After celebrating a first anniversary in April, the Crofting Commission now has another landmark to celebrate, with the formal approval of the Policy Plan for its term of office, by Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for the Environment and Climate Change.
For Convener Susan Walker this marks the end of one period and an exciting beginning. Speaking from Skye Susan said, “We are delighted to receive formal approval of the Plan from the Minister. This is our blueprint for action for the rest of our term in office, as the first Commissioners of the newly created Crofting Commission. The primary focus of our first six months at the helm of the new organisation was spent drafting and consulting on the Plan. It contains our aspirations and ambitions for crofting and reflects our belief that crofting has a significant role to play in things such as population retention. The Plan also sets out our strategic policy and will be underpinned by more detailed individual policies, covering the whole gambit of crofting regulation.”
The Plan stems from provisions in the 2010 Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act, which saw the birth of the Crofting Commission and charged the Commissioners with the task of developing a Plan. As part of that process, the Commission consulted widely on the draft Plan and carefully considered all of the responses received before submitting a final draft to the Minister.
The Plan explains to tenant and owner-occupier crofts, landlords, organisations and agencies involved in crofting, how the Crofting Commission will make decisions on regulatory cases, in line with legislation and why consistent regulation of crofting is important.
In this way, the Commission seeks to balance the interests of crofting communities, landlords, crofters and the wider community - a balance which is essential if crofting is to continue to contribute to the development of some of the most fragile rural areas in Scotland.
There is a particular focus in the Plan on the need for crofting to play a part in retaining population in remote communities, through the occupation of crofts. The Crofting Act requires the Commission to ensure all tenants and owner-occupier crofters reside on or within 32km of their crofts.
The Commission wishes to encourage crofters to use Succession and other regulatory means to increase access to crofts for new entrants. “People sometimes associate crofting with the past,” Susan Walker observed, “but while an awareness and understanding of the past is important, through our Plan, the Commission has clearly set its sights on the future of crofting”.
A copy of the Plan can be found on our website at www.crofting.scotland.gov.uk/legislation.asp