17 November 2008
Crofting Assessors Given Backing in Face of Threat to Their Role
The unique network of Crofting Assessors who serve the crofting counties have been given strong backing by Labour MSPs Rhoda Grant and Peter Peacock.
The endorsement of the Assessors role comes on the eve of the Highlands and Islands Assessors Conference taking place in Inverness (tomorrow Tuesday).
The law provides the Crofters Commission with powers to appoint a panel of Assessors to assist them in their work.
A re-invigorated and more democratically selected panel of Assessors had been established following discussions between the Crofters Commission and the Crofting Foundation and after a period when the panel of Assessors fell into abeyance.
The Commission and the Foundation are in further discussions to build even more strength into the Assessors' network.
Assessors were recently found to be very popular representatives for crofting in a survey conducted by the Highlands and Islands Labour MSPs, with 85% of those surveyed indicating their support for the work of Assessors.
Assessors have important roles in disseminating information, in feeding back issues and insights to the Crofters Commission and Commissioners, they are an important source of information on local issues, concerns and priorities, they can suggest new policy ideas for development and can give feedback on how existing policy is working.
The Labour MSPs are concerned that within reforms proposed for crofting the Assessors will be sidelined.
They have written to the Crofting Foundation and NFUS setting out their concerns and giving backing to the role crofting Assessors perform.
Commenting on the work of the Assessors, Rhoda Grant MSP, Labour Highlands and Islands MSP and spokesperson on rural affairs said:
"The crofting Assessors have played a very important role in the history of crofting.
"They are a source of expertise in crofting and have strong roots into all the crofting communities, so can act as a source of advice to the Commission and can give insights into local issues and priorities.
"I want to see their role strengthened and not in any way threatened by the Scottish Government reforms."
Peter Peacock MSP who sought answers from the Minister on the future of Assessors said:
"When I asked specific questions of the Minister in Parliament he singularly failed to give the assurances sought that the Assessors role was not at risk.
"I have a number of concerns about the direction the government are taking on the future of crofting and among those concerns is any potential threat to the valuable work of Assessors.
Rhoda Grant continued:
"We want to get the views of the Crofting Foundation and NFUS and to work together with them to help ensure a strong role for Assessors in future."
The MSPs have copied their letter to the Assessors and have wished their conference well when it meets in Inverness this week.
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