Tag Archives: crofting

Tiree Trust Launches New Skills Fund

sheep shearing course on Tiiree

Last month saw the launch of the Windfall Fund’s new Skills, Education and Training (SET) Fund. The first recipients of the fund were Tiree Rural Development who received £1,240 towards running sheep shearing training on Tiree. This training, run by the British Wool Marketing Board was open to all, whether a beginner shearing a sheep for the first time or more advanced crofters, but provided a great opportunity for some of Tiree’s young crofters and farmers to build their skills.

Crofters and Farmers on the island who own sheep have to have them sheared at least once a year, and as there are a limited number of individuals with the relevant skills, off island help needs to be brought in. Now, thanks to this training, there are more locals equipped with the necessary skills to carry out the work, keeping skills and employment local.

‘We were delighted that the Windfall Fund awarded TRD with this money to facilitate the course, because the course was run on the island it meant more locals could attended than if it was on the mainland. The instructor who came along was very impressed by the high standard that was achieved by the end of the course’ Archie John MacLean- TRD Director.

The Tiree Skills, Education and training fund is now open and welcoming enquiries from local groups, businesses and individuals. For more information email [email protected] or phone the office on 220 074.

Scottish Ministers Meeting With Scottish Crofting Federation

scf_headerThe Scottish Government remains firmly committed to securing a sustainable future for crofting, Ministers have said. The assurance was given by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead and Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, during a meeting with the Scottish Crofting Federation.

The impact of CAP reform on crofting, developing the sector to secure its future, growing the number of new entrants and Government support to crofting – including the Crofting Counties Agricultural Grant Scheme (CCAGS) and the Croft House Grant Scheme – were among the items discussed.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “The Environment Minister and I had a very positive and constructive meeting with the Scottish Crofting Federation in which we discussed wider crofting interests and CAP reform. The Scottish Government fought hard in last year’s CAP negotiations to head off proposals that would have disadvantaged crofting and we must continue with this approach as we implement CAP reform in Scotland. In light of the legislative and regulatory requirements on crofting we are sympathetic to the case for specific support for this sector, and I am therefore minded to look at having a separate scheme for crofting in the new rural development programme. The Scottish Government recognises the wider benefits of crofting to rural communities, food production and managing Scotland’s magnificent natural environment, and we are firmly committed to developing the sector to secure its future.”

Patrick Krause, Chief Executive of the Scottish Crofting Federation said: “We had a very positive discussion about some of the main issues facing crofting today, and the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to the sector is very welcome. It is great news that the Rural Affairs Secretary is sympathetic to the case for a separate support scheme for crofting in the new rural development programme, and we look forward to his final decision on that. We also look forward to working with the Scottish Government and others to find practical ways in which we can develop crofting, in particular improving access to land, work and homes, and getting more young people into crofting.”

Is A Community Land Buyout The Way Forward For Tiree?

how can you make progress if you cannot control the assets around you?

My intention when I began researching this piece was to simply report the facts and present some of the opinions of experts, politicians, lobbyists, and community members that have been directly involved in community land ownership. Half way through this process The Trust held their Community Open Day, at which they posed the question of a community land buy-out for Tiree. This has somewhat changed the approach of my article and so I now intend to give a relatively brief introduction to the concept by reporting on the recent Community Land Scotland conference.

Articles in the coming weeks will inform the readership of the history of community land ownership, the whys and wherefores, the pros and cons, and the successes and failures.I intend these articles to be thought-provoking and without bias or agenda.

According to Alex Salmond, the First Minister, one million acres of land could be owned by communities by 2020, He unveiled the ambitious target at the conference of Community Land Scotland, the body that represents community landowners such as Eigg, Assynt and Gigha, who now control more than 500,000 acres.

Mr Salmond said improvements to the right-to-buy scheme, which would be set out in a Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill later this year, would make community ownership easier to achieve. Speaking at Skye’s Gaelic college Sabhal Mor Ostaig, he said:

“We are committed, like no other administration, to land reform and as a powerful symbol of that commitment, I am delighted to announce today that we will set a target of a million acres of land in Scotland to be under local control by 2020.This is a deliberately ambitious target that can be achieved through a radical reshaping of the right-to- buy landscape that has the potential to transform the fortunes of communities across the country.”

Mr Salmond said the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Review Group was investigating how community ownership could be improved, while the Government will consult on a draft Bill later this year. He added:

“We have the opportunity to shape a stronger and better relationship between our land and people. Community Land Scotland will be an important voice in that land reform process, together with many other individuals and organisations. We have an opportunity to ensure more local areas are able to take their future into their own hands.”

The First Minister also announced that the Scottish government will extend the Scottish Land Fund by an extra £3 million in the financial year 2015-16. The fund was launched in 2012 with £6 million – which was to be given in three tranches:

  • £1 million for Year 1 – 2012-13
  • £2 million for Year 2 – 2013-14
  • £3 million for Year 3 – 2014-15
  • £3 million for Year 4 – 2015-16

The original Scottish Land Fund – from Lottery funds – granted a total of just under £14 million in its five year lifespan. That fund closed in 2006 with the Lottery funds then going to other good causes.

