Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil met with Crofting Minister Fergus Ewing MSP in Edinburgh today (Thursday) to discuss the Croft House Grant Scheme (CHGS) along with Isles MSP Alasdair Allan.
Commenting after the meeting Angus MacNeil MP said:
“We had a short and factual meeting with Fergus Ewing MSP, laying out the difficulties people are having with the Croft House Grant Scheme.
“Although the new grant level is far higher and at a welcome level, accessing the grant is difficult due to the conditions on means testing and floor area size.
“The knock-on effect is less house building, fewer jobs in construction and less quality homes. The Isles has one of the highest levels of fuel poverty and one of the lowest levels of quality housing stock. This means a greater demand for public housing built at a far greater cost than via the Croft House Grant Scheme which allows a personalised specification and is more importantly located on sites where people can actively work their crofts.
“Mr Ewing was very open and understanding of the situation and the difficulties and was looking for genuine solutions.
“Of course, he is understandably concerned about budgetary implications against a background of a Westminster Government with austerity policies who have been cutting the Scottish Government Budget.
“Given that the Croft House Grant has risen from £22,000 to £38,000, I shall be asking amongst my constituents if a slight reduction in the grant might be acceptable for the removal of the conditions.
“We would still be looking for the grant to be far higher than the previous £22,000 grant, believing that anything in the area of £30,000-£35,000 would represent good value for money but would also ensure our fragile islands do provide opportunities for people to come back and live.
“We know the cost of living is higher and wages are lower and that the cost of getting materials to the islands is also higher. The Croft House Grants offsets many of these things and is very important in anchoring people in the islands at a crucial time in their lives.
“My concern is if this current period continues, we will lose a generation of people who find it impossible to build a house and stay in the islands.”