Work on crofting legislative reform was suspended in October 2019 as a consequence of Brexit preparations. This was regrettable but unavoidable.
Examples of legislative changes proposed by the Crofting Bill Group included:
- amending the requirement for an annual croft census to a census which would be undertaken at least once every five years.
- the purchase of a croft from a landlord being established as a trigger point for first registration on the Crofting Register maintained by Registers of Scotland.
- provisions to apply reasonable and proportionate sanctions where an applicant knowingly provides false information in connection with a registration application (as with the Land Register).
- creating a power to allow the Crofting Commission to confer owner-occupier status to crofters in specified circumstances and if applied for.
- a more comprehensive power for the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland to rectify inaccuracies in the Crofting Register, similar to the Land Register.
- ensuring that any decrofting applications are for a reasonable purpose
Issues identified as requiring further consideration included:
- bringing greater clarity to the legal definition of an owner-occupier crofter.
- enabling a standard security to be issued against a croft tenancy.
- expressly allowing for the creation of joint tenancies of crofts.
- providing the Crofting Commission with additional powers to determine who has a right to occupy a croft.
- a reconsideration of the constitution of grazings committees.
In the meantime, where possible, administrative actions to clearly explain issues such as stand-alone grazing rights (deemed crofts) and the liabilities of common grazing's committees were to be sought.
The Scottish Government remains committed to modernising crofting law to make it more transparent, understandable and workable.
The Scottish Government will continue to engage with stakeholders in regard to legislative reform.
Law Society of Scotland – Crofting Law Reform Project
The Law Society of Scotland is the professional body for over 12,000 Scottish solicitors. The Society has a statutory duty to represent the interests of its members and to work in the public interest.
Conscious of the discussions in the Scottish Parliament and elsewhere in relation to crofting law, the Society undertook a project on crofting law reform in 2019-2020, led by a working group of the Rural Affairs Sub-committee of the Society. The purpose of the project was to propose legislative change in relation to aspects of crofting law, building on work done by the Scottish Government and views expressed by crofting stakeholders.
The project focused on four aspects of the law relating to crofting:
- Aspects of succession
- Owner-occupier crofter status
- Statutory conditions of tenure
- Definition of 'crofting community'
A public consultation ran between February and May 2020 and the working group engaged in discussions with a range of stakeholder organisations both on a one-to-one basis and via the Crofting Stakeholder Forum.
The Society considers that widespread reform of the law of crofting is required both to simplify and restate the existing law, and to make changes. The Society suggests that this merits action by the Scottish Government and that there would be merit in undertaking such a task as part of a single package of work so as to avoid piecemeal development in the law and reduce the possibility of unintended consequences arising. The Society's work resulted in a number of specific proposals in relation to each of the four aspects covered.
A detailed discussion of the issues arising and the full proposals can be found in the full report and summary paper which may be accessed on the Law Society of Scotland website.
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