We have just, in the last post, been reminded about the conflict of interest on the part of the Convener of the Crofting Commission, Colin Kennedy, over goings on at Upper Coll.
This was where Colin Kennedy appeared to be instrumental in taking a decision to remove the former grazings committee from office. This was at a point where a formal complaint was still being dealt with by the Crofting Commission concerning his handling, as chairman, of a meeting of shareholders held at the Back Football and Recreation Club, Upper Coll, Isle of Lewis on 10 November 2015.
One of the more bizarre episodes (although there have been and continue to be many) in the whole Common Grazings debacle is how the Crofting Commission initially responded to that complaint.
One of the complaints arising from the meeting in question (and there were several) was that the meeting was chaired by Colin Kennedy in “an arrogant and dismissive manner“. This is how the Crofting Commission responded in writing to that particular element of the complaint:-
All members of the Commission who attended the meeting commented on the quality of the venue. They all complained about the seating arrangements which did not let them get their legs under the table which would have allowed them to sit up straight which may have led attendees to think the panel were being too casual. They also said the lighting was poor and general presentation of the room did not contribute to creating a positive atmosphere. The Commission agree that this is not helpful and have put in place a mechanism to check venues prior to meetings to ensure that they meet requirements. This includes discussing requirements in advance with providers and going to the venue prior to the meeting to check it is laid out as well as possible.
What! A complaint about the manner in which a meeting has been conducted by the Convener is turned around to being down to the meeting room in a crofting township not having adequate seats or lights!
I have, over the years, had plenty of meetings with crofters in village halls or similar venues throughout the crofting counties. They may not always be up to the luxurious surroundings enjoyed by Commissioners at Great Glen House but the facilities are always more than adequate for the purpose required.
The Land Court often have lengthy hearings in such halls and I have never heard a complaint from them about the facilities at hand.
As a crofting regulator you should accept the need to travel to the crofting counties and graciously accept the facilities offered to you. To suggest that those facilities are the root cause of the “posture, conduct and demeanour” of the Convener is surely a joke.
Are the Commission really now checking venues prior to meetings to ensure that they meet requirements? If they had a meeting in the far north reaches of Unst in Shetland, for example, would a scout from Great Glen House be flown up in advance to check that the seats were fit for the Convener? This would be at an additional cost of several hundred pounds to the public purse. If the facilities did not meet the high standards clearly required would a suitable chair then be flown in?
You couldn’t make it up.