Crofting support is lacking, says federation

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Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) has welcomed the research, Support for Crofting, released by the Crofting Commission, which highlights that crofting support is lacking and needs to be redesigned.

Russell Smith, chairman of the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) said that the ‘impartial and well-presented’  report ‘clearly shows that existing support mechanisms do not work as well as they could for crofting’.

The Crofting Commission employed Gwyn Jones to carry out the research. Mr Jones is a director of the European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism and the author of several studies relating to crofting, common grazings and UK and Irish support and development mechanisms. His remit was to examine the support payments currently available to crofters, the sustainability of the crofting system and to identify alternative support systems.

Mr Smith continued: ‘Mr Jones examined what works and what does not, and goes on to make recommendations on how support can be improved. This is very timely with the interim phase to agricultural and rural development support being explored in the Scottish Government consultation Stability and Simplicity, and with the on-going discussions being held on what the Scottish rural support system will look like post-Brexit.’

Mr Smith said the SCF was pleased the Crofting Commission commissioned the research, saying  it demonstrates a ‘proactive commission’ that is willing to go beyond just regulation.

‘The report demonstrates what we have said for a long time, that adding crofting to a support mechanism designed for farms doesn’t work well; crofts are different and have unique challenges as well as offering exceptional public goods.

‘Mr Jones favours adapting the support system to work better for crofting, rather than developing a croft-only scheme. We can go with that, the object being to deliver croft-friendly outcomes.’

Mr Jones’ report recommends schemes specifically catering for small-scale, less-intensive crofts and crofting common grazings, and recommends the design of systems that encourage small steps of improvement, activity on an appropriate scale, accessible training, a scheme to encourage the passing on of crofts to new entrants and adapting capital grant schemes such as CAGS to include woodland crofts.

‘The report contains a wealth of information and a range of recommendations SCF will be promoting,’ concluded Mr Smith. ‘This is going to be seen as a benchmark piece of work and I would recommend everyone who has an interest in crofting to read it and use it to inform Scottish Government.’