Crofting campaign : Chuck The Charges

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10 April 2010

Highland Labour has launched a campaign to try to stop the SNP Government from imposing crippling new charges on crofters.

The Scottish Government is planning to charge crofters fees to register their crofts on a compulsory new map based crofting register, something many see no need to do as they are already registered with the Crofters Commission.

The costs could be as much as £1,000 a crofter when all the different elements - a fee to the Keeper of Registers, paying for a newspaper advert for two weeks, hiring a surveyor to draw up a detailed map, defending your register entry in the Land Court if your declared boundaries are challenged – are included.

In addition, the new Crofting Commission is to be given powers to charge crofters for regulatory applications that have previously been free throughout crofting's history.

The table of possible charges has been set out in the financial memoranda to the new bill.

Some could amount to several thousand pounds.

The `Chuck the Charges' campaign is being spearheaded by Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Peter Peacock, together with all the General Election Labour Candidates in the crofting counties.

In a simultaneous launch across the Highlands and Islands, the Labour politicians joined forces to condemn the SNPs new charging regime, unveiling an e petition for crofters opposed to the charges to sign.

Peter Peacock said: "Crofting has survived for nearly 150 years with no charges and the first SNP government in that time now wants to impose them.

"It is wrong in principle to charge crofters for the `privilege' of being regulated when it is Parliament's down the ages that have required this regulation, which does not affect any other agricultural community.

"Crofting is in a poor economic condition and crofters need financial incentives to stay in crofting, not financial penalties.

"The SNP Government seems determined to impose charges which have never been charged before and that will be damaging to the crofting community.

"This is the latest in a line of attacks on the interests of crofting.

"We urge people to sign up to an e petition we are launching, to show how they feel about the new charges."

He added: "We will fight these charges in Parliament.

"Remember the SNP government abolished the Bull Hire scheme, but after a show of strength by crofters they backed down and dropped the policy.

"If that can be done once, we can try to do it again."

Labour's Ross, Skye and Lochaber prospective candidate John McKendrick said:

"This is an exercise in pointless bureaucracy.

"Crofting has endured for centuries without this level of governmental regulation.

"Crofters don't want it.

"It shows how out of touch the Nationalist administration in Edinburgh is with voters in Ross Skye and Lochaber."

Labour’s Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross prospective candidate John Mackay said:

"Crofting is vital to Caithness, Sutherland and East Ross and we want to send a clear message to the Scottish Government - ‘Chuck the Charges’!

"Crofting economics are not such that crofters can afford to pay out more, and just for extra bureaucracy.

"Crofters shouldn't be burdened with this and should be free to get on with what they do best – working our land and maintaining it for future generations."

Labour’s Inverness Nairn Badenoch and Strathspey prospective candidate Mike Robb said: "The SNP Government is opening the door to charge crofters for services provided by the new Crofting Commission.

"These charges could include not only charging for registration of the croft but for various services that the current Crofters Commission provides for free.

"In the current economic climate the last thing crofters need is these excessive charges for unnecessary bureaucracy. It’s time to back crofters, not charge them.

"Crofters should be free to get on with what they do best – working our land and maintaining it for future generations, not have to worry about where to find money to go about their business. "

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