Friday, 14 May 2010

Map system promotes a positive future for crofting

The importance that a legally valid mapping system has to promoting a positive future for crofting communities was highlighted in Thursday's Stage 1 debate on the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Bill.

Such a system would root out absenteeism and give crofters greater security.

I very much welcome the vote which passed the first stage of the Government's Bill on Crofting reforms in the Scottish Parliament without amendment. The amendment proposed by the Labor Party (which was voted down) would have kept crofting in the 19th Century. This Bill has the potential to take crofting into the 21st century.

In response to Labour and LibDem MSP who oppose a map based croft register, I would say that previous governments before and after devolution have failed to instruct the Crofters Commission to root out neglect and deal with absenteeism. In the 21st century the mapping of all land holdings is seen as key to plan land use and give individual land holders secure, legally binding title.

Crofters who sell part of their crofts pay for registration, in around 500 cases a year, this SNP Government welcomes agreement by MSPs that a community based croft mapping scheme is acceptable. But ultimately boundary disputes and individual crofters responsibilities will be best served by a legally-binding map based register.

I am delighted that the Labour amendment was defeated. This would hold back crofting regulation into a pattern more suited to the 19th century. I hope to see the new Crofting Commission draw up crofting development plans. These will help planners and crofters to build a bright future.

I also hope to introduce an amendment to the bill at the next stage to introduce simple annual reports by Grazing Committees as to the uses and misuses of crofting land. This should act as a spur to the Crofting Commission to prioritise the removal of the worst examples of neglect and help crofters make far better use of the available land.

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