Sunday Politics Scotland: Chaos on the Croft

Sunday Politics Scotland - Crofting Commission Crisis - Gordon BrewerSunday Politics Scotland on BBC One Scotland this week looked at the crisis in the Crofting Commission.

Presenter Gordon Brewer introducing the topic said:-

Now Chaos on the Croft.

The body responsible for protecting and regulating Scotland’s crofting is embroiled in some dramatic internal politics of its own.

As Len Cooksley reports pressure is increasing on the head of the Crofting Commission to resign after the Scottish Government became involved.

Sunday Politics Scotland - Crofting Commission Crisis - Crofter and tractor

Len Cooksley:-

Scotland has nearly 20,000 crofts overseen by the Crofting Commission.

After suspending two local grazing committees on Lewis on the grounds of financial missmanagement it was forced into a u-turn.

There were claims the commission were both heavy handed and may have acted illegally.

Now the Scottish Government’s got involved. It called on the commission and its convener, Colin Kennedy, to apologise.

Last week Mr Kennedy walked out of a commissioners meeting. Those that remained issued that apology and then passed a vote of no confidence in Mr Kennedy.

The First Minister gave her take on events in parliament earlier this week.

Sunday Politics Scotland - Crofting Commission Crisis - Nicola Sturgeon MSP - First Minister

Nicola Sturgeon MSP:-

I note that crofting commissioners have unanimously called on the convener to resign.

The Scottish Government have requested further information from the convener in relation to last week’s events.

While the Government would not ordinarily intervene in the internal operations of an independent statutory body the legislation does give Scottish Ministers power to act if required.

Len Cooksley:-

MSPs are watching developments with interest.

Sunday Politics Scotland - Crofting Commission Crisis - Tavish Scott MSP

Tavish Scott MSP:-

There is no doubt that there has been a fall out amongst commissioners and that has been caused by the behaviour of the convener of the Crofting Commission.

What this organisation needs now is a new convener, a reconstituted board and the ability to get back what it is meant to do and that is work for crofters right across Scotland.

Len Cooksley:-

We understand Mr Kennedy has no plans to resign but would make no further comment.

The implication is clear: either he jumps or he’ll be pushed.

Gordon Brewer:-

Well earlier I spoke to Brian Inkster who is a lawyer and blogger specialising in crofting matters.

Sunday Politics Scotland - Crofting Commission Crisis - Brian Inkster - Inksters Solicitors

Gordon Brewer asked:-

Well the crofting commissioners have no confidence in their leader. He won’t resign and the Scottish Government is threatening to get involved. What on earth is going on?

Brian Inkster answered:-

Well it all goes back to December time last year when they decided to put out of office a grazings committee in Lewis. The first one was Mangersta and then subsequently into 2016 they put out two other grazings committees: one in Upper Coll and the other in Lochaber.

Gordon Brewer:-

Right but what I don’t understand is that Mr Kenedy the man who is the commissioner is accused of issuing edicts on things like payments over common grazings and peoples backs are up about this. But how can he do that surely the commissioners have to decide to do this.

Brian Inkster:-

Well the commissioners should be deciding to do it. It looks as though he has been instrumental in pushing these issues forward.

There were three sort of main issues I suppose.

The first one was payment by grazings committees to shareholders in common grazings of monies that had come into grazings funds. His argument was that these monies had to be paid out immediately. So there would be immediate payment to the shareholders and if monies were required back to maintain the common grazings they would issue a levy onto the shareholders.

Nowhere in the law did it say that these immediate payments had to be made and indeed it just didn’t make any kind of logical or common sense approach to deal with it in that way.

Subsequently there were two other issues.

One was that he was seeking to stop common grazings committees receiving SRDP funding – which is really grants from the governmnet to assist in the maintenace and improvement of the common grazings.

And latterly there was an issue around VAT registration where it was being said that common grazings could not be VAT registered whereas historically they always have been.

Gordon Brewer:-

Right, now, what happened? At some point the commissioners had a vote of no confidence.

Brian Inkster:-

That was just over a week ago in Brora. That was on the back of Colin Kennedy walking out of a meeting. He closed the meeting and walked out on the basis that the commissioner for the Western Isles said he was no longer declaring an interest in the Western Isles cases which he had previously done and was now wanting to vote on any issues concerning the Western Isles.

Sunday Politics Scotland - Crofting Commission Crisis - Brian Inkster and Gordon Brewer

Gordon Brewer:-

On the face of it you would think that if the commissioners have no confidence in him he has to go but he doesn’t does he because he was elected?

Brian Inkster:-

He was elected and there is nothing in the law that says if the commissioners have a vote of no confidence he must go. One would imagine that if all the commissioners are against you, if the Scottish Crofting Federation, NFU Scotland, MSPs across all cross parties and the press are all saying it’s time to go you would think what is the point of clinging on here.

