News In Focus
Crofting protections passed after arguments
The Scottish Parliament has passed the Government's Crofting Reform (Scotland) Bill, delivering long-awaited protection to crofting communities by tackling absenteeism, neglect and speculation.
MSPs passed the bill at stage 3 yesterday with Labour and Liberal Democrat members abstaining after criticising the proposed new map-based register of crofts, to be kept by the Keeper of the Registers, as unnecessary, bureaucratic and costly.
There was also confusion over a Labour amendment to increase parliamentary scrutiny of the new register, when Deputy Presiding Officer Trish Godman failed to hear Minister Roseanna Cunningham's objection to the amendment. The sitting was suspended before a vote was eventually taken on the amendment, which was lost by 66 votes to 59.
Under the bill, new powers to deal with absenteeism and neglect will be granted to a new crofting commission, the majority of whose members will be elected directly by the crofters themselves.
Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: "This is a monumental day in the long history of crofting. Today we can start to reverse the decline of this way of life and begin work to ensure that, once again, it forms the backbone of our remote, rural communities.
"By tackling speculation and addressing absenteeism and the neglect and misuse of crofts we will put an end to the major issues preventing the creation of modern, sustainable crofting communities.
"We will introduce a democratically accountable Commission that will reflect and respond to the concerns of crofters. Also, finally, we will have a meaningful and accurate register of land held in crofting tenure which will ensure that we can better protect crofting for future generations."