A PETITION to prevent crofts from being seized by local authorities to pay towards care home costs has been lodged in the Scottish Parliament.

Fife-based John MacIver raised the petition after challenging the right of the Western Isles Council to seize his family’s croft home on Lewis, to pay for the costs of a relative in a care home.

Most croft land is under a secured tenancy agreement. While many of the newer homes have had the actual property footprint removed from the tenancy in order to secure a mortgage, many of the older homes still remain as part of the wider croft portfolio.

It was initially thought this arrangement protected them from the care home legislation on assets, as the house was not owned outright. However, that no longer appears to be the case.

The council pointed to legal opinion which stated that “a croft and croft house were ‘likely’ to be classed as capital and therefore required to be taken into account for the financial assessment of residents in respect of care charges”.

Mr MacIver commented: “There is a grey area in the law with regard to whether or not a croft and croft property should be deemed to be ‘capital assets’ in terms of the legislation and therefore subject to consideration in local authority financial assessments for care charges. From my understanding, even specialist legal experts are unsure of the situation and it is my view that this urgently requires clarity from the Scottish Government.

“I believe it is the view of crofting communities that a crofter has a statutory heritable right of tenancy and therefore crofts and croft property should be exempt,” he urged. “It is important for those communities that a definitive decision on this issue is made so that a consistent approach may be taken by local authorities and crofters’ rights protected.”

The Western Isles is home to the largest concentration of active crofters and the council are to host a special seminar on whether to class croft houses as financial assets in respect of care costs. The event comes after several councillors raised concern that the authority was actively pursuing a policy which seriously undermines the interests of rural crofting communities in their area.