Gordon Brewer:-

The Scottish Government has threatened to become involved. What can they do?

Brian Inkster:-

In terms of the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993, Scottish Ministers have the power if they consider that a commissioner is unable or unfit to exercise the functions of a member or unsuitable to continue as a member they can then remove a member from office.

Gordon Brewer:-

Now, Brian Inkster, just to give us a little sense of what the background to this is because it is quite complicated. But is the issue underlying all this the use of land and the fact, for example, wind farms wants to come in or housing wants to come in and it is about whether the common ground is allocated to the community the funds from it or to individuals.

Brian Inkster:-

It is linked to the funds that come into a common grazings. On a common grazings, especially as you mentioned wind farming, so in recent times the potential for larger sums of money to come into a common grazings exists. And it is linked to the distribution of those monies and there was an insistance on the part of the convener that those monies had to be paid out as soon as it was received. That there was no ability to hold onto the money to use it to spend on improvements within the common grazings. The Scottish Government said that was not the correct view in law.

Gordon Brewer:-

Alright, we will have to leave it there. Brian Inkster thank you very much indeed for joining us.

Brian Inkster:-

Thank you.

Gordon Brewer:-

Well earlier I spoke to Colin Kennedy. He is the Crofting Commission boss who is in the middle of all of this controversy. I spoke to him on the telephone from Coll.

Sunday Politics Scotland - Crofting Commission Crisis - Colin Kennedy - Convener Crofting Commission

Gordon Brewer asked:-

Are you going to stay in the post?

Colin Kennedy responded:-

I have no intention of resigning.

Gordon Brewer:-

Why not?

Colin Kennedy:-

As matters stand, I believe the commission have acted wholly within the law at all times and until such times as we have legal advice to the contrary, I will maintain my position.

Gordon Brewer:-

But the Scottish Government has said it has the power to get involved. If they do get involved and say you have to go you will have to go won’t you?

Colin Kennedy:-

That will be the case, yes.

Gordon Brewer:-

So just to be clear on that. If the Scottish Government says look given that your commissioners have voted no confidence in you we don’t think you can stay in post you will have to resign.

Colin Kennedy:-

That may be the case.

Gordon Brewer:-

Why are you so determined? You walked out of the meeting didn’t you, the other week? Why have you fallen out with all of the commissioners?

Colin Kennedy:-

No I didn’t walk out of a meeting.

I formally declared the meeting closed in light of an advancement by a commissioner supported by the deputy accountable officer that they had obtained information from the standards commission which I requested sight of prior to determination which failed to materialise.

Accordingly given the nature of the business at hand I had no alternative other than to formally close the September meeting of the Crofting Commission prior to my departure.

Gordon Brewer:-

Okay, but the commissioners have said they no longer have any confidence in you. Which is not brilliant from your point of view is it?

Colin Kennedy:-

I am unaware of the commissioners having said they have no confidence in me.

Gordon Brewer:-

You are not aware of that?

Colin Kennedy:-

Correct.

Gordon Brewer:-

So as far as you are concerned what? The Crofting Commission is carrying on its work as per normal?

Colin Kennedy:-

Well I would suggest at this moment in time that the Crofting Commission conducted a meeting on 28th September which is in non compliance or in accordance with the standing orders of the Crofting Commission and therefore it would appear in my view to be ultra vires.

Gordon Brewer:-

So right. If they still have confidence in you why would they do that?

Colin Kennedy:-

I couldn’t comment on what they do at informally constituted meetings.

Gordon Brewer:-

So right. You think that they still have confidence in you but that they have held an ultra vires meeting without you for reasons that are inexplicable?

Colin Kennedy:-

Correct.

Gordon Brewer:-

The substance of this is about you, they allege, that you made various determinations about things like payments in the form of edicts – that they weren’t really consulted.

Colin Kennedy:-

Absolutely incorrect.

At no time under my leadership have any decisions been taken without full endorsement of the board and based on legal advice.

And if I could comment prior to those decisions as per the board minute of 15 September 2015, prior to taking any of those decisions a formal request was made to the Chief Executive to obtain legal advice to support the papers presented to the board on which the board took the decisions.

Gordon Brewer:-

Alright Colin Kennedy we have to leave it. Thank you very much for joining us.

Colin Kennedy:-

Thank you.

N.B. For a limited period (29 days) you can watch this episode of Sunday Politics Scotland on iPlayer (at about 54 minutes in)

Image Credits: Sunday Politics Scotland © BBC Scotland

23 thoughts on “Sunday Politics Scotland: Chaos on the Croft

  1. Kenny Macdonald

    Points of law can be argued by CK forever. In order to assess suitability for office,the Government need only to look at the damage trail beginning with the offensive action of human rights abuse in crafting the dismissal of the Upper Coll committee by subversive means followed by the unlawful imposition of an investigator dressed as a constable and the obtaining of our bank accounts without our permission. So it goes on.
    Under the leadership of CK, the morphed Commission have become the enemy within.

