The Shucksmith Report

The Final Report of the Committee of Inquiry on Crofting (commonly referred to as the ‘Shucksmith Report’ after the Committee Chairman, Professor Mark Shucksmith) was issued on 12 May 2008.

The Scottish Government issued their response on 1 October 2008 and a draft Bill is expected in 2009.

Inksters will be following the production of the draft Bill with great interest and, if appropriate, submitting comments thereon to the Scottish Government.

The Shucksmith Report looks forward to a sustainable future for crofting and crofting communities.  It therefore looks to future generations, beyond the interests of individual crofters today, and to the prosperity of crofting communities in the 21st Century.

The report contrasts the position today with that 54 years ago when the Taylor Committee found few “reserves of knowledge, experience and leadership” amongst crofters and believed that “initiative must come from without”.  The Committee of Inquiry points out the “stark contrast” today with many crofting communities having shown their ability and resolve to take charge of their own destinies, whether through community buy-outs or other initiatives.  The Committee of Inquiry considers that crofting communities have the potential to be more sustainable if they enjoy control, responsibility and ownership.

The Committee’s vision is of growing, prosperous, inclusive and sustainable crofting communities which enjoy the capacity and the power to develop their own strategic plans and to pursue these with vigour subject to legitimate national interests.  This vision also sees more crofting and more, active, resident crofters.  The crofting communities of the future will continue to work the land and be rewarded for their contribution.  Crofting regulation will be simple and comprehensible.  Government and others will support and enable innovation, enterprise, inclusion and the institutional capacity for community action to ensure crofting can make its full contribution to society’s goals.  But ultimately it will be for crofters themselves to have both the privilege of crofting and the responsibility for the future of crofting.

The findings of the Committee can be summarised as follows:-

Land and Environment

  • Use should be made of potential flexibilities in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Health Check Exercise.
  • There should be a review of existing rates under the LFASS.
  • In the review of the Less Favoured Areas, there should be an examination of the possibilities for linking payment rates directly to the provision of public goods.
  • The elimination of constraints in the current arrangements which militate against newcomers.
  • Building further on the clear progress of the new SRDP.
  • The Crofting Counties Agricultural Grant Scheme (CCAGS) should be retained and consideration given to extending the provisions.

Strong Rural Economies

  • Focusing development investment on building the potential of communities to encourage them to develop their own capacities.
  • Greater integration between the “strengthening communities” and “business support” aspects of HIE’s and local authorities’ work – with greater priority being given to small projects.
  • A strategic approach to in-migration, return migration and population retention should be encouraged.


  • An enhanced CHGS should be introduced – designed to permit house building or improvement without decrofting.
  • The enhanced CHGS should not be available to those who decroft.
  • Local crofting development plans should set out in what circumstances housing may be built on inbye land and good common grazings in any local area. There should be a presumption against building on inbye land unless the local crofting development plans specify that this is essential together with any conditions.
  • Measures to assist new entrants to crofting should be emphasised in the allocation of future funding.

Governance for Crofting

  • A separation in the functions of (1) crofting regulation and enforcement, (2) crofting development and (3) the maintenance of the Register of Crofts.
  • The Crofters Commission would be wound up. The regulation and enforcement function should be discharged in future by a new Federation of Crofting Boards, a single organisation consisting of 7-10 elected Local Crofting Boards, and an executive supplying staffing support, finance and other central services to these Boards.
  • Responsibility for development of crofting should be given to a powerful Crofting and Community Development body, ideally within HIE.
  • At community level, Grazings Committees should be modernised to become Crofting Township Development Committees with a broader remit and more inclusive membership.
  • An annual “State of Crofting” report should be submitted to the Scottish Parliament by the Federation of Crofting Boards, having consulted with the Crofting and Community Development body.

Crofting Regulation and Enforcement

  • New legislation is needed to replace, simplify and clarify the accumulated laws which set the framework for crofting today.
  • No change should be made to those rights given to individual crofters in the 1886 Crofters Act, namely security of tenure, succession, fair rents and the value of their improvements. However these rights should only be enjoyed by those resident on or near their croft and using the land beneficially.
  • All croft houses should be tied to residency through a real burden, which would be deemed to be included in the conveyancing when next assigned or purchased. This would run with the land in perpetuity. Decrofting the house site or purchasing the landlord’s interest will not extinguish this burden. Crofters may apply to the Local Crofting Board to have the burden removed only if this is in the wider community interest.
  • Owner-occupiers and tenants should be treated alike, simply as crofters, in all aspects of crofting. Each Local Crofting Board should have the power to suspend (or not) the 1976 Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act’s right to buy.
  • All sub-lets and tenancies should require the consent of the Local Crofting Board, who should also be given the power to place a limit on the number of crofts or the amount of land which can be held or worked by any one crofter. The Boards’ policies on these matters should reflect the content of local Crofting Development Plans, where these exist.
  • Responsibility for the Register of Crofts would be taken over by the Registers of Scotland.
  • Boundaries of crofts which in practice have been accepted for twenty years or more will not be challengeable.
  • The Registration of Leases (Scotland) Act 1857 should be amended to make a crofting lease registrable and hence eligible for standard securities.
  • All holdings similar to crofts within defined crofting parishes should, if their owners or tenants wish, become subject to crofting regulation.
  • Government should consider back-dating the introduction of the real burden to all assignations and purchases made after May 12th 2008, so as to forestall any rush to avoid the provisions of the legislation.

Inksters will keep you advised of how the Scottish Government deals with the recommendations of the Shucksmith Report.