Page last updated at 17:39 GMT, Thursday, 13 May 2010 18:39 UK

Holyrood backs croft reform plans

From Democracy Live: Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham defends the Crofters Reform Bill

MSPs at Holyrood have overwhelmingly backed the general principles of the Crofting Reform Bill.

After a debate in the Scottish Parliament, the government's bill was backed by 64 members, with 55 abstentions.

The legislation aims to address absenteeism and the neglect of croft land.

There are currently just under 18,000 crofts in Scotland, with about 33,000 people living in crofting households.

The bill will now return to the rural affairs committee - which backed it in a stage 1 report last week - for further in-depth scrutiny before returning for a final vote in the Holyrood chamber.

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said the legislation was the right framework to allow crofting to prosper.

She said: "This is a defining moment for crofting. Today the Scottish Parliament had to choose between propping up a failing system or having the courage to take action and put in place a vision for the future of crofting to deliver growth and stronger communities.

"Delivering sustainable economic growth and strong communities depends on land being kept in crofting tenure and on crofts being made available to people who are willing to make a permanent contribution to these communities by living there and working the land.

"In supporting the principles of this bill, the parliament has indicated it will deliver the legislative framework needed to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to follow this traditional way of life."

Best intentions

SNP backbencher Maureen Watt, who led a committee inquiry into crofting, earlier called for parliamentary support for the principle of the bill.

She said: "If crofting means anything, it means a critical mass of people actually living year-round on the land in sustainable communities.

"Only then will schools, shops, lifeline services, farming co-operatives and local businesses have a reason to be there."

Conservative MSP John Scott, an Ayrshire farmer, said the investigation into crofting ahead of the bill had been "no easy task".

He said even if decisions on the bill were made with the best intentions they would be seen as the wrong actions by some.

Liberal Democrat MSP John Farquhar Munro, himself a former crofter, said the bill was unnecessary and branded its £1m cost a "waste of money".

The legislation is based on proposals put forward in a commission headed by Prof Mark Shucksmith two years ago, the MSP said, and drafted by officials in Edinburgh.

Mr Farquhar Munro said: "I think it has been guided or attempted to be guided through the parliament by people who have little understanding of agriculture.

"They might have a little understanding of agriculture but none whatsoever of crofting and its traditions."

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Press and Journal First success for Crofting Reform Bill - 4 hrs ago
Journal of the Law Society of Scotland Backing for Crofting Bill despite reservations - 4 hrs ago
Egov Monitor Scottish Government: Brighter Future Ahead For Crofting - 12 hrs ago
Scottish Executive Brighter future ahead for crofting - 25 hrs ago
Telegraph Crofting overhaul a 'waste of - 27 hrs ago

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