Taken from the scottish farmer
Lack of knowledge will kill crofting
****The red highlights is that not scottish deer stalking over the back****
4 Oct 2010
Sir, – Thank goodness for Donnie Ross of Kingussie, whose letter (TSF, Sept 25) about ‘real’ crofting is a breath of common sense.
We have also found Roseanna Cunningham singularly unaware of the most basic tenets of crofting and are sinking under a morass of Access Code regulations on our croft.
One of the arguments our Access Officer puts forward is that yes, we can just about get away with saying ‘no camping’ in our fenced fields, but our machair grazing is not fenced, so we should put up with campers and sea-kayakers.
These people don’t understand the first thing about Hebridean crofting tradition, of using the sea as a natural fence – if you put up real fences, your animals cannot access the natural springs that well out of the sand dunes onto the beach, they cannot eat the seaweed.
Here on Iona we are battling with SNH and the Access Code and other officials, none of whom have the first understanding of farming, animals, crofting, crops, safety or anything else.
They encourage visitors to think they can go anywhere they wish in the countryside, but keep very quiet about the great number of visitors injured and even killed by cattle.
Our hens are killed, our sheep worried, our cattle harrassed every season, because they don’t have any rights, only holidaymakers and their dogs have rights under the Access Code. We spent years with a grant that meant our animals had to be kept out of particular fields between May and September, to enable the corncrakes to nest, particular flora to flourish, and we weren’t supposed to go in there either.
But holidaymakers – well, we’re not allowed to put ‘keep out’ on the gates, or ‘no entry’ or anything, in case it hurts their feelings and spoils their two hours on the island.
We’ve battled with the authorities for nigh on five years now, and made such a nuisance of ourselves we lost our corncrake grant, so from now on we’ll cut the hay when it is ready, instead of leaving it till the end of August – if we can’t get the grant which paid for buying in extra hay, we have to cut when our own hay is good.
And so, years of corncrake breeding go down the drain. We do now finally have an official sign ‘asking’ people to keep their dogs on leads till they get to the beach, the sign helped a bit, but it doesn’t actually stop campers, one said last week “yes, I saw the sign, but I thought I’d chance it!”
The National Trust installed a “people counter” at our croft gate on the afternoon of May 31 this year, and today, September 25 (ie not quite four months later) it is showing 37,050 people went down to or back from the beaches - 18,500 people. How is our croft supposed to survive this?
No-one compensates us for the damage to and loss of livestock, or the damage to the fences and gates, or the land. We have no rights, we have only responsibilities.
We’ve been lobbying our MSP to get a review of the code, amendments, clarification, a change to the tenor of advertising of the Code, to shift the emphasis away from ‘rights’ and onto ‘responsibilities’ but there’s not much chance of that.
Sea eagles are more important, holidaymakers rule, putting beavers and wolves back into the countryside - that’s much more headine-grabbing.
It’s become fashionable to despise farmers, crofters and land managers, and yet if we didn’t spend our lives caring for the countryside, it wouldn’t be possible to walk to the beach, because within two years the nettles, thistles and dockens would be waist high.
We don’t want to ban holidaymakers, we need them, but we should have rights too, and there are things it just isn’t safe, or practical, or fair to have them do. Why are people like Ms Cunningham appointed to jobs they know nothing about - where are the Ministers and legislators who actually know their subject?
And how did the Access Code get passed in the first place when there are contradictory laws like the 1953 Protection of Livestock Act (saying dogs must be kept on leads around livestock) and the 1865 Trespass (Scotland) Act (saying you CAN stop people camping on your land)? This government will be the death of crofting.
Name and address supplied