Tag Archives: Grazings Clerk

Souter to step down “as soon as possible”

Colin Souter was about to escape the life in a goldfish bowl he had created for himself as grazing 'constable' at Upper Coll.

Colin Souter was about to escape the life in a goldfish bowl he had created for himself as grazing ‘constable’ at Upper Coll.

The Crofting Commission announced today that Colin Souter is to step down as Grazings ‘Constable’ at Upper Coll  on the Isle of Lewis “as soon as possible”.

The official statement reads:-

The Crofting Commission confirmed today that it has written to shareholders of Upper Coll Common Grazings to advise that the grazings constable will be stepping down as soon as possible.

The move follows the submission of a report from the constable, which was considered at a special meeting yesterday.  The report will also be circulated to shareholders.

In the letter, the Commission encourages shareholders to work together in appointing a new grazings committee in line with crofting legislation.

This follows on from the direction given to Commissioners by Fergus Ewing MSP last week. The decision was made by Commissioners at a Special Meeting in Brora yesterday in the absence of the Convener, Colin Kennedy, who had walked out on the earlier convened meeting that morning.

Mr Souter’s appointment was seen by me, and others as illegal. Ironically a report by the executive of the Crofting Commission to their board also considered this to be the case.

Mr Souter was also criticised for taking on an investigative role and seeking to find some sort of fault at Upper Coll rather than assuming the role of grazings clerk with the day to day management function that goes with that role.

He sought to impose the views of a minority on the majority. He liked to report his ‘findings’ on a regular basis to the press.

Whilst Mr Souter claimed he was independent from the Crofting Commission it was clear that they were working hand in hand and indeed, on the face of it, Mr Souter was simply a Commission puppet.

The vast majority of shareholders at Upper Coll will be relieved by this latest news.

However, they may not be celebrating just yet. At least not until they see how long “as soon as possible” turns out to be.

A new committee has already been elected by the shareholders and the Crofting Commission would do well to simply accept that committee rather than insisting on further procedure, possibly involving Mr Souter, to achieve the very same end result.

Brian Inkster

Image Credit: Police Academy © Warner Bros


Grazings ‘Constable’ must stand aside or be removed

Upper Coll Grazings Constable, Colin Souter, must stand aside or be removedThe Scottish Crofting Federation has written to the cabinet secretary for crofting, Fergus Ewing MSP, expressing deep concern that crofters’ democratic rights are being flouted by a constable appointed, perhaps illegally, by the Crofting Commission.

Chair of the Scottish Crofting Federation, Fiona Mandeville, said:-

The majority of shareholders of the Upper Coll grazings have voted, yet this constable, whose legality of appointment is refuted by lawyers, is completely ignoring them. The shareholders have demanded that the constable, Colin Souter, who was appointed by the Crofting Commission, stands down so that they can reinstate a democratically elected grazings committee. Why is he still there?

Democracy is the very foundation of grazings committees. A lack of democratic procedure by the removed Upper Coll committee is something that the constable has been trying, unsuccessfully, to find evidence of. The shareholders have the legal right to elect their own committee and Souter is standing in their way. He must stand aside or be removed.

Judging by the press releases Souter issues, he clearly has misunderstood the role of a grazings clerk, or that of an appointed constable fulfilling the duties of clerk – were his appointment legal. He seems to be either completely out of control, or under the control of the Crofting Commission, an organisation that has lost all credibility. In addition Souter and his masters are attempting to undermine the viability of crofters’ collaborative enterprises by questioning their entitlement to SRDP and registration for VAT. Are they trying to bring to an end 130 years of crofting? The only recourse is for the Scottish Government to take control of the situation and to remove him.

This incredible situation is extremely harmful, not only to the crofting community of Upper Coll, but to crofting itself. We can understand that the Scottish Government is reluctant to interfere with a democratically elected Commission, but this constable is not democratically elected, claims to be independent of the Crofting Commission who appointed him, and is flouting democracy. There is nothing to stop the Scottish Government from doing the right thing, and it must do it now.

Constable Propaganda

Constable Propaganda or Crofting Commission Propaganda (Upper Coll Common Grazings)

The real “dictatorial regime” was clear for all to see despite or perhaps because of their propaganda

Colin Souter’s persistent insistence that he can continue to act as ‘committee’ to the Upper Coll Grazings is perplexing indeed in the face of clear opposition to his involvement from the majority of shareholders.