    Reply
  2. Patrick Krause

    Mr Kennedy appears to be trying to pass the blame to the CEO, as expected. Everyone knows that an FOI shows that he was given advice by senior officials in the CEO’s report to board that imposing constables on the grazings shareholders was not legally competent. But he went ahead and did it anyway. Sorry Mr Kennedy but you have been found out and putting it on the staff is not going to wash. Take it on the chin and go.

    Reply
  3. Linda Brackenbury

    Ultra Vires by gum, he of “legal background” professes he was unaware, the war cry of the defeated!
    No points in law could possibly afford this mere crofter/farmer/builder/lover of turbines/power seeker such an important role within a public agency,
    who? in their right mind would seek to give authority to an individual with such records,
    those who voted for him to become their representative within the CC, ought to be hanging their heads low,
    Or get out of crofting!

    How long does it take to learn the law? to become a well versed lawyer, or is it something that can be learned from bedtime reading from a book??
    When exactly, during his 50 or so years of being a crofter/farmer did CNK do his training or obtain his degrees in law?
    Aye right! Mr. K pull the other one.

    Reply
    1. Donald MacArthur

      Hi Linda, you have had quite a few valid comments on this subject. Never, Never, underestimate anyone. CK might not be a lawyer in the legal sense but he has a better grasp of Crofting law than probably 90% of solicitors I’ve met who are supposed to have specialised in it. Given that, looks like he got it wrong on this occasion. Anyway should he be forced to resign his post, better the legal argument be with ScotGov than an individual, as Kenny says, could go on for years. Also, can’t say I’ve much faith in the rest of the commissioners, apology or not, they could have voted with their feet similar to Susan Walker & William Swann, bearing in mind Susan left after a vote of “no confidence”.

      Reply
      1. Duncan MacLeod

        A correction for Donald MacArthur. I’ve just been rereading issues of the WHFP following Susan Walker’s resignation and if you do, you’ll see she didn’t exactly leave because of a vote of no confidence. Dr MacKinnon wrote a whole series of letters to the WHFP. He used FOI to uncover that 5 of the 9 Commissioners, organised by Colin Kennedy who phoned round Commissioners, signed a letter to the CEO requesting a meeting to discuss a vote of no confidence in the Convener. Before a meeting could be organised, this story was leaked to the WHFP. Susan Walker then resigned before a meeting could be organised. So we’ll never know if the meeting would have resulted in a vote of no confidence. Certainly Kennedy won’t be getting the accolades she received from a great array of politicians, from the Minister down and from all parties, and a whole bunch of stakeholders. So as far as we can make out what happened to Susan Walker was the first signs of how Kennedy operates to get his own way. If we had all been paying attention to what happened, especially government, and if it had taken corrective action on the bad apples, the Commission would not be in the mess it is today. This is a mess Kennedy has been cooking up for a long time. It is maybe extraordinary that we are all only now smelling it.

        Reply
  4. Katie Kirk

    “But is the issue underlying all this the use of land and the fact, for example, wind farms wants to come in or housing wants to come in and it is about whether the common ground is allocated to the community the funds from it or to individuals.”

    Dear Mr Inkster,

    You did not clearly reply to Gordon Brewer’s question, above. You seemed to be tending to the notion that common grazings monies should be allocated to the wider community rather than the legitimate shareholders. Gordon Brewer did not seem aware there is a distinction between the two and you did not apprise him of this very important distinction, which is the crux of the conflict in Upper Coll. It is clear from the fascinating U-tube recording of the November meeting in Upper Coll that there is a bitter dispute between active crofters with livestock, and inactive crofters, with no livestock, who favour directing monies to non-crofting purposes. Can you clarify your stance on this issue?

    To me, the situation is clear; the Crofting Act (1993 Section 21:4a) states that monies from the resumption of land are to be paid to each individual crofter sharing in the common grazing according to the proportion of their right in said grazings (ie. According to their individual souming). There is no mention of this vague, wider non-crofting community.

    Reply
    1. Brian Inkster Post author

      Dear Ms Kirk

      I certainly did not tend to the notion “that common grazings monies should be allocated to the wider community rather than the legitimate shareholders”. Common grazings monies are of course shareholder monies. There are, however, issues arising from that regarding monies required to maintain and improve the grazings.

      The question as I took it at the time and answered it was that these issues are more in focus when larger sums of monies are flowing into a grazings fund. Also I took “community” to mean the crofting community (i.e. all shareholders together) and not some wider community.

