In a move that could cause problems for some, the Crofting Commission has announced that it will not accept any new applications to decroft from owner-occupier crofters.
The Crofting Commission has sought legal advice relating to owner-occupier crofters and whether they could apply to decroft all or part of their croft and it has, on the basis of that advice, determined that there is no provision within the legislation for the Crofting Commission to issue a decrofting direction to an owner-occupier crofter who is occupying their owner-occupied croft.
The Crofting Commission says that since it have received legal advice that it would be acting outwith legal authority in issuing decrofting directions in this situation, it is not able to accept any new applications to decroft from owner-occupier crofters until further notice and that it will hold all current applications for decrofting from owner- occupier crofters in abeyance, as to issue a direction in such cases would entail it acting outwith its powers, as set out in the current legislation. The Commission is currently considering the full implications of the legal advice and will explore what legal remedies available to resolve the situation.
The full Crofting Commission notice can be found here: http://www.crofting.scotland.gov.uk/
Dr Jean Balfour, Chair of Scottish Land & Estates Crofting Group, said: “It is surprising and very regrettable that this apparent quirk in crofting legislation has been raised and its emergence gives rise to an urgent need for the position to be clarified and resolved, The Crofting Commission’s decision to halt the processing of decrofting applications from owner-occupier crofters raises the possibility of grave detriment to crofters who, for economic reasons, have to take employment away from their crofts. The Commission is already requiring that such people let their crofts, thus potentially depriving them of both financial and cultural inheritances. The decision not to permit decrofting immediately threatens the ability of those affected to even decroft their house and garden ground”.
Meanwhile, crofting Lawyer, Brian Inkster, believes that the Crofting Commission may not be correct when it announced that, based on legal advice sought and obtained by them, it did not appear competent for them, on the application of an owner-occupier crofter who is occupying their croft, to make a direction that the croft (or part of it) shall cease to be a croft.
Brian Inkster considers that contrary to the advice obtained by the Crofting Commission the effect of crofting legislation is that an owner-occupier crofter is deemed to be occupying a vacant croft for the purposes of the decrofting provisions. Thus an application for decrofting by an owner-occupier crofter is perfectly competent and should be processed as such by the Crofting Commission.
Brian Inkster’s full opinion on this matter can be found at: