Good news on jobs in the crofting sector in the Western Isles has exposed divisions between island communities.
Orkney and Shetland’s Liberal Democrat MSPs have criticised the Crofting Commission’s ‘one size fits all’ approach to supporting crofting communities.
On Wednesday Rural Economy secretary Fergus Ewing MSP announced that the Scottish Government were to invest £325,000 in expanding the work of the Crofting Commission in the Western Isles.
The investment includes four new jobs in Stornoway and Benbecula and was welcomed by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and isles MSP Alasdair Allan, among others, as we reported on Wednesday (https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto-3/17432-4-jobs-for-isles-from-commission) .
Scottish Crofting Federation vice-chair Donald MacKinnon described the investment as ‘a crucial and timely initiative’ and said: “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.”
Orkney and Shetland MSPs responded to the news by saying that more emphasis is needed on ensuring crofting legislation is fit for purpose for all island communities.
Orkney MSP Liam MacArthur said: “As Scottish Ministers agree to plough £325k into creating crofting posts in the Western Isles, they cannot continue to ignore the need for reform in the way crofting regulation applies across the crofting counties.
“A one-size-fits-all approach is manifestly failing to take account of the significant differences in the circumstances facing crofters in Orkney compared to those in the Western Isles and other parts of the Highlands.”
And Shetland’s Beatrice Wishart MSP said: “The current framework for crofters can work against them. A one-size-fits-all approach is short sighted – local realities are obviously very different in Shetland compared to the mainland.
“This announcement appears to recognise that, but the Scottish Government now need to follow that logic through and commit to wholehearted reform.”
Picture: Crofting in Orkney can be very different to the situation in the Western Isles (Scottish Organic Producers Association).