5. Ordering of priorities
Question 10 asked respondents to consider which of the seven issues discussed above should be priorities for the Crofting Bill.
Question 10: Please list in order of ‘highest priority’ first to ‘lowest priority’ last
A total of 77 respondents answered the quantitative ranking question. However, not all respondents used the full range of the 1-7 ranking; 14 respondents did not use the full range. Some simply identified only a smaller number of priorities (perhaps using the first, second and third ranking but not ranking the other issues. Others identified first or second priorities at Question 11 below, and then ranked others using the remainder of the 1-7 scale. Others identified their main priorities at Question 11 but still ranked the other seven priorities at Question 10 on the 1-7 scale.
Given these variations, the figures presented in Table 4 and Chart 1 below should be seen as indicative.
Respondents were most likely to select Absenteeism, Misuse and Neglect or Crofting Commission Regulatory Functions and Processes as being their first priority. These areas were a first priority for 21 and 17 respondents respectively. Respondents were least likely to select Crofting Registration; this was a first priority for only two respondents.
At the other end of the spectrum, Standard Securities emerged as the lowest priority for the largest number of respondents having been chosen by 21 respondents. Assignation and Succession was the lowest priority for only one respondent.
The chart presents the total relative priority given to each of the seven issues.  Very much reflecting the results of the basic frequency (as set out in Table 4), Absenteeism, Misuse and Neglect emerged as the highest priority, followed very closely by Crofting Commission Regulatory Functions. Standard Securities had the lowest relative priority. Overall, however, all priorities received a degree of support.
Table 4: Priorities allocated to various issues
|Issues||1 st||2 nd||3 rd||4 th||5 th||6 th||7 th|
|Absenteeism, Misuse and Neglect||21||15||8||6||2||2||8|
|Assignation and Succession||5||8||16||10||11||8||1|
|Crofting Commission Regulatory Functions and Processes||17||15||8||8||7||3||6|
|Owner occupier Crofts||7||10||5||9||12||12||9|
Chart 1: Totalled relative priorities for Crofting Bill
Question 11a: Are there any other priorities for crofting that have not been considered in this consultation?
A total of 47 respondents made a further comment.
A small number of respondents noted that it was difficult to rank the seven priorities listed, including because they are all issues which need to be addressed (Common Grazings Committee, Crofting or Smallholding Representative Body or Group, Estate, Landowner or Representative Body, Legal, two Individuals).
Some respondents commented on the overall approach as opposed to specific alternative priorities. For example, it was suggested that rather than concentrating on specific topics, the focus should be incorporating the recommendations from previous work into the legislation, including the Shucksmith Report (Local Authority, Crofting or Smallholding Representative Body or Group, two Individuals). Another respondent suggested that the focus should be on developing a strong vision and direction for crofting over the next 20 years (Crofting Business).
Other respondents identified specific areas which they thought should be a priority going forward. These were all non-legislative and included:
- Promoting crofter’s rights (Common Grazings Committee, Individual).
- Policies focusing on securing the future of rural communities (Common Grazings Committee, Local Authority). There was specific reference to the retention of population in the most fragile areas of the Northern and Western Periphery (Local Authority).
- Support mechanisms, and agricultural subsidies in particular (Local Authority, four Individuals). There was specific reference to the possible impact of Brexit (Local Authority).
- Housing-related support (Common Grazings Committee, Community Landowner or Body, Local Authority, Individual).
- Support for new entrants into crofting (Community Landowner or Body, two Crofting Businesses, Individual).
- Policy relating to Woodland Crofting, including encouraging new woodland crofts (Community Landowner or Body, Crofting or Smallholding Representative Body or Group).
Question 11b: Are there any potential unintended consequences of crofting legislation reform?
A total of 34 respondents made a comment about unintended consequences of crofting legislative reform. Two of these respondents thought there would be no unintended consequences (two Individuals). A small number of other respondents felt that unintended consequences are likely or inevitable (Public Agency or Body, two Individuals). However, a Public Agency or Body suggested that they should be more predictable and manageable when associated with a well thought out new legislation than would be the case with the alternative options involving consolidation of the existing very complex and flawed legislation. Similarly, a Local Authority suggested that if the ‘clean slate’ approach is not taken, further anomalies could arise.
