Those of us with an interest or involvement in crofts will be aware of the many issues with which Crofting Law is currently beset. Back in August 2017 the Scottish Government embarked on public consultation intended to provide them with an indication of the changes that are wanted “to make crofting fit for the 21st century”. The consultation ended on 20 November 2017 and the analysis of the responses was published on 21 March 2018.
The consultation proposed various options available for legislative reform, from consolidation of the existing legislation – which would remove the requirement to consider how different pieces of legislation interact but which would not enable substantive changes to the law, leaving existing issues unresolved – to a completely new, ‘clean sheet’ approach which had potential to allow innovative solutions to be found to existing problems and to modernise the law to suit crofting today.
The analysis of the responses has not resulted in a consensus as to the reform required, leading Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, to comment that “the diversity of the responses only highlighted the scale of the challenge ahead”.
Whilst the majority of respondents favoured the ‘clean sheet’ approach, there were obvious concerns regarding its deliverability given the time it would take to reach consensus over what the new legislation should achieve. Mr Ewing has therefore proposed a two-phase approach to reform with the first stage focusing on delivering a Bill this Parliamentary session to deliver “changes which carry widespread support…and result in practical and everyday improvements to the lives of crofters”. He has described the second phase as “longer term work” aimed at “fundamentally reviewing crofting legislation to provide a solution to some of the more complex and challenging issues facing crofting” and which “will be for a future parliament to deliver”.
Whilst I wait with bated breath to see what that second phase will deliver, as a solicitor dealing with crofting law, I very much look forward to the resolution now of various issues impacting crofting through delivery of phase one.