Page last updated at 09:39 GMT, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 10:39 UK

Rule on new croft homes dropped

House building
The requirement on the occupany of new builds was a feature of the bill

A requirement that new houses built on former croft land be used as main residences has been dropped from the draft Crofting Reform Bill.

The Scottish government said the decision was taken because of the weight of opposition from crofters.

However, it said action was needed to keep land affordable to those who wanted to take up crofting.

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said to do nothing "was not an option".

The decision to remove the requirement from the draft bill was revealed during Ms Cunningham's address to the Scottish Crofting Foundation, which was meeting in Grantown-on-Spey.

The majority of respondents did not think this was the best way forward
Roseanna Cunningham
Environment Minister

She said government and crofting communities wanted to tackle neglect of crofts and speculation on land making it too expensive for people wanting to take up crofting.

Absenteeism has been a long-running issue.

In 2002, almost 200 absentee crofters lost their tenancy of croft land in the Highlands and Islands.

Regulator the Crofters Commission tracked down the absentees, some as far afield as Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

At the time hundreds of people were on a waiting list, hoping to be given a croft so they could live their lives from the land.

The commission has powers to investigate absenteeism if a crofter lives away from his or her croft and is not playing an active role in the community.

There are 17,923 crofts entered on the Crofters Commission's register of crofts.

About 14,200 are tenanted and the remainder are owned.

Ms Cunningham said: "In our draft crofting bill we consulted on an occupancy requirement for houses built on land taken out of crofting.

"The majority of respondents did not think this was the best way forward. We listened to those views and have decided not to include this measure in the bill.

"But doing nothing is not an option if we want crofting to survive and thrive. Alternatives will have to be found, which is why it is vital to have constructive debate on this issue."

Ms Cunningham also confirmed there were no plans to end the Crofting Counties Agricultural Grants Scheme and the Croft House Grants Scheme, which were thought to be under threat.



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