Professor will lead crofting inquiry
THE man who will lead an inquiry into the future of crofting in Scotland was named yesterday by the Scottish Executive.
Professor Mark Shucksmith will chair the committee which will examine how crofting can best contribute to improving the economy, social infrastructure and environment of rural Scotland, as well as the role of the Crofters' Commission.
His appointment comes amid criticism over the Executive's previous attempts at reform. In September, the Executive removed controversial parts of the Crofting Reform Bill, and proposed a committee of inquiry.
Rhona Brankin, the deputy rural development minister, said: "I welcome the appointment of Prof Shucksmith.
Crofting has supported and sustained rural communities for generations. It is now time for us to look again at how best to ensure that future arrangements for crofting help to sustain and enhance the population of rural Scotland, improve economic vitality, safeguard our landscape and biodiversity and promote cultural diversity."
Prof Shucksmith, now professor of planning at Newcastle University, was until recently professor of land economy and co-director of the Arkleton Centre for Rural Development Research at Aberdeen University.
He is also co-director of the Scottish Centre for Research on Social Justice and has been adviser to the environment and rural development committee of the Scottish Parliament.
The three-day-a-week post carries a salary of 50,076
and Prof Shucksmith will now help appoint other members of the committee, which will start work in the New Year and be expected to report to ministers by the end of 2007.
The appointment was welcomed by Rob Gibson, a Highlands and Islands SNP MSP, who is a member of the Scottish Parliament's environment and rural development committee.
However he said there is still a question mark over how representative and effective the inquiry will be.
"I would encourage the minister to appoint a wide ranging team which covers the vast area of the crofting counties and possesses practical skills and knowledge that can see an increase in overall population with younger working families well represented," he said.
The Crofting Reform Bill came in for fierce criticism in March. Many critics said the proposed legislation was largely unnecessary and would do little to stop speculation in croft land.
The Executive dropped sections relating to the restructuring of the Crofters' Commission and the market value of crofts. The bill also lost "proper occupier" proposals to give the commission new powers to ensure owner-occupiers and tenants use the land effectively.
However, it will push new crofts, without a right to buy, and extend crofting beyond the traditional seven counties.
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