Sir, – as written this week to the Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing:

Dear Mr Ewing

We all understand the risk crofters face from a no-deal Brexit and the threat to LFA support is well documented and clearly understood by most.

What is less clear, however, are the threats posed by cuts to the Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme and the implementation of Naturescot's environmental proposals.

As is clear, a large number of crofters were adversely affected by the previous implementation of the three payment areas and the common grazing averaging used to pull those crofters down to the lowest common denominator. However, as you are aware, some of those crofters received a commitment from your predecessor as Cabinet Secretary that they would achieve parity with those on Region 2 through access to the SUSSS.

Whilst we all know the reasons that commitment could not be met in full, it is clear that for those crofters lucky enough to access it, SUSSS is a vital lifeline. In some cases, it is as important, if not more so, than the individuals' LFA support.

Those calling for SUSSS to be cut to 20% of flock numbers will see those crofters penalised yet again. The removal of SUSSS entirely implicit in NFUS's future support proposals will only reinforce the risk of common grazing abandonment already identified in their proposal.

Whilst many see the solution to cuts in LFA and SUSSS coming from the future environmental support package they have, either through ignorance or wilfully, chosen to ignore the fact that individual crofters are excluded from accessing environmental schemes on their common grazing.

If the impact of these three threats are not addressed, the Scottish Government risks seeing the extensive management of livestock by crofters on common grazing consigned to the history books. It is quite clear to those of us on the ground that, without a simple universally accessible support structure that clearly identifies and understands the unique nature of common grazing livestock management, the future is indeed bleak for those working on common grazing.

It is also clear that there are many so-called crofting stakeholders seeking to further their own agendas by influencing future agricultural support. Unfortunately, many of those stakeholders' agendas are, at their core, anti-livestock production.

The only voices not being listened to in this, it seems, are those of the crofters who actually know what a common grazing is. If the course of future common grazing support is not designed with input from crofters who actually work on common grazing and understand the numerous different management structures in place across common grazing, we will continue to see common grazing decline.

The Scottish Government has this opportunity to secure a future for those individual crofters managing livestock on common grazing.

If you get it wrong the damage will be irreversible.

Alastair Culbertson



Isle of Skye


Chairman Sleat Grazing Committee