The Facebook page of the West Harris Trust highlighted an article in the Daily Telegraph of 27 November 2012, on the plight of crofters, threatened with a second clearance. Having read the article, I formulated the following reply.
Interesting debate, indeed.
In my opinion, it boils down to what to do about the ’second home’ use
of crofts, leaving them unused for much of the year. On balance, I
would come out with the Crofters Commission, knowing the history of the
crofting movement to a certain extent. The people who went to jail in
the 1880s did so to ensure that they and their descendants could work
the land, without fear of summary eviction. Particularly in Melness,
not far from Strathnaver where hundreds were cruelly driven off their
lands in the 1810s, having this right misused rankles.
I also posted this comment on the Wall of the The West Harris Trust,
where I happen to know plenty of second home lie empty a lot of the
year, I would call for a debate to determine which, of the 21st century
uses of a croft, is appropriate. Is using only the improvement (house)
appropriate or sufficient? People who own a croft, like the person in
the Telegraph article, very likely do not realise the responsibilities
they take on. It’s not just a house in a pretty area. It’s a way of
What I think is a more serious abuse of the crofting system is
feuing off of parcels of land from a croft. The Taynuilt incident
(where someone splintered his croft into a dozen feus for house
building) was a very bad case of misuse of croftland. In Lewis, where I
am based, I have seen many such instances, which can turn a crofting
township into a housing estate. Feuing off, in my humble opinion,
should be banned.