Legislation that will allow owner-occupier crofters to decroft their land has been supported by the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee.
However, the Committee has drawn concerns about its complexity to the attention of the Scottish Government, and also commented on the next-steps for making crofting law fit for purpose.
The Committee agrees that the legislation needs to be corrected and therefore welcomes the Scottish Government’s swift bringing forward of amending legislation which should not only remedy this issue for those making such applications to decroft in the future, but will also retrospectively apply to all those who previously made applications, or who currently have applications on hold as a result of the issue being identified.
However, whilst acknowledging that amending legislation is required, and that the Bill as drafted should address the identified problem, the Committee notes the considerable body of opinion, particularly from the legal profession, expressing the view that the Bill as drafted is unnecessarily complex and, in places, requires amendment in order to avoid further difficulties in legal interpretation in the future.
The Committee notes the significant number of other outstanding issues relating to crofting many believe require to be addressed by the Scottish Government following the conclusion of consideration of this Bill by Parliament.
The Committee was struck by the evidence it received from those knowledgeable in this area of the law, which demonstrated significant frustration and concern with the increasing complexity and layers of crofting law. Crofting law as it stands was described as “a mess” by more than one respondent to the Committee’s call for views.