Following the meeting of shareholders called by Mr Souter in Upper Coll last night he issued a press release (he is the only ‘clerk’ in the country known to advise the press of shareholders business in this way). This press release is very much in the tone of propaganda issued on behalf of the Crofting Commission who remain silent on the issue and appear to allow Mr Souter to speak for them.

The Crofting Commission have been under fire for many months now over an alleged abuse of power in removing three grazings committees from office in circumstances thought my most onlookers to be completely unjustified and unreasonable.

I would offer my comments on this latest ‘propaganda’ by quoting sections of it (in italics) with my analysis following each section:-

A third official meeting of shareholders was chaired at Upper Coll last night by the Grazings Constable, Mr Colin Souter.

It is very debatable whether a meeting of shareholders convened by a reputedly illegal grazings constable can ever be an official one. On the illegality of his appointment see:-

Crofting Commission’s appointment of Grazings Constable is illegal

Grazings Constables Risk the Clink

Crofting Commission knew they were acting illegally in appointing Grazings Constables

Grazings Constables were added to the Sump by the Crofting Commission

During his opening remarks, Mr Souter was interrupted by the former Committee chairman, apparently wishing to raise a point of order. Mr Souter responded that he would take the point at the conclusion of his statement to the meeting.

If a point of order was raised at the outset of the meeting should it not have been taken immediately? Mr Souter clearly does not want to let shareholders have their say and is suppressing their right to be heard at a shareholders meeting. That is not the role of a ‘clerk’ even if legally appointed.

In response to that delay, a number of former Committee members and their supporters, many of whom have no shares in the grazings, got up and left the room, in what was declared by those shareholders remaining, to be an obvious pre-planned move. The meeting continued with the remaining shareholders present and worked constructively through a busy agenda.

Mr Souter omits how many left the meeting and how many remained. I understand that 11 people (shareholders or proxies for shareholders) walked out leaving only 4 shareholders (2 full shareholders and 2 half shareholders remaining).

Shareholders vote with their feet at Upper Coll by leaving the meeting arranged by Colin Souter

Shareholders vote with their feet at Upper Coll by leaving the meeting arranged by Colin Souter

Another 4 people remained whose status were not declared but who were not shareholders. No proxies were presented by them at the beginning of the meeting.

The 11 who left the meeting had the clear support of 26 out of 42 shareholders who had signed a petition that stated:-

“I support the election of a new Grazings Committee to run the affairs of Upper Coll Township. I also request the removal of the illegally imposed Grazings Constable with immediate effect.”

Thus Mr Souter decided to proceed with a meeting in the clear knowledge that a very small number of shareholders (perhaps only 4 out of 42) supported him and the meeting in question.”

The meeting continued with the remaining shareholders present and worked constructively through a busy agenda. Shareholders were provided with additional new information and after discussion and debate, voted on a number of issues, many declaring it was the first such opportunity to vote on shareholder matters in the grazings for a number of years and hoped it was an indication of the way forward.

Why were possibly only the 4 out of 42 shareholders present at the meeting “provided with additional new information”? Surely any additional new information should have been provided to shareholders in advance of the meeting. How can decisions be taken on such matters in the absence of actual consultation thereon?

Mr Souter sent a letter to all shareholders on 12 September. Why was this additional new information not included with that letter? No vote should have been taken on such issues in such circumstances. Although any vote was, in any event, very much a minority one given that the majority had expressed their vote on the entire meeting at the outset.

Mr Souter set out his current activities and explained his goals on a number of current matters, some of which are seen as contentious in some quarters and have been the subject of targeted public criticism by supporters of the former Committee, including the Solicitor, Brian Inkster, who had been engaged by the former Committee to support them in their dispute with the Commission, which eventually led to their subsequent dismissal. Mr Souter has since written to Mr Inkster seeking his co-operation to repay the fee he charged, as it had been approved only by the former Committee and not by the wider body of shareholders, who had never been consulted on the matter.