      Reply
      1. Katie Kirk

        Thank you for taking the trouble to reply to my question. However, your reply does raise another question as to why you believe that more income to common grazings could raise problematic issues regarding monies required for maintenance and improvements? Sections 48 and 49 of the Crofting Act cover the duties of committees to maintain, replace and improve the grazings and set out exactly how any expenditure proposed by the committee should be allocated for payment by the shareholders. It is perfectly clear that, as with any shareholding, you will have obligations before any dividends.

        The beauty of the Crofting Act is that if a shareholder does not want to pay, then his or her souming is adjusted accordingly – Section 49 (e) – and therefore any potential dividend would be reduced by that amount. The effect of this is that those who are active crofters can continue and those who are inactive or absent will not be an impediment to actual crofting.

        Any shareholders who become inactive for any reason can allocate their souming to those who are active, who then take on the responsibility for paying these maintenance and improvement shares. What could be fairer than that?

        Dividends are directly payable when land is resumed, for example for housing. This is very important as active crofters’ CAP payments are based on the amount of land they have at their disposal. Land resumed is gone from crofting tenure forever and CAP payments are reduced.

        Reply
  5. The Tiree Bat

    Does it not strike anyone here as interesting that Colin Kennedy has three wind turbines on common grazing land, as well as holiday let properties, but he does not own the land and recently lost a case at the land court to force the owner to sell it to him? The whole thrust of the dispute he seems to have presided over is him insisting immediate payment to grazings committees of funds received – which would obviously include funds produced by wind turbines and other commercial ventures on common grazings…..so I don’t know enough about it, but does anyone think his own personal circumstances have had anything to do with his behaviour in office – does he have anything personally to gain through forcing a series of actions, such as he has on Lewis, that he believes (if they’d been successful) would set a precedent that could very well then be applied to his own situation, and to his financial benefit?

    Reply
  6. Kenny Macdonald

    In order to clear up Katie’s misunderstanding of the local situation in Upper Coll I would want readers to be aware that 8 of the active shareholders have no problem abiding by the local regulations and legal soumings. On the other hand, 2 of the active shareholders, who invited the Commission to become involved, insist on disregarding local regs and legal soumings.
    CK and co. completely failed to take correct action and miserably succeeded in taking all the wrong ones.
    Too late do they realise the error of their ways We await the departure of the two Colins from the corridors of power.

    Reply
    1. Katie Kirk

      Kenny, I do not believe I have misunderstood or misheard anything of the recording of the November 2015 meeting with Upper Coll shareholders. I have listened to it very carefully. It was clearly stated that there were five active crofters out of forty-two shareholders. This was undisputed. Two of these active crofters had more cattle than their souming allowed. However, the livestock numbers in total fell very far short of what the common grazings could support. Contrary to the provisions of the Act, other shareholders made it clear that they would not re-allocate their unused soumings. One shareholder emphatically stated, “Sharing souming – no way!” It was sadly evident throughout the proceedings that there were deep divisions between villagers. On several occasions the commissioner had to quell the riotous yelling and call the meeting to order.

      It became manifestly evident from the meeting that no-one in Upper Coll (not even the Clerk) had bothered to read their own regulations. That was freely admitted upon questioning. Therefore it is highly likely that everyone had breached the regulations in some way.

      It was also startlingly clear that shareholders would not tolerate a bull in the village of Upper Coll. One villager stated that he had gone around the village to ask and stated at the meeting “No bull in the village … they don’t want them near their houses or in the village … no bull.” Given that the main purpose of the common grazings is to graze livestock this was a stunning reflection on just how far removed from crofting some shareholders have become.

      It is notable that the commissioners repeatedly asked if there was any way that villagers could get together to resolve their issues. The final answer was a resounding “NO”. It seems to me that since the role of the commission is to regulate and promote crofting, in these circumstances they were left with little choice but to implement section 47 (8) of the Act. In view of this, I find it extraordinary that what is now being called for is no less than the regulator’s head on a plate.

      Reply
  7. Kenny Macdonald

    Katie.

    I was pointing out that this dispute is not between active shareholders with stock and non active shareholders as stated by you.

    I earlier clarified the dispute issue but I am happy to attempt an answer to your other concerns.

    The number of active shareholders given by me is correct.

    The matter of the bull is a matter for shareholders. From the time this village was established, all tups and bulls have been grazed and kept on individual shareholders crofts. This is considered by the majority as the best and most sensible arrangement because of the practical outcomes.

    With regard to soumings all readers should be aware that there was full access to the common grazings for over-soumings. The limit was being established for access to the limited acreage developed parks which are in high demand. In fairness to all stockholders, it is essential to have strict stock limits and timetabled access to these areas. Right now, it is a free for all because the Commission completely failed to put any plan forward since they took over management.

