Crofting is a way of life that is unique to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland with 17,785 crofts spread across seven counties. Crofting is a system by which tenants rent their land, which may include a house, at reasonable rates with no limit to the tenancy so it can often be handed down through the generations.
A crofting life-style may appear to embody the aspirations of certain groups in society who want to avoid the stresses of urban life. However the crofting community has felt increasingly under threat from many sources, including dormant second homes and the commercialisation of tenanted land, which is felt to be encroaching on their age-old way of life.
The main objectives of the Scottish Executive in introducing the crofting reform are to: -
- Make crofting communities more sustainable
- Increase local involvement and accountability in the administration of crofting
- Simplify existing crofting legislation and administration
- Increase the number of active crofters
- Widen the range of activities that can be undertaken by crofters.
However, within The Scottish Parliament's Environment and Rural Development Committee meetings crofting groups have expressed strong reservations about the Bill particularly when it comes to changes to the Crofters Commission. The Bill has also been criticised as some feel the proposals have impact beyond the crofting community and could affect the development of renewable energy in crofting areas.
In an unusual move the Scottish Executive added an amendment at the end of the Stage 1 consideration of the Bill, triggering a further call for evidence and an extension of the consideration timetable until 29 September 2006.