One of the great things about the woodland crofts movement is how it has developed an identity and momentum of its own. Having been involved from the start – at least in the sense of it being a ‘new’ model from around 2007/8 – the norm used to be for developments to either be already well known to the Woodland Crofts Partnership (WCP), or actually instigated by us.
So we were delighted to see a new Facebook group had been set up for woodland crofting, and within a matter of weeks had attracted around 160 members. We’d missed this as we’re a bit sporadic on FB (as you may have noticed) but we’ve now joined ourselves and made a couple of contributions to the discussion. Well done to Al Whitworth at The Wild Croft for organising this.
This does however raise a wider question: who currently speaks for woodland crofters? We mean this in the sense of representing their affairs, as a unique group, in dealing with external interests.
Obviously, we like to feel the WCP does, and we have lobbied and continue to lobby Scottish Government and others, responding to consultations and pressing for change, for example to crofting grants. We also have our evolving ‘champions’ who act as ambassadors for woodland crofting, and we hope to do more with them as life returns more to normal.
But we are not a membership organisation and so not directly answerable to woodland crofters. As above, we hope our activity is very closely aligned with the interests of woodland crofters, but there is no question that membership organisations represent their members in a much more directly accountable way, and this can be very important.
We have no doubt the day will come when a dedicated membership organisation for woodland crofters will be established, but it will arise organically when the time is right. So what happens in the meantime?
Well of course, there is already a representative body for crofters – the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF), one of the constituent partners of the WCP. They have themselves championed woodland crofting for a long time and indeed have strong policies on it eg a target that 5,000 new woodland crofts should be created. And as we all know, there is no distinction in law between a woodland crofter and any other crofter – they are all crofters.
The SCF exist to represent their members, and obviously the more of their membership that are woodland crofters the stronger their woodland crofts ‘voice’ will be. So if you aren’t already a member, think seriously about joining them, and if you are lucky enough to be young (under 41), you qualify for discounted membership.
Many woodland crofters will however already be SCF members – but have you thought of applying to join the SCF council, from which SCF board members are drawn? Doing so will help put woodland crofts at the heart of SCF affairs, and your application would be welcomed, as the Federation is always looking for new council members and directors.
And even if you are an aspiring woodland crofter but unfortunate enough to live an area where crofting isn’t currently available – still no excuses, as SCF policy is for crofting to be extended beyond its traditional areas. So what’s stopping you?!