It varies throughout the Western Isles. There are pockets where crofters are quite ... How shall I say it? They’re quite diligent in what they do and they put in a lot more effort than perhaps other individuals in other areas. There are differences. If you travel through Lewis and Harris and then the Uists, you’ll notice differences. For example, the Uists, they’re very much cattle orientated. And we in Lewis are concentrating much more on sheep. In fact that’s a bad thing in a way from an environmental point of view if nothing else. The reduction of cattle numbers is really quite alarming but I’m glad to say that this is on the increase now, very slowly, in Lewis. There are very few, I can probably think of one or two people in the Uists, who croft on a full-time basis. So obviously they’re making a reasonable amount of income, but it’s a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, but really that’s an exception. Apart from these two that I know in the Uists, it really is a hobby. Now, going from what I said earlier, because it is a hobby this is why there is this resentment that it’s getting seemingly over regulated. There is this interference in what we are doing. Now whether this comes from the Scottish Office, Westminster or Brussels ... Let’s face it, most of the interference really comes from Brussels these days, and we’re now in a position in this country where we jolly well do as we are told, sadly. So the state of crofting nowadays is not good, it’s not good. It’s come to the point where organisations like the SCF really have to fight hard on behalf of their members, on behalf of crofters, and if they didn’t I think civil servants and politicians would have their way and crofting will have had it’s day. It would cease to exist, I think. I say that because I somehow don’t think that politicians, and especially civil servants, don’t have an understanding of what crofting really is, what crofting life really is. They really do not have an understanding. It is a unique way of life. You cannot compare the crofting way of life to, say, farming in the Mearns of Aberdeenshire or wherever. It is so unique and I don’t think they have an understanding of what that uniqueness is. And because ... also it is so complex, crofting and crofting laws. I think that irks them and I would think ... Let’s just say that this is my personal opinion that life would be much easier for them if crofting did not exist as it has existed, which is quite sad, but there you are.

  • Donnie Macdonald
Monday 15th February 2010