A bid by two SNP councillors to stop Comhairle nan Eilean Siar taking croft tenancies into account when assessing people for residential care failed when it came before the Sustainable Development committee this week.
Cllr Gordon Murray had requested a notice of motion with Cllr John A Maciver so the issue could be debated when the report was presented at a later committee. Cllrs Murray and Rae Mackenzie put forward the amendment to have a report on crofting and care charges but the committee rejected the amendment.
After the meeting, Cllr Murray said that although the committee had rejected it, they had another chance to get what he called a very important issue on the agenda.
“This will be coming up at full council on Wednesday 28 September. We would urge members of the public, who believe the practice of taking croft tenancies of families to pay for care should be stopped, contact their councillor and support us in at least having the debate and getting a report to a future meeting."
The SNP group says it is merely standing by its manifesto pledge to work to end the practice of taking croft tenancies into consideration to pay for residential care charges. They say it is in the power of the local authority to consider croft tenancies and whether or not to include them in financial assessments.
Cllr Murray added: “Argyll and Bute tend to disregard croft tenancies and I strongly believe that, as the local authority with the most amount of crofts, we should disregard these croft tenancies in financial assessments.”
The group says it believes crofting is hugely important and should be supported and safeguarded and that the way the council is treating croft tenancies in this way puts the future of crofting in the islands in a precarious situation. They say crofting is key to building resilience with today's economic challenges and efforts should be made to make it more financially viable for new entrants as well as those involved at the moment.
Cllr Murray concluded: “We also want to see a Local Food Strategy and the Comhairle working with all stakeholders and food producers to increase resilience through local food production. Crofting plays a major part in this. This is vitally important as we see prices rising especially food and energy - both could be produced on the islands and supplied locally. As the Comhairle's motto says - God's providence is our inheritance.”
Patrick Krause, the chief executive of the Scottish Crofting Federation, declined to comment saying it was an internal matter for the comhairle whether they were going to address it or not.
It has been previously suggested that croft tenancies mean the croft isn't the property of the tenant. While that is the case, croft tenancies have a value that a tenant can sell on and that is what makes it different from other types of tenancies.
While the comhairle itself also declined to comment until the matter has been before council, chief executive Malcolm Burr outlined the position at that time in January last year when he addressed the Cross-Party Committee on Crofting.
Mr Burr explained that the comhairle took legal advice, most latterly in 2020, and it remained that crofts should be taken into consideration when assessing capital assets. The comhairle, he said then, would be looking into the application of policy, in consultation with the Crofting Commission and other local authorities in crofting areas, and it would see where it goes with crofting law reform.