Mr Souter omits to mention that a seven page letter has been issued by me on this subject to Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Minister responsible for crofting, and copied to him. This highlights the serious errors in Mr Souter’s understanding of the position of legal fees, his meddling in VAT affairs, his role as grazings ‘constable’ and his close and unhealthy association with the Crofting Commission and/or their Convener all as set out in:-

Crofters and Lawyers

Crofting VATgate

Inspector Constable

The Crofting Bat Phone

I have expressed my concerns to Mr Ewing about this illegal ‘constable’ being allowed to wreak havoc by the Crofting Commission. Mr Ewing has already had to rein in Convener Colin Kennedy. Now it is time for him to rein in another Colin.

Mr Souter also detailed his correspondence with other parties and the approach being followed. The meeting voted unanimously to support his current activity and the work on which he is currently engaged to ensure the Grazings are fully legally compliant in all matters. Shareholders expressed their wish that if necessary he continue beyond the current term which expires in November but it was explained that under the Crofting Act, there is no provision to extend the tenure of a Constable, once appointed by the Commission.

Possibly only 4 out of 42 shareholders does not give Mr Souter a mandate for “his current activity and the work on which he is currently engaged” or indicate any desire by the shareholders for him to “continue in ‘office’ beyond his current term”.

One thing that Mr Souter has got right in law (maybe the first thing so far) is that under the Crofters (Scotland)  Act 1993 there is no provision to extend the tenure of a Constable, if legally  appointed by the Commission, once the period of tenure comes to an end.

During the meeting, shareholders voted to approve the revised draft of Grazing Regulations, which has been the subject of a wide consultation process over the last three months, subject to some final amendments offered from the floor.

It is very concerning indeed that Mr Souter may think he can force through revised Grazings Regulations  (which are believed to possibly seek to retrospectively validate actions taken unjustifiably by the Crofting Commission) on the basis of a meeting with only a minority of shareholders who have appeared to support the Crofting Commission throughout. Some of those shareholders are alleged to have been personally in breach of the existing regulations and Mr Souter has done nothing whatsoever to deal with those allegations. Again this demonstrates that he is not acting in any way impartially.

On the question of impartiality it is very revealing to note that Mr Souter arrived at the meeting with Donna Smith of the Crofting Commission. Donna Smith is part of the Senior Management Team at the Crofting Commission and is expected to become acting/interim Chief Executive when Catriona Maclean’s notice period comes to an end.

Colin Souter arrives for the meeting of Shareholders at Upper Coll with Donna Smith of the Crofting Commission

Colin Souter arrives for the meeting of Shareholders at Upper Coll with Donna Smith of the Crofting Commission

Much has been made by Mr Souter of his independence from the Crofting Commission although the real position has been clear for all to see. It is now publicly apparent, if it was not before, that Mr Souter and the Crofting Commission are indeed working hand in hand.

This is disturbing indeed and would explain why Mr Souter has not taken up on behalf of shareholders their legitimate concerns and claims over the handling of the whole sorry affair by the Crofting Commission.

Once more it adds to the evidence of the alleged abuse of power at the heart of the Crofting Commission.

After the marathon 4-hour meeting, Mr Souter said, “it was obviously a disappointment that a number of those present made a decision to leave the meeting before it had properly got underway but  I respect their right to do so. Those remaining were sufficient in number to continue with business and to their credit, actively contributed to a very positive discussion in a number of areas. I was able at this stage, to explain to shareholders precisely what I am doing and why I am doing it and was reassured to receive the unanimous support of the meeting.

In respecting the right of those to leave the meeting Mr Souter should also respect their views and the views of the 26 shareholders who signed a petition against him. In respecting those views then clearly nothing discussed at the meeting last night was carried as a vote of the majority of shareholders originally attending: given that 11 effectively voted for the meeting to end.

Mr Souter advised he was aware of the recent unofficial meeting held by disaffected former committee members, and it’s outcome, but dismissed it stating, “I would be delighted if all shareholders engaged in the current process, constructively. We are continuing to make good progress to resolve a series of issues raised and a new set of Regulations was a key element in moving forward. There are some outside influences at work here and I do not believe they are contributing positively for the future benefit of the grazings.

The meeting Mr Souter refers to was certainly not “unofficial” but necessary under and in terms of the existing Grazings Regulations. Indeed Mr Souter, if he had any legal standing, should have been ensuring that what he refers to as an “unofficial” meeting happened. It is a great credit to the former committee that they knew the Grazings Regulations better than Mr Souter and what needed to be done legally in terms thereof.

