25 YEARS COMMUNITY PLANTING UNDER CROFTER FORESTRY ACT
The economic and environmental benefits of planting trees on crofting ground will be in the spotlight on the 2nd day of the Croft Woodland conference continuing today, Friday, in Boat of Garten.
The conference is celebrating 25 years of crofter forestry following the Crofter Forestry (Scotland) Act of 1991.
Its architect, former Western Isles MP Calum Macdonald, and Assynt Crofter Bill Ritchie, a leading mover in the community buyout of Assynt estate, spoke yesterday on the first morning of the conference.
Mr Ritchie recalled:
“The Crofter Forestry Act was very important and Calum was responsible for that. He was the person who steered it through Parliament.”
The Crofter Forestry Act was brought forward by Calum Macdonald as a Private Member’s Bill and it was the first extension of the rights of crofters over their grazings since the 1880s.
Calum explained: ‘Prior to this, the rights of crofters over their grazings were just what they had been for 100 years, namely grazing your animals and cutting peat…The only people able to plant trees in the Highlands were multi-millionaires using it as a tax dodge.
Duncan Mackay who was clerk to the Sandwick North Street township said: ‘Before the Crofter Forestry Act came along we were struggling to raise £70 for fertiliser for the grazings, because if you wanted to do improvements, you had to go round begging for money.’
With the passage of the Crofter Forestry Act, common grazings committees could receive £5,000 a year for 15 years in compensation for planting 100 hectares or 190,000 trees.