Answers to Rhoda’s Parliamentary questions on Crofting

10 July 2016

Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government when it plans to explore mechanisms to make more publicly owned land available to new entrants into farming and crofting.

Fergus Ewing: In line with our manifesto commitment, work is already underway to examine the potential to allow more starter opportunities for farmers and crofters on publicly owned land.

Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government when it plans to introduce a new entrants' scheme for crofters.

Fergus Ewing: Currently there is a wide range of support and schemes available to new entrants to farming and crofting.

As shown below:

Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) Support: The SRDP 2014 to 2020 made available £8 million of support to help new entrants start-up. £6 million to young farmers / crofters (no more than 40 years old as governed by European Commission regulation) and £2 million aimed at new entrants of smaller units and where no age restriction applies. The schemes were both launched on 1 January 2015 and the first round of applications were recently assessed.

Young Farmer (including crofters) Start-Up Grant – Around 90 successful applicants – each will receive the sterling equivalent of €70,000 (claimed in two instalments) subject to satisfactory achievement of milestones laid out in their business plan. Total cost just over £5 million.

New Entrant Start-Up Grant – 14 successful applicants – each will receive the sterling equivalent of €15,000 (claimed in two instalments) subject to satisfactory achievement of milestones laid out in their business plan. Total cost approximately £168,000.

Applications to the second window closed on 30 April 2016 and these will be assessed in the coming months. Separate capital support of up to £25,000 to assist business development projects is available to all new entrants who started their business in the five years preceding their application.

Starter Units: Forest Commission Scotland (FCS) has nine tenanted starter farmers. All are on a 10 year lease. One further site is being progressed in Aberdeenshire.

In addition to the FCS programme, in mid-2014, tenants took entry of Scottish Government’s starter farm on land at Balrobert near Inverness. Separately, a new group has been examining ways of increasing the number of starter opportunities on publicly owned land and aims to around report imminently. Advice and Mentoring: In September 2016, a new Farm Advisory Service (under the SRDP) will include dedicated provision for new entrants, including a mentoring service.

Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government when it will publish the national development plan for crofting.

Fergus Ewing: The Scottish Government is currently working on a national development plan for crofting and will publish it in due course.

Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government when it will reintroduce the croft house loan scheme.

Fergus Ewing: A number of options are currently being explored in relation to providing additional support for croft housing beyond the current croft housing grant scheme.

Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government what progress it is making on modernising crofting law.

Fergus Ewing: Crofters have long been concerned at overly complicated and outdated legislation. The Scottish Government intends to modernise crofting law and make it more transparent, understandable and workable in practice, and will do so in the lifetime of this Parliament. The decision in relation to the timing of a future Crofting Bill will be made in due course, taking into account discussions with stakeholders which are already underway and the other legislative priorities of the Scottish Government.

Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government how it plans to ensure that new community landowners are not financially disadvantaged by registering as the new landlord of crofts on their community-owned estate.

Fergus Ewing: The Scottish Government is developing a delivery plan for all crofting manifesto commitments. We will work with crofting stakeholders on this matter, including the Crofting Commission, Registers of Scotland and community landowners.