The Grazings regulations state that:-

“Not later than one month before the term of office of the Committee ends they shall give notice to the shareholders of a meeting for the appointment of a new Committee. This meeting must take place before the term of office of the existing Committee ends. At least 10 days’ notice of the meeting must be given; this shall be done by advertisement in each of two successive weeks in one or more newspapers circulating in the Committee district, or by notice posted up for two successive weeks in a public place or places approved by the Commission. The new Committee appointed at this meeting shall take up office immediately upon the retiral of the existing Committee. The Clerk of the Committee shall inform the Commission of the names and addresses of the members and Clerk of the new Committee.”

If we assume, as Mr Souter does, that his appointment as Grazings ‘Constable’, was legal then that appointment, in terms of the Order issued by the Crofting Commission, comes to an end on 10 November 2016.

That being the case then the shareholders must give notice of a meeting to elect a new committee not later than 10 October 2016. Being organised and sensible shareholders they have not left it to the last minute but organised it a good month or so ahead (which they are entitled to do under the Grazings Regulations).

They have carried out all the steps they need to in order to legally form a new Committee. That Committee will take up office immediately on 10 November 2016 or earlier if Mr Souter resigns his position as Grazings ‘Constable’. Something that many consider he should do so in light of the petition from the majority of shareholders calling for that.

When asked about a recent petition allegedly signed by a majority of shareholders seeking his dismissal as an ‘illegally appointed Constable”, Mr Souter responded that the Commission had repeatedly endorsed his appointment, as recently as the day before the unofficial election meeting and offered his view that the conduct of former Committee supporters had perhaps more in common with a dictatorial regime.

It is not a question of endorsement by the Commission. It is a question of democracy in action within a common grazings. If there is any “dictatorial regime” involved surely it is the Commission and Mr Souter who fall into that camp. They are dictating what they consider the position to be to a clear majority of shareholders who think otherwise.

He added, “How many people do you know who would be happy being door-stepped and told to sign a petition, whilst their neighbour is standing over them? It strains credibility! I would be happy to see all of those folks at our next shareholder meeting. There are serious issues being addressed and it’s about time some former Committee members accept their continuing agitation is not serving themselves or the grazings well. They have a duty to fellow shareholders to accept their own shortcomings and that they have learned from them and are willing to move on. Continually misrepresenting the position in public is not helpful and does nothing to heal the rift they have opened up here in Upper Coll, between shareholders.

On the contrary it is unfortunately Mr Souter who continually misrepresents the position. E.g.:-

The Wrong Grazings Committee!

Mr Souter also advised that during the meeting he informed shareholders he has requested the Crofting Commission now facilitate a meeting with the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service to discuss some of the findings from his review of the former Committee records and accounts. He declined to comment further on specifics, stating “it will be for other authorities now to determine whether there is a need for further action”. The date for the next shareholder meeting has not been set.

From the outset the Crofting Commission and then Mr Souter hinted at irregularities within the three Committees that were dismissed with no evidence whatsoever to back this up. Mr Souter appears to have been put into Upper Coll by the Crofting Commission to find something, anything, to justify his illegal appointment in the first place.

Nothing he has produced to date has evidenced this. Declining to comment on specifics now questions once more what he and the Commission are actually up to. This is not his role as ‘Clerk’. If any shareholders feel there has been any impropriety that has affected them it is for them, not Mr Souter, to take whatever action they may deem appropriate. Mr Souter is now, as the Commission did so before him, casting aspersions unjustifiably and without any basis on former committee members.

This is quite appalling. If anything shareholders should be reporting Mr Souter to the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service for his potentially illegal and fraudulent activities including in particular the manner in which he has taken control of the shareholders finances.

One can only hope that Fergus Ewing MSP does now step in to resolve this tragic mess.

Brian Inkster

Image Credits:-

Main image: INGSOC 1984 Propaganda Poster (detail)

Other images: An La – 13 September 2016 © BBC Alba

Croft Wars: The Constable Strikes Back

Croft Wars - The Constable Strikes Back

Some see the ‘constable’ of Upper Coll more like a bounty hunter

Following a statement issued on behalf of the majority of shareholders of the Upper Coll Common Grazings the headline that appeared on Hebrides News was ‘Upper Coll grazings constable slams ousted committee‘. The accompanying article reads as follows:-

The grazings’ officer installed to temporarily run the common grazings at Upper Coll, Lewis, has hit out at claims made by the former grazings committee who were sacked by the Crofting Commission.

