1. Identify the Issue
What are the objectives of the policy, strategy or service?
The Scottish Government has a PfG Commitment to produce a National Development Plan (Plan) for Crofting.
The Plan is also a commitment within the National Islands Plan (NIP), under the Population Strategic Objective, ensuring that crofting continues to play an integral role in island life and within island communities. The commitment to produce the Plan and protect crofting for future generations of islands is in direct response to the views of island communities, who contributed to the development of the NIP.
The Plan will set the long-term strategic direction for crofting, highlighting the core elements necessary to ensure that crofting remains at the heart of our rural and remote communities across the Highlands and Islands.
Crofting actively contributes to the sustainability of rural and fragile communities across the Highlands and Islands, and therefore through the Plan the Scottish Government is seeking to protect crofting and crofting communities for future generations.
How are islands identified for the purpose of the policy, strategy or service?
The Plan is applicable to all the crofting counties, including the mainland Highlands, Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland, Argyll, Moray, Arran, Bute, Greater and Little Cumbrae. All crofting communities, including those on our islands, have been considered when developing the Plan.
The Scottish Government recognises that crofting differs from croft to croft and from location to location, depending on the quality of land, size, type of occupancy etc. Accordingly, every effort has been made to ensure that the Plan does not present any unfair bias. The Plan recognises the importance of stakeholders working in partnership to enhance the attractiveness and resilience of Scotland's rural and island communities, and aims to secure mutually beneficial outcomes in the form of population retention and growth.
The Plan refers to the unique habitats found on our islands, such as the machair of North and South Uist, and identifies the need to preserve such landscapes. The 'Land, Environment and Biodiversity' chapter details how climate change and the loss of biodiversity will affect crofting on the islands, and how crofting activities can be undertaken in a way that further contributes to the enhancement of the environment, iconic landscapes and biodiversity.
When the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Tourism announced an increase in funding for the Crofting Commission, this enabled the creation of new Commission jobs in the Western Isles. Having staff working within the crofting community will strengthen the links between the Commission and the community it serves, build constructive local relations and a greater understanding of the Commission's role within the crofting community. It will also provide the Commission with a greater understanding of how the different crofting areas function.
Crofting tenure requires that crofters live on or within 32km of their croft. As this is a legal requirement and crofters are responsible for providing their own housing, the Scottish Government's Croft House Grant scheme offers financial support to help build or improve croft houses. In recognition of the increased burden faced by remote and island crofters, the scheme offers grants at two rates, with all island areas falling under the higher rate of support.
When gathering case studies and testimonials, the Scottish Government has endeavoured to provide examples of best practice in island areas, to highlight to other island crofters and mainland crofters what can be achieved with the right support and advice.
An Equality Impact Assessment has also been undertaken, ensuring all groups have been considered equally.
What are the intended impacts/outcomes and how do these potentially differ in the islands?
The increase in funding to the Crofting Commission demonstrates a commitment to the role of crofting in our islands and rural Scotland. The Commission is committed to creating opportunities for new entrants, and encouraging croft occupancy and active croft use.
The Scottish Government recognises that common grazing land in particular represents a unique opportunity for crofting communities. The Crofting Commission will as part of its development activities continue to support grazings committees. This will include work being undertaken to encourage the establishment of new Common Grazings Committees into office, to ensure active management of this important land and environmental resource. Given crofting's environmental credentials and through diversification, crofting can assist in the fight against climate change.
The intended impacts are an increased uptake of environmental schemes and diversified activities, in alignment with the Scottish Government's environmental and climate change targets, and increased utilisation of all croft land, across the crofting counties. This will have a direct positive impact on the natural environment of rural and island Scotland, and the communities that live there.
There will be little distinction in how all crofting communities, island and mainland, are encouraged into active land use and alignment with environmental targets or are impacted by the Plan. The key difference for the islands of the Western Isles, compared to the mainland crofting counties and other island areas, is that there will be Crofting Commission staff working within the crofting communities of the Western Isles to achieve this. The Commission intends to review the benefits of this approach in due course, with a view to establishing the benefits of securing posts in other areas within the rural/island crofting counties.
Is the policy, strategy or service new?
The National Development Plan is based on the work undertaken by the Crofting Stakeholder Forum and its six priority papers, covering the following topics:
- Crofting Legislation
- New Entrants
- Increase Affordable Housing
- Crofting Development
- Financial Incentives
- Common Grazings
The Plan builds upon the responses received to the 'Stability and Simplicity' consultation undertaken in 2018, the public consultation on 'Crofting Legislation and Future Priorities for Crofting', the survey results to the "Economic Conditions of Crofting Report", and the Law Society of Scotland's consultation on 'Crofting Law Reform', together with the various published reports that have either been carried out on the subject of crofting or affecting crofting.
The Plan aims to safeguard crofting for future generations, building on what crofting already does, and what crofting can deliver, in recognition of the importance of crofting to Scotland's rural and island communities, and the sustainability of rural and island populations.
The Plan showcases the environmental credentials of crofting, and highlights the importance of crofting to the environment as well as the cohesion of rural communities. The plan highlights best practice through case studies, so as to encourage others to follow suit.