When is a crofter not a crofter?

A Skye crofter has criticised the Crofting Commission for an administrative glitch which has branded him an “absentee” landlord — even though he lives and works on his holding.

Terry Swainbank at his home in Ard Dorch
Terry Swainbank at his home in Ard Dorch

In 2008 Terry Swainbank bought the croft at half of four Ard Dorch. With the previous owner classed as a “landlord of a vacant croft,” Mr Swainbank then applied to change the status to that of “owner-occupier”.

In theory a landlord of a vacant croft could be required to find a tenant — something which the Crofting Commission can enforce.

At the time Mr Swainbank received a letter from the commission acknowledging the application, and was told the records would be updated.

However, he has recently been told that the status was never changed — a hitch which he fears could have implications for others. The Commission is currently carrying out a census of all croft holdings in Scotland.

Mr Swainbank said: “Unfortunately administrative oversight meant that they did not update their records and they are now refusing to act on their own previous decision which is quite extraordinary — the letter of confirmation is apparently not worth the paper it is printed on. So we remain landlords of a vacant croft and all the uncertainty that creates.

“We have consulted lawyers and fear that we may have to go to the Scottish Land Court.”