In my last post I considered the background to the ‘secret’ special meeting of the Crofting Commission that was to be held in Inverness this morning. It had been requested by the Convener of the Crofting Commission, Colin Kennedy, purportedly to seek to overturn the decisions taken after he walked out of the Brora meeting.
Mr Kennedy has maintained in statements to the media that the Brora meeting was ultra vires (illegal). It is assumed that he was to argue this at the special meeting called by him this morning even although I pointed out yesterday that it would be a clear conflict of interest for him to participate in any decision making process in this regard.
It was reported by the BBC that at the start of the meeting commissioner David Campbell (West Highlands) made a motion for the meeting to be held in public for the purposes of natural justice, accountability and transparency to the ordinary crofter.
However, none of the other commissioners in the room (who are all crofters) were willing to second this motion. Thus the meeting proceeded in secret and out of honourable principle Mr Campbell departed the meeting at the same time as the press and public were excluded.
Commissioner Murdo Maclennan (Western Isles) did not attend the meeting. It was reported by the BBC that this was due to a threat of legal action against the Commission/Commissioners by the Convener.
Thus the secret ‘cabal’ consisted of:-
- Colin Kennedy (Convener) – South West Highlands
- Ian George Macdonald (Vice-convener) – West Highlands
- Kathleen Sinclair – Shetland
- Arnold Pirie – Caithness and Orkney
- Marina Dennis – East Highlands
However, at the end of the day (after a 6 hour meeting) the Convener didn’t appear to get his way.
The official statement issued by Interim Chief Executive Bill Barron to the BBC after the meeting stated:-
At the request of the Convener, the interim CEO called a special meeting of the Crofting Commission on Friday 9 December 2016.
The Commissioners present reaffirmed the importance of working together effectively in the final months of their terms.
The Board also discussed the status of the meeting held in Brora in September and how to move forward.
The Board decided that there was one meeting in Brora which took place in two valid parts, the meeting previously referred to as a special meeting being a continuation of the scheduled Board meeting.
Any consequences from this will be considered at their Board meeting on Wednesday 14 December 2016.
So six hours to decide that the two meetings in Brora (one with the Convener present and one without him after he walked out) were in fact one meeting held in two parts. It is assumed that legal advice had been sought on this (the Commission’s lawyer was evident in the film of the meeting shown on BBC Alba tonight) and that such advice conflicted with the Convener’s own interpretation which may well have been ingenious but flawed.
So there we have it: The Convener’s publicly stated position on the Brora meeting has been wrong from the outset. But will he now accept that?
The official statement says that any consequences from this will be considered at the Board meeting on Wednesday. Surely there are no consequences as such if the meeting was a legally held one. Is it not just a case of approving the minutes and moving on? Or are the consequences linked to the Convener’s stance on the meeting being ultra vires? After all in terms of the Standing Orders [PDF]:-
Once a decision has been reached, all members have a corporate responsibility to recognise and accept the decision as that of the Crofting Commission. Corporate responsibility entails that members must adhere to and accept such a decision until it is otherwise altered.
We will no doubt find out on Wednesday!
Image Credits: © BBC Alba