    The spare soumings should be distributed evenly between all stockholders. This will be for the committee to decide on as the law makes clear. It is not a good idea for individual stockholders to collect spare soumings for themselves as this could lead to serious imbalance and unfairness.

    I can confirm that the last answer to the question if there was any way forward was a yes. I know because I said it. It was conditional on adequate response coming from the over-soumers.

    For all the references to the regulations, the Commission found only 5 action points for the voluntary sector to sharpen up on which means we were doing quite well. Two of these action points have since been found to be a wrong and the other three were small detail.

    The enforced distribution of resumption money was a major blunder on the part of the Commission but the insistence on producing audited accounts for 5 years, when we were in office for under one, was a deliberate setting of a task the Commission knew we would fail. They had a clear understanding of what was truly meant by the word audit and held back that information from us.

    We produced financial statements completed by an independent firm as is called for in the Commission’s guidelines and in so doing were considered to be “not carrying our our duties properly”. For this deemed failure alone we were put out of office and for no other reason.

    The Commission were determined to get the new committee out of office from the very beginning and failed in its duty of care towards us. You will notice in the recording of the meeting, the repeated phrase “we have the power to”. Hardly a suitable phrase to use unless you had a hidden agenda.

    After the deed was done and in order to justify the appointment of the unlawful constable/investigator, they gave a press release indicating that there were financial irregularities; a media term for embezzlement, and this a day after receiving the accounts which indicated true balances. The unlawful investigator failed to find anything to justify either this statement or their decision to dismiss. The eventual cost of this and other spectacular failures is being calculated.

    The Commission, nor any commissioner, never once met with the clerk or the Committee before embarking on their destructive course. How very odd.

    When we asked them to reconsider their dismissal of the whole committee, we were informed that they are not authorised to revisit their decisions. The law of the Medes and the Persians is alive and well in Great Glen House. We were advised that the only appeal was to the Land Court but they then devoted themselves to obstruct our access to it at tremendous cost. What a surprise it wasn’t when we discovered the Court did not have jurisdiction. They probably knew it all along.

    All trust has gone. The law needs to be changed to become the servant and not the master. The Commission needs to be retrained to do the job. The Commissioners all need a P45.

    Hope this casts some more light on the shady dealings of the regulator and the unsung efforts of the volunteers.

    If any reader has a question about the recent governance of this regulator, I will try to give an answer.

    Reply
    1. Kenneth Maciver

      The commissioners held a meeting for which they had not submitted an agenda. Most of us had no idea what the meeting was about.

      To find ourselves subject to an oration about the powers of The Commission to deprive us of rights our forefathers had fought for was astonishing, unexpected, unwarranted and totally over the top. There was an obvious agenda from the very outset.

      Mr Kennedy held up papers “proving” no improvements had been carried out since 1960….1960. He wouldn’t accept or countenance any contrary views. Had he done so we could have shown him over £190,00 of improvements since 1997.

      Had we been told what the meeting was about these figures would have been there for him.

      No indication of purpose of meeting, categoric statements that feus monies had to be immediately distributed, since provem to be false, sarcastic comments about the numbers of cattle our parks could take.

      Mr Kennedy’s attitude spoke of powers, unwillingness to countenance correction of erroneous statements, insulting and shouting at an unwell and highly respected member of our village.

      And then his companion who had sat quietly as he berated us, asked timorously if there was a chance of differences being sorted. After the heat generated as result of Kennedy’s conduct and his unwillingness to countenenance was he surprised to get the response he got. He had come totally biased and was told that very quickly, which he did not like much.

      The Commission under Kennedy created a heated situation, ignored the views of the great majority, failed to act on the complainers repeated breach of grazings timetables, failed to initiate the process in the Crofting Commission guidelines for such situations, dismissed a committee which had carried out all the CC demands, illegally installed an investigating officer masquerading as a constable, communicated with aforesaid official repeatedly as FOI information proves.

      In spite of all this they have been unable to find anything which would even retrospectively justify the dismissal of the committee, have publicly announced they were investigating ”financial irregularities” after independent auditors had cleared the committee, and have been forced to publicly apologise for their conduct.

      Kennedy had an agenda, eagerly picked up by his investigating officer, which was nothing to do with Upper Coll. Upper Coll was his target this time. It could have been any committee.
      We, the vast majority in Upper Coll, have always abided by the village rules, unlike one of the two complainers. He continues to ignore them, as he perceives he has had Kennedy’s support.

      Kennedy has caused huge unnecessary upset amongst good people who have done nothing wrong.

      His mistake was taking our normal politeness for softness. We stood for what was right and knew we were doing so on behalf of the many worried grazings committees who knew they were in real trouble if Kennedy’s agenda was to be accepted.

