Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has said it is ‘shocking’ that, despite several assurances to the contrary, the Scottish Government has abandoned plans for crofting reform to be introduced in this session of the Parliament.
Rhoda Grant said “The Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing, gave a statement to Parliament last month (10 September) advising that “Members could be assured that his officials continue to work on reform of crofting legislation” and now, just a few weeks later, he advises that work on the Crofting Bill will be suspended ‘for the foreseeable future’.”
The Cabinet Secretary was challenged last month by Labour’s Rural Economy spokesperson, Colin Smyth, who stated that
“Two years ago, the programme for Government stated: “We will … consult on and develop proposals to reform crofting law”.
“A year ago, the programme for Government stated: “We will take forward work on a Crofting Bill and publish a national development plan for crofting”.
“Just six months ago, at the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, the Cabinet Secretary said: “I committed to seeking to introduce a crofting bill in sufficient time for it to be passed before the end of the session. That commitment remains.”— [Official Report, Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, 24 April 2019; c 7.]
Mrs Grant said, “So many times we have heard Fergus Ewing extol the worth of crofting in the cultural heritage of Scotland. He’s also stated that crofting continues to contribute to the sustainability of remote and rural communities and that that is partly as a result of the support and attention that the Scottish Government and its predecessors have provided in the past and are providing now.”
“Even his own SNP colleague, Alasdair Allan, said last month that he was disappointed to hear about the timetabling problems relating to a crofting bill.
“Fergus Ewing was happy to take the praise for the value that crofting contributes to the sustainability of remote and rural areas yet just weeks later, his officials get pulled away to deal with Brexit, leaving these vulnerable communities high and dry, ignoring the needs of crofters.
Mrs Grant concluded “The SNP used their last majority to force through damaging legislation and now won’t take the time needed to sort it. I would think crofters the length and breadth of the Highlands and Islands will be feeling very let down by Mr Ewing and and his SNP colleagues as they turn their backs on the needs of this industry.”