The role of common grazings is central to the contribution crofting can make to the sustainable development of communities throughout the Highlands and Islands. Crofting provides a unique way to utilise these assets through registered Grazing Committees and, this week, the Crofting Commission launches two consultation exercises aimed at getting the views of committees and other interest groups.
The consultations, which both commenced on 14th October will run until 22nd November, cover Common Grazing Regulations and the Grazing Committee Duty to Report.
The aim of the consultation on Grazing Regulations is to ask for comments on a new Template or Model set of regulations, which have been drawn together to provide grazing committees with a framework for the effective regulation of grazings.
As Susan Walker, Convener of the Crofting Commission explains, “The Grazing Regulations have not been updated for decades. We receive many calls from concerned grazing clerks, committee members, shareholders in the grazing and members of the public that, one way or another, relate back to the regulation of common grazings. We decided as a Commission that we need to assist committees by producing an up to date Template which groups can adopt or adapt, to give clearer guidance for committees and shareholders about how common grazings are regulated.”
With well over 500,000 hectares of land designated as common grazing, this represents a huge asset with many opportunities for shared land management. For Susan Walker, “Comments on the draft Template will help us to design a model set of regulations which are fit for purpose in the twenty-first century.”
The second consultation launched on 14th October is on a draft form designed for Grazing Committees to complete once every five years, beginning in 2013-14 – known as the ‘Duty to Report’. Under Section 38 of the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010, committees are required to report on the condition of the common grazing, the condition of every croft of tenant and owner-occupier crofters sharing in the grazing and any other matter the Crofting Commission may require.
“We developed this ‘Grazing Committee Duty to Report’ form following initial discussion with assessors and grazing clerks at our annual Assessors Conference last year,” explained Susan Walker. “We believe we have devised a form that grazing committees will not find threatening to complete. We would like to encourage grazing committees to see the completion of this duty once every five years as an opportunity to highlight issues to the Crofting Commission. We also hope that, by completing the form, crofting communities will move towards more self-regulation, as it will give them an opportunity to identify the key issues for them on the common grazing.
With increased information coming into the Commission and a greater dialogue with grazing committees, we can work together to highlight crofting issues to Ministers and the Scottish Parliament and present the case for crofting, its value to Scotland as a whole and the threats facing it.”