      He was ordered to apologise. He didn’t have the good grace to do so. We now see why. He DID have an agenda, a personal one, which he was determined to pursue. That has been rightly rejected at the highest levels.

      The initial meeting in Upper Coll would have been the first of many.

      Thankfully our people bave been completely vindicated and the wider community is gettiing an idea of what we were up against.

      Our local democracy has to be immediately restored, our losses compensated, and our village, in a post Kenndy era, be allowed to return to being the well run village it has always been and the anarchy of the two replaced by rule of the majority once again.

      Reply
    2. Katie Kirk

      Kenny (Macdonald),

      Primary sources are the greatest asset of the historian. There is no need for lengthy rambles through the Medo-Persian empire when the facts of the matter are directly available here:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfZC0R45aPk

      Any interested party can listen to this recording of the meeting in Upper Coll last November. If they do, then they can confirm the following (the times refer to the approximate point in the recording):

      • At the time of the meeting there were just 5 active crofters in Upper Coll.
      1m 29s: Villager – “42 shareholders … 5 active, the other 37 don’t have livestock”
      Not disputed.
      1m 40s: Commissioner Kennedy “5 shareholders are active?” Reply “uh-huh” (affirmative). Not disputed.

      • Commissioner Kennedy did not unreasonably repeat the phrase “we have the power to …” At the opening of the meeting he stated, in a neutral manner, what the powers of the commission were; it would have been remiss if he had not done so. On one occasion during the long meeting he restated them again by way of explanation. In summing up after two-and-a-half hours he again reasonably summarised CC powers.

      • What both commissioners continued to repeat – constantly throughout the meeting – was a plea for shareholders to resolve their issues in a spirit of compromise. Their pleas fell upon stony ground every time.

      • You did indeed suggest a means of moving forward, but your suggestion was remarkably high-handed and ignored the fact that the grazings committee had forfeited its authority through ignorance of its own regulations.
      1m 43s: Kenny Macdonald – “There is always room for moving forward … I would suggest that the party that is not following the authority of the other party first needs to put themselves in subjection to the authority then there could be movement forward”.
      Clerk agreed and suggested that the complainants needed to admit that they had broken some of the regulations.
      Commissioner Kennedy had to remind everyone at this point that the committee had not even read the regulations. Clerk said he took responsibility for this. Commissioner stated that the whole committee was responsible. No other committee member was heard to admit any error. Commissioner said he was looking for common ground.

      • Commissioner Kennedy frequently had to cite relevant terms of the Crofting Act. Those who appeared to be committee members seemed to think that the laws as stated by the commissioner were somehow optional extras and they could act according to their “traditions”.

      • In winding up the meeting, Commissioner Kennedy used several different ways of asking and suggesting that people resolve their issues themselves. He said, “There is no finer way than people talking to each other, in my view”. This was immediately followed by a cacophony of shareholders yelling and shouting abuse to the extent that commissioner could barely be heard calling order.

      After carefully listening to the recording of the meeting, it is my opinion that both commissioners conducted themselves reasonably and properly in difficult and fractious circumstances. It is my further opinion that some Upper Coll shareholders behaved in a manner that was obtuse and hostile, and showed themselves to the world in a very poor light indeed. However, that is simply my personal opinion; any interested person should listen to the recording and form their own.

      Reply
      1. Kenneth Maciver

        Pity Katie Kirk wasn’t there like we were.

        The body language she would have seen would have added considerably to her lack of understanding of a meeting called without an agenda, but with an agenda, that was very obvious to those of us who saw it in full colour 3d visual.

        Without the available facts, but with some wrong facts, without going through the procedures described in the Crofting Commission’s own guidelines, without the authority to state feu payments had to be distributed immediately, but stating that was the case, without the knowledge regarding the developed parks, but making assertions about them, without ascertaining facts, but judging from a position of ignorance of them.

        The recording of the meeting by the one who constantly breaches grazings regulations has been very useful.

        It provides evidence that one or two disgruntled people who think the village is their private farm no matter what the rights of the rest are, found a likeminded ally in the convener.

        Had the meeting been properly called, with shareholders having had the same notice of agenda as one or two obviously did,
        had there been any attempt to find out the facts,
        had there been any attempt to deal with the constant breach of regulations by a minority of one,
        had there been any attempt at the beginning of the meeting to state this was an attempt to match the views of the vast majority with the ridiculous spurious allegations by two,
        had there been any indications that this was the start of a process, using the CCs’ own guidelines,
        Had there been less of an obstinate refusal to accept the many good things done over many years,’
        Had there been any account of the fact that this was a new committee, with three members who had not been on the previous one.

        Had any of these been given acknowledgement, instead of implied and stated non acceptance he might have met with a more compliant audience. He came to lecture, not to listen.