Colin Souter, a retired police chief inspector living in Nairn, was drafted in to manage the village’s communal moorland – land collectively used for by all crofters for grazing livestock – while the commission investigated the deposed committee.

Colin Souter pointed out the appointment of a constable is made by the Crofting Commission.

Once appointed, a constable has the same powers, responsibilities and independence in decision-making, as a grazings committee does, bound only by legislation, he said.

Mr Souter stressed: “This has been explained at length to former committee members at Upper Coll, who remain aggrieved at the commission’s decision to remove them from office.

“That decision to remove is presently the subject of a review by the Scottish Land Court and it will be for that court to determine whether the initial complaints made to the commission about the conduct of the committee and the subsequent disclosures, provided sufficient justification for their removal or if the commission acted inappropriately.”

The grazings’ officer went on: “The appointment of a constable in the interim, was a separate matter and was made to safeguard the interests of the shareholders, to address matters of business brought to the commission in correspondence by the former clerk.”

Based on “discussion with aggrieved shareholders and correspondence,” he queries how much support the former committee has from shareholders.

He added: “As all previous signatories had been officially removed from office, and could no longer sign documents legally, as constable I took control of the finances and records, with the co-operation of the bank and of the former clerk and chairman of the committee, who personally handed over to me, the committee records and accounts.”

The former committee demanded the “return of their bank book” but there is no such thing, suggested the grazings’ constable.

Mr Souter said: “In the absence of any formal handover or briefing from the former committee, there was also an obligation placed upon me – in order to support shareholders competently – to establish the facts surrounding the status and liabilities of the grazings and to confirm the proper conduct of the former committee in its decision-making, to verify business had been conducted to the proper legal standard or to remedy, where required.

“It became clear from a review of the records provided to me by the former clerk and chairman, that the former committee was deficient in its record keeping but more importantly, in its procedures, in particular on matters where majority shareholder support was legally required in order to take action, eg. SRDP applications, where such applications are a scheme, under the 1993 Act.”

He stated: “Quite clearly, action was being taken in relation to matters of finance and spending, where majority support, despite being a legal requirement, was neither evident nor documented.

“Even so, it came as some surprise when some former committee members admitted at a recent shareholders meeting they were entirely unaware of the existence of the Upper Coll grazing regulations, passed by their own forebears in the 1980’s.

“One wonders what yardstick was employed to assist the imposition of their own views, however well-meaning or misguided, on fellow shareholders?

“Perhaps this point will help to explain the dissatisfaction and grievances raised to the Crofting Commission and myself by Upper Coll shareholders about the conduct of the former committee in managing the grazings?”

The interim constable added: “None of the foregoing issues have anything specifically to do with the Crofting Commission.

“The commission does not control the grazings or the bank account or finances at Upper Coll. The shareholders do.”

“As constable, I met with shareholders twice in recent months where I have been extremely open and transparent about my role and in my sharing of information, an approach commended from the floor, at the first meeting.

“The detail I provided to shareholders is evident from the very lengthy minutes produced from the meetings, distributed to all shareholders.

“In the past, I have also sought to protect former committee members from potential public embarrassment by holding part of the meetings in closed session, where disclosures were made.”

He said shareholders are “well aware” from his reports that all scheme applications due were completed by agents acting on behalf of the grazings and “processed accordingly and no financial loss has been suffered.

Regarding villagers plans to elect a new grazings committee, he said: “I raised this issue in recent correspondence with shareholders, when I indicated my term in office is due to expire in the next couple of months.

“It seems some of the former committee are already set to take control of an agenda which I had set out, intending to hold fresh elections and return a new committee in control of shareholder business at Upper Coll.

“The important point however, for all involved, is that the new committee, whomever is elected and whatever its composition, will have a clearer understanding of the legal framework in which they must operate and their own duties and obligations to their fellow shareholders.

“I cannot help but think it would be a progressive step, in this day and age, to see a few female members on the new committee but that has to be a matter for the Upper Coll shareholders.”

