Efforts are being made to secure a 'strong future' for crofting on Scotland's first community-owned isle.

The Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust and the island's crofters are to develop a new plan to encourage increased use of the land, particularly among young people and reduce absenteeism, where tenants do not live on their croft or assign it to someone else.

About 33,000 people live on crofts across the Hebrides, Highlands, Argyll and Northern Isles.

The Herald: Eigg

Eigg currently has 21 split across two townships and eight others are absent.

While traditional crofting is much less prevalent than it was 30 years ago, it still plays an important role in the economy and culture of Eigg, say the Trust.

The development plan will demonstrate how the ambitions and challenges Eigg’s resident crofters express during the consultation might be supported.  

The Herald:  Soay sheep on Croft 13, Cleadale, Isle of Eigg Soay sheep on Croft 13, Cleadale, Isle of Eigg (Image: Eigg Heritage Trust)

The community landlord and crofting tenants are inviting tender proposals from crofting experts to write a development plan that supports the community’s long-term vision to “revitalise the Eigg crofting community, by encouraging increased use of the croft land, reducing absenteeism and promoting the retention of community-owned land."

Neil Robertson, a crofter on Eigg, said: "We hope to explore how crofting can develop for the future and support young people to make more use of the land."

Eigg sits 10 miles off Scotland’s West Coast  and was one of the country's first community buyouts and the first island buyout.

The island has been owned and managed by the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust (IEHT) since 1997. 

Crofting is a system of land tenure and farming unique to Scotland, and has had its own legislation for almost 140 years.

Crofters were given the right to purchase their individual crofts in 1976.

In 2003, as part of the Land Reform Act, crofting community bodies were provided with the right to purchase eligible croft land associated with the local crofting community.


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The new chief executive of the Crofting Commission has said the statutory body wants to help make it easier for people to work the land.

Gary Campbell said the commission wanted to be more efficient in its handling of crofting regulations, and do better at tackling issues around absentee crofters.

Mr Campbell, a chartered accountant whose family have a croft in Taynuilt, Argyll, said the Crofting Commission handled up to 2,500 regulatory applications a year.

These include requests for changes of ownership, creating new crofts and also decrofting, which means removing land from a crofting tenure.

Mr Campbell said this year would see follow-up visits made to crofts rented by people who had not filled in the commission's annual census over a number of years.

Interviewing by BBC Scotland he said some absentee crofters might be keeping their heads down and hoping not to be found out because they were worried their crofts would be taken off them.

"That's not the case at all. We want to work with crofting communities, not against them," he said.

Earlier this year a hotelier on the Isle of Barra called for changes in crafting laws to tackle housing shortages.

Marion MacNeil, who owns the Heathbank Hotel in Northbay, said: "There are people with several crofts while there are people who are looking for a bit of land.

"The Crofting Commission needs to acknowledge that they are part of the problem."