        Having then been the cause of upset did he expect us to accept anything he might have to say, especially when he was seen to be supporting two, one of whom the minute book shows was constantly refusing to abide by the wishes of the vast majority.

        Upper Coll has always been a well run village. The minutes book bears evidence to that. The finances have been well managed. Two professional auditors have now had to acknowledge that, in spite of the malicious attempts to discredit us.

        Those of us not on the committee, and not from the families of the offending two, have had full confidence in the past and present committees.

        That the man who should be holding us up as an example should come and vilify us and then still persists in the face of legal advice to back off beggars belief.

        So Katie Kirk you are welcome to support Mr Kennedy if you wish.

        In Upper Coll we don’t want to ever see him again. Instead of confirming what the democratic process produced, he brought complete disarray by rubbishing the majority.

        Our committee has been vindicated, the Minister agreed that what happened was totally unjust, the Commission has issued a public apology to us.

        We now hope to move on and for post Kennedy calm and order to be restored.

        Mr Kennedy has not apologised of course.

        The rest of the country now sees, as we did, a graceless person whose diktats caused all the furore.

        Having taking the first step and not had much thanks for it from Mr Kennedy, Mr Ewing now has to take the inevitable step to restore some measure of stability.

        That cannot come soon enough for the many families who have been undeservedly slurred by his regime.

        (And for the historians, this village was founded after the First World War by my grandfather and others who refused to be cowtowed by Lord Leverhulme’s warnings of dire consequences, and having served in the war, were determined to secure for themselves and their families the land they had been promised.
        We erected a monument at the end of the road to honour them.
        For us to have capitulated to the bully would have been to dishonour their memory.
        We don’t take kindly to being patronised, insulted and demeaned.
        We are sure they would be proud that we have fought off the unwelcome intruder.
        That is the context.
        You can threaten our todays, insult our yesterdays, but don’t expect us to let you ride all over us.
        I think my grandfather and the other fine men would have thoroughly approved of our resistance.)

        Reply
  8. F MACDONALD

    MR KENNY MACIVER KEEPS BANGING ON IN HIS POSTS ABOUT WHAT HIS FOREFATHERS FOUGHT FOR COULD MR MACIVER PLEASE EXPLAIN EXACTLY WHAT HE DOES WITH HIS CROFT WHICH HIS “FOREFATHERS” FOUGHT FOR? AND HIS 12 ACRE APPORTIONMENT THAT HE GOT AT THE TIME OF THE IDP SOME 30 YEARS AGO! TO MY KNOWLEDGE HE HAS NEVER HAD LIVESTOCK AND III NEVER WORKED HIS CROFT OR APPORTIONMENT!
    MR MACDONALD IS ALSO IN THE SAME BOAT APART FROM HE DOESN’T HAVE A 12 ACRE APPORTIONMENT, TO MY KNOWLEDGE HE HAS NEVER HAD LIVESTOCK EITHER APART FROM HIS 4 HENS! AND HAS NEVER WORKED HIS CROFT! BUT LISTENING TO THE 2 OF THEM AND THERE DELUSIONAL VIEWS ON CROFTING PROPAGANDA THEY WOULD PUT LORD HAW HAW TO SHAME!
    IN WHAT WAY ARE THEY FILLING THEIR OBLIGATIONS AS CROFTERS? THERE ARE LOTS OF PEOPLE WHO WOULD LOVE TO BECOME PROPER CROFTERS ON THESE CROFTS!
    WITH THIS HOW CAN MR MACIVER , MR MACDONALD AND THEIR SIDE KICKS SIT THERE AND DICTATE TO ACTIVE CROFTERS ON HOW TO GO ABOUT THERE BUSINESS? SHOULD THEY NOT BE THE OPPOSITE AND BE ENCOURAGING CROFTING ACTIVITIES? INSTEAD OF BEING HELL BENT ON GOING OUT OF THERE WAY TO PUT AS MANY OBSTACLES IN PEOPLES WAY!

    Reply
    1. Kenneth Maciver

      With F Macdonald being so apparently well versed in the affairs of our village, and so concerned about the detail of them, we are surprised we have not seen anyone bearing his name at any shareholders meetings over the years. When he does we will quite happily deal with any detailed concerns he may have. We have always had free and fair discussion at these meetings and hopefully will continie to do so.

      I am proud of what my forebears did and will indeed keep on ”banging on” about it. Without knowing the past we don’t understand the present.

      We will deal with Upper Coll matters in Upper Coll, not by involving outside bodies just because we don’t get our own way.

      If you belong to Upper Coll please come along and we can discuss any matters concerning you. If not maybe you could assist us by refraining from interfering with matters our grazings committee can deal with at any time, as has been the case in the past.

      If you are interested you can come and examine my croft at any time and see that it is well used, fenced, maintained and grazed to as good a standard as any other holding in these islands, and better than many, others, even in this village, which aren’t even fenced.