Mr Souter said he has written to shareholders in the last few weeks, during the holiday period, providing a brief statement on recent activity.

He will present a fuller report at a planned meeting in September, when he will share more “extensive detail” with the shareholders at Upper Coll and answer questions “they may have on that range of important issues.”

The grazing’s constable highlighted: “It will be for shareholders to determine which aspects of concern, if any, should be highlighted – perhaps for wider benefit across the crofting community – and find their way into the public domain.”

He said: “As with many others, I do not dismiss the concerns of those former committee members who continue to agitate, for being removed from office.

“It is clearly an important and emotive issue for crofting and one that continues to cause great concern across the crofting community.

However, that also places a “heavy responsibility upon the former committee and others contributing on their behalf” to ensure there is a balanced debate based on the facts of the situation, said Mr Souter.

View from the Crofting Law Blog

Colin Souter thinks he has “independence in decision-making“. A grazings constable, if legally appointed, does not. They have to listen to the shareholders who they represents and act accordingly.

Colin Souter states that his ‘appointment’ was made to “address matters of business“. The shareholders appear to be of the view that rather than conducting the business in question Colin Souter has been on the hunt, through historical records stretching back well beyond the five year ‘audit’ period sought by the Commission, for wrongdoing on the part of former committees. Not the role at all of a grazings constable even if legally appointed. The fact that he was under the wrong impression that this was his role is confirmed when he states that he had to “confirm the proper conduct of the former committee in its decision-making, to verify business had been conducted to the proper legal standard or to remedy, where required“.

It is interesting, but perhaps not surprising, that Colin Souter does not address the legality of his appointment. The Grazings Committee were ‘replaced’ by a ‘Grazings Constable’ that I, and others (including bizarrely the Crofting Commission themselves) consider to be illegal. One would have thought that he would be very concerned by this indeed and somewhat relieved that the shareholders plan to replace such an illegal appointment with a legal one.

Colin Souter questions whether the former committee members have the support they maintain from the shareholders. Well, apparently, a meeting was called and there were only four shareholders who abstained (those included the shareholders who brought the initial complaint about the former committee to the Crofting Commission). They were asked if they objected and they said they would prefer to abstain. So looks like majority support to me with no objections.

Colin Souter states that “as constable” he “took control of the finances and records, with the co-operation of the bank and of the former clerk and chairman of the committee, who personally handed over” to him “the committee records and accounts“. But they did not sign mandates allowing him to be signatory of the cheque book. Serious questions must be asked as to how he obtained the status of what is believed to be the sole signatory.

Colin Souter states that “there is no such thing” as a “bank book” to return to the Upper Coll shareholders. Well in this day and age there may not be an old fashioned bank book but there is likely to be bank statements, a cheque book and (more importantly) control thereof. I think we all know what was meant by the statement made by the shareholders about their “bank book” and denying the existence of any such item does Colin Souter no credit.

However, Colin Souter states that “the commission does not control the grazings or the bank account or finances at Upper Coll. The shareholders do.” If that is the case please do actually hand control of their finances back to them as they quite rightly demand.

Regarding villagers plans to elect a new grazings committee, Colin Souter said: “I raised this issue in recent correspondence with shareholders, when I indicated my term in office is due to expire in the next couple of months. It seems some of the former committee are already set to take control of an agenda which I had set out, intending to hold fresh elections and return a new committee in control of shareholder business at Upper Coll.”

Colin Souter previously stated, on 23 June 2016, that the election of a new committee was “still in the distance“. At the time I asked “Why is the election of a new Grazings Committee in the distance? What is preventing that happening sooner rather than later?” The shareholders are clearly and understandably of the same view and may the force be with them in gaining control of their own destiny once more.

Brian Inkster

Image Credit: Boba Fett who appeared in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back; and Episode VI – Return of the Jedi ©  Lucasfilm Ltd

Crofting Convener must go

Crofting Convener must go - says Lewis and Harris Crofters MeetingThe overwhelming message that came out of the Lewis and Harris Crofters’ Meeting was that the Convener of the Crofting Commission, Colin Kennedy, must go.

Over 80 people attended the meeting, organised by the Scottish Crofting Federation, in Stornoway Town Hall on 3 August.

