Crofting law reform proposals 2024: consultation

We are inviting views by 2 September 2024, on proposals for changes and simplifications to crofting law. Topics include entry to crofting, crofting communities, use of common grazings, strengthening residency and land use, and enhanced Crofting Commission powers.

Ministerial Foreword

Crofting is a uniquely Scottish system of land tenure which supports communities and land use across the Highlands and Islands. The first crofting legislation, in 1886, was radical for its time and established the rights of crofters over the land that their families had occupied for many centuries. Crofting has a special place in the cultural heritage of Scotland, but we want it to play its part in our future too.

The Scottish Government is determined to ensure that crofting legislation enables and supports the sustainability of crofting, of crofters and crofting communities, and allows crofting to modernise, innovate, diversify and adapt to help meet today’s and tomorrow’s climate and environmental challenges. This consultation sets out a range of proposals for crofting reform which would help to achieve this.

The crofting system must help enable people to stay in rural and island communities while also supporting effective and sustainable land use. Crofting’s place in agriculture and food production will remain at the heart of the system, but alongside these we now see crofting playing an increasing role in tourism, renewable energy generation, forestry, peatland restoration, beekeeping and small-scale horticulture production. I am grateful to everyone making traditional or innovative use of croft land, serving their communities in the present and stewarding the land for tomorrow.

A key theme of this consultation is the simplification of legislation:- to make innovation easier, to streamline processes, and to enable active crofting. The consultation seeks your views on a wide range of proposals, ranging from relatively small technical changes, to significant innovations regarding entry to crofting, the use of common grazings, providing new powers for the Crofting Commission, and the enforcement of crofters’ duties.

I gratefully acknowledge the contributions already from many individuals and stakeholders to inform our approach to crofting law reform. This consultation builds on those earlier contributions such as the 2015 Crofting Law Sump, and the ideas of those who have more recently helped the Scottish Government to prepare these proposals, including specifically:

  • The Law Society of Scotland’s Rural Affairs Committee, for their 2020 paper on Crofting Law Reform, which highlighted certain priorities for legislative change;
  • Successive Board members and the staff of the Crofting Commission, who have advised on changes to make crofting regulation more efficient, for the benefit of crofters;
  • and most especially, the members of the Crofting Bill Group.

The Crofting Bill Group, made up of key stakeholders has been unstinting in offering their time, advice, and ideas to the Scottish Government through multiple meetings in 2018-19 and again in 2022-24, and continue to do so. This engagement has been critical in working through proposals and possible solutions, and the individual and collective contributions have helped form the basis for this consultation. A list of current members can be found at Annex B.

The development of all these proposals has therefore benefited from the collective ideas of many people with expertise and knowledge in the subject, and most importantly, with experience of crofting in recent times. This public consultation marks a key step in our readiness to legislate and will help ensure the widest possible input to our legislative proposals. Please take your time to consider the issues raised in this consultation and I shall be grateful for all the responses we receive.

Jim Fairlie

Minister for Agriculture and Connectivity



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