Strong future for the crofting sector

NFU Scotland’s engagement with the crofting sector continued to expand during 2016, with a strong direction for 2017 thanks to a growing membership. 
As well as launching a new branch in the Western Isles – the first in many decades – the Union also met with senior politicians on a number of occasions to put forward the key priorities for the sector.
In autumn, NFU Scotland surveyed its crofter members to find out their priorities for the sector, helping to shape the Union’s work going into 2017. 
Alongside this, NFU Scotland submitted both verbal and written evidence to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee (RECC) on the need for crofting law reform and will continue to engage with RECC and Scottish Government on this. Scottish Government has recently formed a Crofting Bill team which NFUS will work with. 
NFU Scotland met with Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity to highlight its involvement in crofting, raising a number of issues with him. In addition, NFUS met with Kate Forbes MSP, Vice Convenor of the Cross Party Group on Crofting and Edward Mountain MSP, Convenor of the RECC will attend the next meeting of the Crofting Highlands and Islands Committee in February.
Following the issues raised earlier in the year on the management of common grazings and the role of grazings committees, NFU Scotland called for the Crofting Commission to urgently update its grazings regulations template and issue guidance for grazings committees. Since then the Union has been working closely with the Commission and other stakeholders to develop that guidance with the aim of producing it early in the New Year. 
NFU Scotland is involved in two groups promoting the creation of woodland crofts and the establishment of crofter forestry schemes It has been lobbying Scottish Government to allow woodland crofts to be eligible for Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme (CAGS) support, which they are currently excluded from.  
Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland Vice President, commented: “It’s encouraging to see the crofter member numbers growing this year, which has helped to provide further input into the work of the Union and its priorities.
“Not only is the new branch launch evidence of this, but having met with leading politicians, and consulted members, the Union is on a firm footing going forward and will be placing the importance of crofting at the forefront of the minds of those who matter.
“Within the survey results there is clear work to be done to ensure crofting regulation and policy is appropriate for modern day businesses. Sixty-two per cent of members thought crofting legislation should be reviewed, simplified and modified; 67 per cent thought there is a role for a single organisation dedicated to crofting development with 57 per cent of the opinion that this should be the Crofting Commission.
“Many members engaged in the Crofting Commissions roadshows, which took place in the autumn, and NFU Scotland firmly believes that it is in the best interests of stakeholders that we continue to work with the Commission to develop a crofting system that is productive and fit for purpose in the 21st century. 
“With the Crofting Commission elections coming up in 2017, NFU Scotland would encourage crofters to engage in the process either by putting themselves forward as candidates ahead of the 26 January deadline or voting in the election in March. 
“NFU Scotland have been active members of the Crofting Stakeholder Forum, and we continue to work on our six priorities for active crofting as we head into 2017: simplifying crofting legislation; developing crofting systems; common grazings; new entrants; increasing affordable housing; financial incentives.
“We start the New Year on a strong footing, and will continue to work with stakeholders, and our growing number of crofter members, as we strive for a healthy and vibrant sector for generations to come.” 

Date Published:

News Article No.: 274/16

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