I will reproduce some of the reports of the meeting that have appeared in the media.

“Lack of Trust” in the Crofting Commission – BBC Naidheachdan

On Wednesday night, more than 80 people gathered at a meeting in the Stornoway town hall to discuss the impact of unrest/conflict between the Crofting Commission and the Grazing Committees.

They put forward a vote of no confidence in the commission, and agreed that Colin Kennedy should resign from his position as the convener of the Crofting Commission.

The Commission had no official representation at the meeting.

Iain MacIver who is himself a Township Clerk said:-

The turnout tonight shows the interest in crofting, and how worried people are of the situation as it is now that they understand it.

It is easy to see that people are very angry about the way in which some of the villages were dealt.

They want to see how the Commission works, and how the law works, lessons to be learnt so that crofting stands in a better position.

The lack of trust vote shows the feelings that are there, but at the end of the day it is up to the government what they are going to do.

I think that the thing that worried people most, was if the people going forward were to be idle in their roles as Town Clerk , and also the Commission itself with the situation as it is now.

But we hope in the coming months that people will gain confidence and be given the right guidance so that crofting can be strengthened, instead of weakened, and that the Government endeavours to make this happen, and that they won’t ruin it as people suspected they would.  That was the consensus this evening.

Crofters make it clear: The Commission can stay but the Convener has to go – Scottish Crofting Federation

A meeting attended by eighty crofters in Stornoway concluded that a Crofting Commission is good for crofting, but it is currently not fit for purpose so the convener, Colin Kennedy, must go.

A crofting meeting organised by the Scottish Crofting Federation held in Stornoway last week, attended by eighty crofters from townships all over Lewis and Harris, gave a clear message to the Scottish Government: the convener of the Crofting Commission must step down; the Upper Coll grazings committee must be re-instated; the current Crofting Commission must be sorted out by Scottish Government but, nonetheless, a Commission is essential to crofting.

Vice-chair of the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF), Russell Smith, said:-

It was a loud and clear message coming out of a very lively but thoughtful discussion. This is not knee-jerk reaction; the attack on common grazings committees by the Crofting Commission has been on-going now for several months so crofters have had plenty of time to think about this. It is not surprising that there is a call for the convener of the Commission to stand down and for deposed committees to be re-instated. It is perhaps more notable that, despite what is widely regarded as very poor behaviour, the Crofting Commission is still wanted, albeit following a thorough review and improvement of procedures. I think that this is a very sensible approach.

The meeting heard presentations from representatives of the removed Lewis grazings committees, SCF, Inksters Solicitors and Scottish Government, not only on the topic of the Crofting Commission but also on CAP, support to crofting and advocacy for crofting. The meeting, that sometimes became quite heated, was well-chaired by SCF member Donald MacSween.

Mr Smith continued:-

We can understand the Scottish Government’s reluctance to interfere with a majority-elected body, but the meeting was united in its view that the Scottish Government does have to intervene in this circumstance. The procedures of the Commission clearly need to be investigated and modified to stop this sort of thing happening again. The Crofting Commission may well be an ‘arms-length government body’, but the Scottish Government still has a responsibility to make sure that the Commission operates in a fair and reasonable manner – and does possess the powers to intervene, for example by removing a Commissioner, if it sees fit.

Following discussions a vote was called on the motion:-

this meeting has no confidence in the existing Crofting Commission and supports the SCF call for the resignation of the convener Colin Kennedy.

The motion was passed by an overwhelming majority.

Anger in Stornoway aimed at commission – West Highland Free Press

The sense of anger at the recent actions of the Crofting Commission was laid bare at a public meeting in Stornoway last week attended by over 80 people, which delivered an overwhelming vote of no confidence in the organisation and called for the resignation of its convener Colin Kennedy….

As the meeting was drawing to a close a vote of no confidence in the existing commission was passed as well as a call for the resignation of its convener. An overwhelming majority supported the moves with only five of those present against – three of whom are the crofters in Upper Coll who raised the original complaint against the committee, including a father and son.

The Crofting Commission’s Response – Island News and Advertiser

The Crofting Commission is committed to working positively with grazings committees and crofters. At present, the Commission is undertaking an examination of the circumstances of the recent cases, so that any lessons learnt can inform future procedures and decision-making.

