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Case made for 'indigenous' status  

Crofters have a strong case to be considered an “indigenous” people by international law, the Scottish Crofting Foundation has said.

It has been examining how United Nations legislation protecting groups such as Australian Aborigines and tribes might apply in the Highlands.

The foundation will present its findings in a report to the Scottish Parliament next week.

It said it could have implications on whether developments get the go-ahead.

The UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples was drawn up to protect their cultures and reinforce their rights to live in freedom, peace and security.

However, one of its articles protects the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development, or use of their lands, or territories and other resources.

Crofting foundation chief executive Patrick Krause said this could have implications on developments such as Lewis Wind Power’s plan for 181 wind turbines on Lewis, which already faces strong opposition from local crofters.

The application, which has support from the islands’ council and business groups, is being considered by Scottish ministers.

The foundation’s report looks at whether crofters can be considered the indigenous people of the Highlands and Islands and what benefits the status would bring to the area.

Project researcher, Iain MacKinnon, said: “Under international law crofters have a strong case to be classed as indigenous people and if the United Nations recognise that status, the UK would have to pay attention to the group rights that such classification entails.

“One central plank of the indigenous peoples’ movement has been the right to self-determination on issues which relate specifically to their way of life.”

Mr Krause said: “This is an exciting development which breaks new ground in our understanding of how crofting and Highland culture in general should be represented – and who should represent it.”

BBC News

22 February 2008

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