The Scottish Government then, in 2012, started the current fund with the pot of £6 million to be spread over three years, now topped up to a fourth year with £3 million which will not be accessed until 2015. Community Land Scotland Chair, David Cameron, said:

‘It was a great pleasure to welcome the First Minister to our conference and I welcome the announcement that the Scottish Land fund is to be extended. This gives some greater certainty to groups seeking to buy their land, which can be a lengthy process, that there will be money available for them. It was also good to hear the First Minister spell out that land reform is an important issue for his government, that he wants to see one million acres in community ownership by 2020, and that he still wants to be able to consider radical proposals for reform. That is important because it is radical reform that is necessary, underpinned by stronger legislation. We also noted the announcement of the next phase of the Land Reform Review Group’s work looking at the issues of land taxation and the Crown Estate, as well on the community right to buy.’

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said

“I recognise the argument in Scotland for community control of their own assets. The question has existed in the Highlands for many generations – how can you make progress if you cannot control the assets around you?”

Mr Russell said successful buy-outs such as of the island of Gigha in 2002 and of South Uist Estates in 2006 were good examples of what communities could do. He said:

“It is quite difficult to do and is a lot of hard work, but it is something that is available and there is a renewed interest in it because additional resources have been put on the table by the Scottish government.”

Land ownership in Scotland has a long and difficult history. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the clearances saw families moved off estates to make way for large-scale agricultural businesses, such as sheep production. Landowners had the legal right to do so, but incidents where people were forced from homes that were then destroyed before their eyes attracted notoriety. The Crofters’ War of the 1880s was a period of protests and sometimes violent clashes over land rights. David Cameron, of Community Land Scotland, said it was difficult to escape the past when discussing land ownership today. He said:

“I am aware not just of the clearances and the Crofters’ War but even further back to post-Culloden when there were attempts to smash Gaelic culture and language and houses were burned. We are often accused of living in the past, but you cannot help but be aware of it in the background. We have always thought that four things were needed to be in place for community land ownership to really happen. You have got to have political will and government putting the legal framework into place. You need the funding to purchase land. Technical support for communities lacking expertise to purchase land and develop it. Lastly, but not least, you need the community desire itself. I really believe we are seeing the start of long, long story.”

Under existing legislation, for rural communities of less than 10,000 residents there is a process they can follow to try to buy land. Crofting townships have greater powers. They can exercise a right to purchase the croft land where they live and work at any time. The land does not have to be on the market, and a landowner can be forced to sell.

The aim of the Community Land Buy-out process is to help communities to acquire land or land assets which can contribute to the overall sustainability and resilience of that community. The intended outcome would be that the community has increased sustainable economic, social and environmental development through acquiring, owning and managing their land.

At last week’s Tiree Community Development Trust Open Day the question of a community buy-out for Tiree was raised. The results of the consultation were that 66 supported it (73.5%) and 24 opposed it (26.5%).

The next steps for The Trust will be:

1. To form a steering group.

2. Form a brief for a feasibility study, with support from the Trust.

3. Present the key findings to the community.

4. Organise a ballot for the community to decide whether or not to proceed.

In the next An Tirisdeach I will explore the history of land ownership in Scotland and particularly on Tiree, the island where in August 1886 250 Marines from the warship HMS Ajax and troop ship HMS Assistance landed to tackle locals who had risen up against their landlord and called for an area of the island to be broken up into crofts.

Scottish Beef Calf Scheme Payments Begin


More than 7,900 Scottish producers will receive their share of £22 million of European funding in the next few weeks.

Payments for the 2011 Scottish Beef Calf Scheme (SBCS) will start to arrive in bank accounts, with 95 per cent of recipients expected to receive their payment by the end of April, subject to necessary validation checks. Payment information is available to view on Rural Payments Online.

Claims were received from 7,902 producers for around 434,000 animals, an increase of 10,000 from last year. Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“These payments will provide timely support to the rural economy and deliver great benefit for our livestock sector. They form part of an important support framework which is always vital, and never more so than in the current economic climate.
“I am also pleased to confirm that the Scottish Government has been successful in ensuring this funding continues at current levels through the introduction of the Scottish Beef Scheme in January 2012, which replaces the SBCS. This will provide much needed ongoing support to Scotland’s livestock farmers until new CAP regulations come into force.”

This year’s payment rate is set at £102.44 for each of the first ten eligible animals, and £51.22 for the remainder. The payments are entirely EU funded. The Scottish Beef Calf Scheme is a direct support scheme aimed at specialist beef producers breeding beef calves from suckler cows. Suckler herds form the backbone of quality beef production in Scotland and provide environmental benefits in fragile areas. The new Scottish Beef Scheme was introduced in January 2012 following discussions held as part of the CAP review. It replaces the SBCS and allows funding to be targeted towards smaller herds through reweighted payment levels where the first ten eligible animals will receive three times the rate of any subsequent eligible animal. There is no limit to the number of claims which can be made.

