Page last updated at 12:23 GMT, Thursday, 13 May 2010 13:23 UK

Crofting Reform bill debate

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham asked MSPs to back the general principles of the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Bill , on 13 May 2010.

Ms Cunningham said the legislation would address the problems of the neglect of crofts and absenteeism together.

Her amended motion was passed by MSPs at decision time.

She said the bill would also create a Crofting Commission and a Crofting Register which would improve the regulation of crofting and maintain strong communities in some of Scotland's most fragile and remote lands.

Crofting is a form of regulated land tenure, unique to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, which is subject to the Crofting Acts.

Within crofting townships, individual crofts are established on the better land, and a large area of poor quality hill ground is shared by all the crofters of the township for grazing

There are almost 18,000 crofts in Scotland, home to 33,000 people.

Labour's rural affairs and environment spokeswoman Sarah Boyack welcomed aspects of the bill, but highlighted the lack of consensus on major parts of the legislation.

Ms Boyack said the new register would impose financial burdens on crofters which they could ill afford and it could be divisive and bureaucratic.

She moved an amendment, which said the new Crofting Commission would receive no additional funding and calling for the government to bring forward a series of amendments to address the concerns many people had about the bill.

The amendment was defeated at decision time.

Conservative rural affairs and environment spokesman John Scott said "crofting is an island surrounded by a sea of legislation".

Mr Scott told the chamber although there were misgivings about the bill, he hoped the government would address them with amendments at the next stage of the legislation's scrutiny.

John Farquhar Munro, the Liberal Democrat MSP for Ross, Skye and Inverness, who worked for nearly 30 years as a crofter, said their was no need for new legislation.

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