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Four new jobs are being created in the Western Isles as the Crofting Commission expands its work on the Islands.

Additional funding of £325,000 is being provided to the Crofting Commission by the Scottish Government to enable the creation of the new jobs and extend its crofting development activities.

The decision to site these new roles in the Western Isles followed suggestions raised at a meeting with crofters in Barvas last November and reflects that this area of Scotland has the highest concentration of crofts.

Two of the jobs will be based in the Stornoway Rural Payments and Inspections Department office and the other two in the Benbecula office.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “This announcement is very welcome indeed.  The provision of four new jobs is good news for both crofting and the wider local economy of the islands.

“I’m pleased that the suggestions made by myself and others to decentralise some of the public sector jobs to the areas they are most relevant to have been heard and acted upon.

“Perhaps more important than the jobs themselves, however, is the increased support for the further development of crofting in the islands.

“I hope these changes will benefit both to the crofting community and the wider local economy.”

Crofting Commission Convener Rod Mackenzie said:  “This is an important day for crofting and its future and we thank Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, for his recognition of the importance of crofting by giving the Crofting Commission this funding boost. This is extremely timely and will help us to further support and develop crofting, which in turn will enhance and assist our role as its regulator. This Board have always placed a high priority on ensuring that the precious asset of well-managed, well maintained and occupied crofts are supported especially in remote areas where the economy and the population levels are fragile.”

“The long-standing values of crofting, such as effective land use, community and sustainability have been brought into sharp focus these past 4 months.”

“Crofting has shaped the land use, demographics and culture of the Highlands and Islands since 1886 and still has a huge contribution to make in shaping the future of the Highlands and Islands for years to come.”

“On behalf of my Board of commissioners, I am delighted that this funding will allow us to establish four permanent posts in the Western Isles.  These posts will be an integral part of the Crofting Commission together with their colleagues in Inverness, but their presence in the islands will enable us to develop new and better ways of working with these communities. In the future, the Commission aspire to see this template of working extended to other crofting areas, when resources permit.”

The Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) has welcomed the announcement of the four new crofting development posts will be created for the Crofting Commission in the Western Isles as “a crucial and timely initiative”.

“This is very welcome news“, said Donald MacKinnon, vice-chair of SCF and a Lewis-based crofter. “We have been arguing for the crofting development role of the Crofting Commission to be expanded and it is gratifying to see that Scottish Government has taken this on board and is supplying additional funding for the creation of four outreach posts.”

Mr MacKinnon went on to say, “Covid-19 has of course had an impact on crofting; markets and transport have been severely disrupted. Crofters are resilient but this period has been extremely challenging. With this government-funded help we hope to see crofting not only recover but to emerge with new strengths – it is time to do things differently. Crofting provides the foundation for families to survive and thrive here, and with the focus on climate change and the need to use land and grow food in a more environmentally friendly way, crofting is a leading model.

“This is a crucial and timely initiative,” concluded Mr MacKinnon. “There are huge opportunities for crofting to develop new markets and enterprises and to provide the basis for population growth. It makes sense to have the Commission staff located where most crofts are, the Western Isles, but in time we would want to see this model emulated in other crofting areas too.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar also welcomed the Crofting Commission’s decision.  Chair of the Joint Consultative Committee on Crofting, Councillor Donald Crichton said,“This is great news for the Western Isles and something that we have been proposing for some time. Crofting is a vital part of our local economy and it is pleasing to see the Crofting Commission recognise this by funding four new jobs in the Western Isles. These jobs will help to ensure Crofting remains an integral part of island life by allowing for more support and development in the industry.”

"The Comhairle is pleased to see action being taken to reflect the fact that the Western Isles has the highest concentration of crofts in the country and hopes to see other public agencies decentralize jobs to the islands."

(This article has been amended since first publication to include the reaction of the SCF and CnES)