Tiree Past and Present


While driving round the island in the last few weeks, it has been interesting to see the crofters working hard gathering in the harvest. Whilst the round plastic wrapped bales that we see may be more practical they don’t have the same eye appeal as the stacks in this picture.

Thanks to An Iodhlann and Eric Cregeen for the photo of a stackyard at Balephuill in 1968


Showing that sometimes the traditional and the modern can mix, this photo was taken at Whithouse Farm, Cornaigbeg, Tiree on 1st September 2011.

Cutting a field of oats & rye with a J F Binder are Hugh MacCallum of Whitehouse Farm, Donald MacLean sitting on the binder and Donald’s grandson Daniel Hayes, standing on the right.

Last week’s photos proved that I was wrong and the ferry was in fact the RMS Claymore which started on the Tiree crossing in 1955 and when David MacBrayne sold her on to a Greek Company she was renamed City of Hydra. Unfortunately I am told that she sank at moorings in Pireus approximately 10 years ago. There has been a difference of opinion as to the name of the Captain with some people saying it was Captain Tony Free and others claiming it was the late Captain Donald Gunn. Can anyone help sort this out? Up to now no-one has recognised the van but if you do please call me at the Business Centre 01879 220520

Skills For Work – A report From Tiree High School

We have been doing a new course called Rural Skills at Tiree High School to get us an Intermediate 1 certificate at the end of session 2009-2010.

The qualification is awarded by SQA in partnership with Argyll College, whose representative on the island is Will Wright. Mr Stirrat is our mentor in school.

On a Wednesday we go out onto a farm for the afternoon and we do a variety of things to do with farming which will benefit us in our course and also benefits the farmer. On a Thursday we write out reports of what we did the previous afternoon, add any photos we took on the Wednesday and keep the records for assessment.

The course includes the following units:

  • Animal Handling
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Estate Maintenance
  • Land Based Industries
  • Employability Skills
  • Crop Production

The crofters who are involved are Ewan MacKinnon, Hugh MacInnes, and Lachie MacFadyen. We have also had help from John Bowler (RSPB). We are very grateful for the time and effort they have contributed and would like to say thank you for their help over the last 2 years.

“Having access to a vocational option has been a real enhancement to the school curriculum. We are very grateful to Ewan MacKinnon, Hugh MacInnes, Lachie MacFadyen and John Bowler for providing their time and expertise to make this possible.” ~ Myra Macarthur HT

Land Based Industries

Every Thursday we have some classroom time to write up our reports and do research.

Part of this course is a unit called Land Based Industries where we have researched 3 industries. This is a short report of what we have found:

Fencing is usually done by the crofters or farmers themselves or by fencing contractors. Resources needed include wooden posts to tension the fence, stobs, wire, Rylock, tools and if necessary a digger and truck.

We looked into methods used and different types of fence on Tiree and on the mainland. When we were working on the crofts we helped put up fences to keep the animals in.

John Bowler is the local RSPB warden. He has taken us out on several Wednesday afternoons to help set water levels for the birds to breed and building a bridge for the cows to cross.This helps protect their habitat.

This industry needs membership and volunteers to keep it going . Because of the varied species of birds that live on or visit Tiree it needs somebody to maintain their habitat so that the birds are protected and encouraged to breed.

Dairy Farming
Although there is no dairy farming on Tiree, much of mainland farming is for dairy. This industry relies on good quality Friesian Cows or Jersey Cows. We have been studying dairy farming in class at school.

When a male calf is born the farmer usually sells the calf for veal production or breeding depending on the quality of the calf. The female calves are kept for milking and breeding. Most dairy farmers have a milking parlour but some farmers milk their cows by hand in a byre. Most farmers grow their own food for the cows which is corn, hay and silage. It is fed straight to the cows in winter.

Ruairidh Munn and Ewan Brown

Draft Crofter’s Reform Bill

tractorA public meeting on the Draft Crofting Reform Bill scheduled for June, finally took place on the evening of Monday 13th July at Tiree’s Rural Centre. The meeting was lively and reasonably well attended.
Unavoidable reasons meant Chairman A. Innes and Vice Chair P. Boyd of the Scottish Crofting Foundation were unable to attend. However, An Tirisdeach asked the Honorary Secretary Mary Mackinnon to comment on the meeting which lasted for two and a half hours. “The draft Crofting Reform Bill, currently out for consultation is far from what the crofting communities need. It is a great disappointment to crofters who are already facing anxious times. The Bill just cannot be accepted and must be rejected now. It is so far from what is needed. I could see from the audience it was enough to make one speechless.”she said.
The civil servants who presented the draft document were keen that crofters made their thoughts known so future legislation could take their views into consideration.
Senior Civil servant Richard Frew who presented several aspects of the Bill told An Tirisdeach “ We need to address absenteeism & neglect and we want people to stay positive with the possibility of good changes.”