Labour; Tavish Scott MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrats; Donald Cameron, election candidate for Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party; and Andy Wightman, election candidate for the Scottish Green Party.

This was followed by a “Crofting Question Time” moderated by Jean Urquhart MSP with the opposition MSPs/election candidates being joined for that session by the SNP’s Rob Gibson MSP..

There was little in the way of disagreement about the need for crofting law reform.

Ms Grant said: “The 2010 Act is a mess and probably needs to be revoked altogether.”

This was echoed by Mr Scott who said: “The less said about the 2010 Act the better. It is one of the worst pieces of legislation ever passed by the Scottish government.”

He added: “Crofting Law has been an umitigated mess and devolution has not helped take it forward.”

Both Mr Scott and Ms Grant were of the view that crofting can mean different things in different areas. Shetland, for example, is very different to other areas that may work in a more communal way. They felt the current legislation does not recognise these differences.

Mr Cameron was of the view that it was “time for crofting law to be for the crofters and not the lawyers”. He warned though that “if you legislate in haste on crofting law you will repent at leisure”.

Mr Wightman, quoting Dr Jim Hunter, referred to crofting law as a “highly unsatisfactory guddle”.

Brian Inkster, honorary secretary of the Crofting Law Group, added: “It is heartening to see such cross-party support for crofting law reform. The word ‘mess’ was used more than once to describe the current state of crofting legislation.

“It is to be hoped that the next Scottish government take cognisance of this and put crofting high on their agenda for new legislation during the next parliamentary term.”

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