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Croft house grants increase

Published: 1 Feb 2016 14:23

Improved assistance rates for homes.

The level of grant support available to help crofters build and improve their homes is to be significantly increased, Environment Minister Aileen McLeod announced today.

From April 1 this year, crofters will be able to apply for up to £28,000 under the new Croft House Grant Scheme – and up to £38,000 if they live in island and specified mainland communities.

After considering all the feedback and evidence, the three previous funding rates will be replaced with a new standard level of grant and a higher level for the islands and some mainland areas. These new rates are significantly higher and mean some crofters will be eligible for more than double the funding available under the old scheme.

The changes have been made following extensive consultation with the public and crofting representatives.

Dr McLeod said:

"Good quality housing is essential to help attract and retain people in Scotland's most remote and rural communities, and to help crofters fulfil their duty of living on or close to their croft.

"The Scottish Government's Croft House Grant Scheme has invested £14 million to build or improve almost 700 homes since 2007 and the changes I am announcing today will help ensure this support is fit for purpose in the years to come.

"I am pleased to confirm that - despite on-going cuts to our Budget as a result the UK Government's continuing austerity programme - we are committed to continuing to provide funding for croft houses.

"Clearly, we need to balance the number of grants with the level of funding available which is why each application will be assessed on its merits with support targeted at those most in need. I also intend to review whether the grant levels and geographical areas remain appropriate three years after the scheme comes into operation.

"Our review also revealed an appetite for the return of a loan scheme to help crofters build or improve their homes. This wasn't among our original consultation proposals and so my officials are investigating the feasibility of introducing such a scheme as a separate piece of work."

Crofting Commission Chief Executive Catriona Maclean said: "The CHGS provides important financial assistance to attract and retain people in our crofting communities and also in helping crofters to fulfil their duty of living on or close to their croft. The Commission welcomes the revision in payment rates and the flexibility of the scheme to include home improvements and non-croft land. This will ensure that the grant helps crofters in genuine housing need."

NFU Scotland's Crofting Highlands and Islands Committee chairman Sandy Murray, a crofter from Sutherland, said: "For the well-being of some of our more remote, rural and island communities, it is in all our interests to see a vibrant crofting sector that is fit for purpose in the 21st century. These positive changes to the Croft House Grant Arrangements are an important part of that process.

"We are encouraged by the changes being brought in, reflecting many of the requests that NFUS made in its submission, including improved rates in some remote mainland areas; the creation of development plans; the need for crofts to be active and some targeting of funds. With recognition that budgets may be under pressure, it is also welcome that the success of the scheme will be reviewed after three years."

Scottish Crofting Federation chief executive, Patrick Krause, said: "This is a very welcome outcome from the review of the Croft House Grant Scheme. We have been campaigning for a review and for an up-dating of the scheme for many years. The Scottish Government has conducted this consultation exercise in a very participatory and inclusive manner and has clearly listened to what we have said. Those involved are to be commended for this.

"The next part of this process is to review, and we hope, reinstate, the loan element of the scheme. We appreciate that this is not straightforward but have high expectations given the process so far."

Notes to editors

Changes to the Croft House Grant Scheme announced by the Environment Minister today include:

  • There will be two rates of grant assistance and some mainland communities, in addition to islands, will be eligible for the higher rate. Details of the eligible mainland communities can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/farmingrural/Rural/crofting-policy/fragileareasmap;
  • Two new grant rates for the arrangement should initially be set at £28,000 (standard rate) and £38,000 (higher rate) for new house builds;
  • Each application should be individually assessed to determine if it is fit for purpose, rather than cap the cost of a house build;
  • Applicants will be eligible to claim up to 40 per cent of the total improvement costs, to the maximum of £28,000 or £38,000, dependent on the geographical area; and
  • The introduction of a selection mechanism for the arrangements to ensure that support is targeted at those most in need.

More information on how to apply, including guidance for applicants and the application form, will be available on the Scottish Government's Rural Payments website in due course: (https://www.ruralpayments.org/publicsite/futures/topics/all-schemes/).

The Croft House Grant Scheme has been operating since 2006 and, following requests from stakeholders, the Scottish Government carried out a consultation on potential changes to the scheme between 6 January and 31 March 2015. An analysis of responses to the consultation is available on the Scottish Government's website: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/08/1727/0

As a result of feedback received during the consultation, the Scottish Government refined its proposed changes and sought further views from key industry stakeholders including the Scottish Crofting Federation, NFU Scotland and the Crofting Commission, in November 2015.