      But then I suspect you know that already in the same way as ”Donald from Upper Coll” did when he used a bogus name to try and rubbish the village to the media.

      I am happy for my stewardship of my croft to be on the agenda of the reformed committee if F Macdonald has the right to ask for that to be so.

      Reply
  9. Linda Brackenbury

    Donald MacArthur.. CK/CNK… might know a lot about crofting, he is a crofter as was his father before him.. there is no doubt he knows a tad more than most, however, he is not now nor ever has been nor is he ever likely to a lawyer/solicitor with “legal background”… Kennedy knows as much about Crofting Law as he did about Agricultural Holdings Law… when he sent a Notice of Irritancy under the Crofting Law act 1993.. to his own tenant who was in fact a tenant under Ag law under the 1991 act… that my dear fellow shows how smart he is.

    Reply
  10. Kenny Macdonald

    A quick reply to Fred or Finlay Macdonald.

    You are mistaken. I have 13 hens and am planning more.

    My croft is used for silage and is properly fenced. I grow what I can, when I can, and could keep stock if I wished as we used to, and may still do. Like everyone else back in the day, we stuck with our souming.

    Go back and read previous posts.

    What we are ensuring is the democratic right of a majority to establish timetables and controlled access to our developed parks and the other common grazings. This is normal practice in grazings throughout Scotland. It is not something new.

    Shareholders do not need to be stockholders in order to have voting rights on these matters.
    Stockholders do however, need to be crofters in order to access the developed parks. That is, stockholders ought to be able to look after their stock on their own land at least some of the time. This is not the case for 2 of the current over soumers; the very ones who applied to the famous farmer from the Isle of Coll for support.

    They want us to run a farm for them. It’s not going to happen.

    Reply
  11. F Macdonald

    Kenneth Maciver
    The only reason I am so well versed in the affairs in your village, and I think I speak for most people throughout our islands that over the last year it has been a relentless barrage of verbal diarrhoea! whether it be on BBC ALBA or Radio nan Gaidheal which you have used as your own propaganda tool, on how the commission have acted perhaps if you had read your regulations none of this would have happened!
    I am not disputing the fact your croft is used, fenced maintained and grazed. But it is not by YOU! and never has been!

    Kenny Macdonald
    You state you have 13 hens and planning more I hope you will be keeping to your souming!
    Also how much silage did your 13 hens go through last year?

    Reply
  12. Janice MacDonald

    Dear Mr. F. Macdonald,
    I had no idea that my hens were so famous and that you have knowledge of them through the media. I would like to point out that if you require any further information about them you should contact me as I am the main person involved in their upkeep. I should explain to you that hens do not require silage. This may come as a surprise to you. I buy my growers pellets and layers pellets from the Crofters in Stornoway. Maybe you could help me on the issue of souming for hens. How many hens am I allowed to keep? I would naturally want to abide by legislation and can assure you that I will keep any additional hens that I get on the croft.

    I had a dream about two crofters in Upper Coll. One was very popular and the other was not so popular. They were both keen to have more animals. One had some on his own croft. Both ignored the rules of going through the grazings committee to increase their souming. They both went around the village and asked friends and neighbours if they could use their unused crofts. The popular crofter received a resounding yes and immediately began populating Upper Coll with all of his animals. The not so popular crofter received a resounding no and was told to first use his own croft and get back to them later. Who was right? Neither. Both should have worked their own crofts. Both should have gone through the grazings committee to increase soumings. The not so popular crofter was now furious that money was being spent on fences, feeding troughs etc as the popular crofter’s animals spilled out from his croft and were more and more on common grazings and developed parks with only him benefiting. I then woke up. It had been a dream, but I reflected on it for a while. What should the unpopular crofter do? The answer seemed to be that he should deal with the problem and not create other problems by trying to get revenge.

    I moved to Upper Coll 13 years ago and was immediately impressed by the friendliness of people and the welcome that I received. I find it hard to believe that there are now problems between people who were once good neighbours. However, I would like to note how healthy all of the animals are that are grazing around Upper Coll. We have good crofters here!
    A small problem has become a big problem and the crofting commission has exacerbated the problem by their unbelievable and ridiculous mishandling of the whole situation. Bullies have been allowed to cause havoc. I hope that they can be removed quickly and dealt with appropriately.

    And what about Upper Coll? There are no quick solutions. The situation with the convener, constable and commission could roll on for quite some time and the mending of serious damages done will take time. But there is no reason that matters relating to the cattle and sheep in Upper Coll (and hens for some) can’t be dealt with through souming regulations and the committee. Go on lads and lassies, give it a go! Whether you are grieved or aggrieved let’s begin the healing process in Upper Coll.

    Reply

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