The Chairman of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Sustainable Development Committee, Cllr Donald Crichton, has written to Mairi Gougeon MSP (pictured), Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, regarding a host of issues affecting the Western Isles.
Writing in his capacity as Chairman of the Joint Crofting Consultative Committee, Mr Crichton raised concerns highlighted by the crofting sector at its recent meeting.
Reflecting the recent concerns about the difficulties and obstacles encountered by crofters accessing crofting grants, Cllr Crichton requested more detailed information from the Minister regarding the administration of the CCAGS scheme.
Mr Crichton wrote:
“Members would like to understand better how the CCAGS scheme performs in the Outer Hebrides and would like detailed information on the following.
· The number of applications submitted to the local offices in Balivanich and Stornoway
· How many applications were rejected, with a summary of the main reasons for refusal.
· The average time to process a CCAGS application.
· The length of time taken to process payments.
· The budget provision for the CCAGS scheme and whether it was fully utilised.
“The Crofter Housing Grant Scheme is a valuable support for crofters seeking to build or renovate their croft houses and members of the CJCC are keen to understand the uptake in the Islands both for new builds and repairs.
“It has been reported that £1.24m of the £1.9m national budget was drawn down in the last financial year.
“Could you confirm if there is provision to allow underspends to be rolled over to the next year?
“I raised this matter at the Crofting Cross Party group on the 15 September and it was agreed to provide the detail to the next meeting of that forum.
“Some of this is information may therefore already be in collation, and I would be grateful if Outer Hebrides specific data and statistics could be added.”
Focusing on the removal of funding for the Goose Management Scheme, Mr Crichton said:
“Members of the CJCC expressed disappointment that the Goose Management Scheme supporting active goose management is to end.
“There are real concerns that goose populations will rapidly increase and damage to traditional agricultural activities will be severe if numbers are not controlled, further exacerbating challenges faced by the sector in continuing in agricultural production at a time of great uncertainty around future funding schemes to replace the CAP.
“There are also wider implications affecting the operation of the islands airports that could impact wildlife management around the islands’ airports if the resident population continues to grow uncontrolled.
“Members queried whether the removal of this Goose Management support scheme had been considered in the Island context and if indeed an Island Communities Impact Assessment had been carried out?
“Can you confirm if such an Assessment has been carried out and if so, would you be able to share it with the CJCC for their information.”
“I would appreciate your consideration of the issues raised above and look forward to hearing from you in due course.
“I would be more than happy to meet to discuss and consider these issues in greater detail.”