Other respondents referred to possible consequences associated with the overall approach taken including that the legislation is welcome as long as the ethos of the crofting system is not compromised (Community Landowner or Body). Other comments included that legislative reforms could result in loss of historical and fundamental crofter’s rights (Common Grazings Committee, two Individuals). Other possible consequences identified included:
- On-going damage to the potential for business development on the land due to regulatory processes (Local Authority).
- A loss of cultural and linguistic diversity, particularly if indigenous Gaelic-speaking people and stable communities are replaced with new, English-speaking, transient communities (two Individuals).
- Having given more responsibility and flexibility to the Crofting Commission, the system may lack feedback mechanisms (Individual).
- Introducing Standard Securities may have the effect of pricing young new entrants out of the market (Individual).
Question 11c: Please tell us any other thoughts you have about the proposed Crofting Legislation reform not covered in your earlier answers.
A total of 27 respondents gave other thoughts about the proposed Crofting Legislation. Comments were diverse but frequently covered points made at earlier questions. Additional points sometimes identified areas which respondents felt should have been addressed in the consultation paper. These included:
- Apportionments. It was suggested that crofters have the right to apply for an apportionment of a part of the common grazings for a specific purpose and a discussion of the opportunities should be included in the consultation (Individual).
- Section 10 of Schedule 2 of the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 (The crofter shall not do any act whereby he becomes apparently insolvent within the meaning of the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985), has not kept pace with the changing circumstances whereby the Account in Bankruptcy may discharge the bankruptcy in 6 months to a year. This needs to be reconsidered (Individual).
Other comments addressed the potential of crofting communities, with issues raised including:
- The potential crofting communities have to contribute to the provision of affordable rural housing, whilst making sure that locally important, good quality land or land of high natural conservation/biodiversity value is protected if alternative sites are available (Local Authority).
- The potential of crofting to help transform Highland and Island communities, including through the development of tourism and by neighbouring crofters working together to achieve economies of scale (Estate, Landowner or Representative Body).
- Two Individual respondents commented on the role of HIE. One suggested the transfer of the development function to HIE has not been a success and that these responsibilities should be returned to the Crofting Commission (Individual). The other respondent raised concerns about relying on bodies such as HIE to address the socio-economic challenges crofting communities face. (Individual).
Finally, a Local Authority respondent commented that it will be important to ensure that Crofting legislation works in harmony with other parts of the Government’s legislative programme, such as Land Reform, Community Empowerment and Localism. They also noted that that crofting systems vary across the Crofting Counties and, unless regulations are able to vary with location, there is a risk of enacting ‘lowest common denominator’ legislation.
Question 11d: If you have any comments on non-legislative, wider aspects of crofting please provide them.
A total of 44 respondents made an additional comment either at Question 11d or otherwise outwith the main consultation questions. Some of these further comments were substantial. The main themes are presented within the analysis below. Further detail can be found within the responses published on the Scottish Government’s website. All responses have been reviewed by the Scottish Government’s Crofting Policy Team.
A small number of organisational respondents made extensive statements covering the current position of crofting and their priorities or vision for the future (Community Landowner or Body, Local Authority). Amongst the topics covered were the modern-day function of crofting (Community Landowner or Body) and the role crofting can play in economic and social development (Community Landowner or Body, Estate, Landowner or Representative Body, two Public Agencies or Bodies).
Other comments focused on how any legislative reform should be taken forward. They included that:
- There is a range of existing work or evidence which should be drawn on to inform any legislative reforms. Reference was made to the Final Report of the Committee of Enquiry on Crofting and the Crofting Sump Law (Crofting or Smallholding Representative Body or Group, Estate, Landowner or Representative Body, Local Authority).
- It will be important to ensure that those with specialist knowledge of crofting and crofting law are involved in taking any reforms forward (Crofting or Smallholding Representative Body or Group).
- Crofting Law is ‘first and foremost’ about protecting the rights of crofters and care must be taken to ensure that single-issue pressure groups do not have undue influence (Common Grazings Committee).