Crofting "Bureaucratic Nightmare" In The Making

9 June 2010

A `bureaucratic nightmare' is heading the way of crofters following the SNP and Tory members of the Rural Affairs Committee forcing through Parliament a new and extra crofting register.

Opposition to the move for this second register of crofts was led by Labour Highlands and Islands MSP, Peter Peacock and was only approved after the Convener of the Committee (Maureen Watt SNP) used her casting vote on 18 occasions to force the measures through.

Opposition to the register had intensified following the Scottish government tabling over 37 pages of highly complex additional new rules governing the new register, on top of the 17 pages of rules in the existing Bill.

The Bill as it now stands will have some 50 pages of detailed rules crofters will have to abide by to register their croft legally.

Peter Peacock said,

"I believe this proposal is little short of daft.

"To require to have a second register of crofts, to be kept by the Keeper of Registers in Edinburgh, at a cost of well over 1 million, as well as the existing register to be updated and kept by the Crofters Commission, cannot make a lot of sense.

"The fact that requirements for this new register run to some 50 pages of highly complex regulation and that crofters will have to pay to register their croft, is a costly bureaucratic nightmare in the making.

"There was a much more commonsense approach to all of this, but the Scottish government were determined to force this new register onto the statute book.

"The new register looks to me like a step toward a free market in crofts, the very thing the Bill was supposed to be about impeding."

However, a number of important concessions were won.

In particular Peter Peacock won a concession to stop a proposal which leading Crofting lawyer, Simon Fraser, had told the Committee might end community purchases of land.

Citing the evidence from Simon Fraser, Peter Peacock, the Minister conceded that this part of the Bill should be dropped.

The proposal would have forced any community estate to register all the crofts on the estate at the time of purchase, costing many thousands of pounds and delaying the sale to the point of making it near impossible.

He said,

"Anything that would impede future community purchases would be a very bad thing, so it was important to force the government to drop this particular proposal."

The Scottish government have also been forced to delay the introduction of the new register by a year, in an effort to get their proposal more readily accepted.


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