6. Final reflections
The Scottish Government is committed to reviewing the modernisation of crofting law within this Parliamentary session. This consultation sought views on the type of new legislation that may be required and priorities for crofting.
As highlighted throughout this report, the comments submitted by the 122 respondents to this consultation were diverse, making it challenging to identify any clear themes. This is perhaps typified by responses to whether or not respondents agreed with Scottish Government crofting policy, where views were almost evenly divided. In this instance, closer analysis showed that most of the responses focused on specific aspects of wording of the policy, rather than calling for a fundamental change.
There were also parts of the consultation where the views expressed by respondents were, at times, in opposition to each other. For example, the issue of Absenteeism, Misuse and Neglect was one where increased sanctions and enforcement were desired by some respondents, whilst others argued for flexibility and support. Tightly defined duties and vigorously applied sanctions for breaches are not likely to be compatible with a flexible approach.
In terms of best approach for any future legislation, by some margin the strongest support was for Option 4, a Bill setting out ‘new’ crofting law. However, this was favoured by less than half of the overall total number of respondents, with a significant proportion (almost a quarter) favouring Option 2, a Bill amending existing legislation/pre-consolidation Bill.
Other than there being a reasonable body of opinion behind Option 4, a Bill setting out new crofting law, there was little else to emerge in terms of clear consensus that points to any individual option being the favoured approach. For example, although a degree of priority was placed on Absenteeism, Misuse and Neglect and Crofting Commission Regulatory Functions, other legislative priorities also received support. Overall, the differences across the legislative priorities were not significant, making it harder to identify the way forward with any clarity.
This range of opinion was reflected in the comments on each of the specific priorities where suggestions for changes were sometimes pulling in opposite directions. For example, some respondents favoured a stronger role locally for Grazings Committees, whilst others thought they should be abolished. In other parts of the consultation respondents focused their attention more on policy or administrative changes, for example in relation to the functions and processes of the Crofting Commission. Whilst undoubtedly useful, these do not give any clear steer for future legislation.
The consultation paper noted that the views submitted to this public consultation exercise would be used to help shape any new Crofting Bill to be brought before Scottish Parliament. Overall, as illustrated above, there was little in way of clear consensus to suggest what should be contained within any Bill, albeit the largest proportion of respondents did think that Bill should be setting out new crofting legislation.