A majority of the Crofting Commissioners are elected by crofters, with no involvement on the part of Commission staff in the process, so any consideration of their position is a matter for the individual Commissioner.

It should not be forgotten that consideration of the position of Crofting Commissioners is also a matter for Scottish Ministers and I will look at that further in my next post.

Brian Inkster

Image Credit: © BBC Alba

Keystone Crofting Cops

Croftstone Cops (aka Grazings Constables)

Yes Commissioners… we’ll do whatever you say.

This post will give an insight into the workings of the Crofting Commission when, contrary to their own policies and procedures, they proceeded to appoint grazings constables illegally. It will also highlight how incompetent such appointments are.

All three cases involving the appointment of illegal grazings constables centred around monies that certain shareholders believed should have been paid to them and the Commission’s insistence that such monies should indeed have been paid out.

Minutes of a meeting of the Crofting Commission regarding the proposed removal from office of a grazings committee and clerk and appointment, in their place, of a grazings constable state:-

After discussion, the Commission agreed that the [name of Grazings Committee] would be written to and given 28 days to pay the money due to the shareholder. If after the 28 days have passed, they have failed to pay the money, the Committee and Clerk will be removed and a Constable appointed with the sole function of paying the monies due.

The appointing of the Constable will be decided by the Convener, Vice-Convener and Chief Executive.

Discussion took place about how the Constable would be able to sign cheques on behalf of the Grazing Committee and the Commission agreed that the Order issued to the Grazing Committee advising them that they have been removed from office should be worded clearly enough to maximise the ability of the Constable to access funds. However, the Commission cannot guarantee that the bank will accept the Order.

The Crofting Commission has no power to order payment of monies by grazings committees to shareholders. Indeed their own guidance on such matters states:-

The Commission will not get involved in any matter relating to alleged financial impropriety. This is potentially a civil and/or criminal matter and should be dealt with by the relevant authorities.

Thus they breached their own policies and procedures and acted without any power to do so in ordering the grazings committee to make payments. That is the case whether or not such payments were legitimately due and payable to the shareholder in question. That would have been a matter for that shareholder to pursue, as they considered appropriate, through the civil or criminal justice system.

It is interesting (and perhaps somewhat alarming) that the Crofting Commission decided that this particular grazings constable would be appointed “with the sole function of paying the monies due“.

Whilst the Crofting Commission have no power under and in terms of the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 to appoint a grazings constable to do a specific task ordered by them it is alarming that they would think, under any circumstances, that this would be a sensible approach to take.

A grazings committee and grazings clerk will potentially have many tasks to fulfill. By putting a committee out of office and not making appropriate and legal arrangements to allow those tasks to be continued the Crofting Commission is clearly evading its responsibilities as a regulator and acting in a highly irresponsible fashion.

The Convener of the Crofting Commission was at the ready to put in place a grazings constable who would pay out the monies if the first constable appointed to do so “has any difficulty and backs out“.

The appointment of a grazings constable where a grazings commitee has been removed from office is, however, in itself illegal. In such circumstances the Crofting Commission has no power to appoint a grazings constable and instead under section 47(8) of the 1993 Act:-

may appoint or provide for the appointment of other persons (whether crofters or not) in their or his place

The only ability for the Crofting Commission to appoint a grazings constable falls under section 47(3) of the 1993 Act. This is where the crofters who share in a common grazing fail at any time to appoint a grazing committee.

An illegally appointed grazings constable whose actions would be null and void should, of course, be let no where near a cheque book! The Crofting Commission however, knowing that they couldn’t guarantee that a bank would accept the position, decided that they would frame an Order as best they could to persuade a bank to do so!

Hopefully, no bank has been daft enough to allow an illegally appointed grazings constable such access. If they have done so the shareholders should have recourse against the bank as well as, of course, against the Crofting Commission. Also as Donald Rennie has stated:-

if a purported constable takes as much a penny piece from the crofters sharing in the common grazing, with intent permanently to deprive them of that money, he is at serious risk.

This farcical state of affairs would, unfortunately, not be out of place in a Mack Sennett comedy. No wonder that there have been calls for the Scottish Government to investigate and for the Convener to consider his position.

Brian Inkster

Image Credit: By Mack Sennett Studios – Publicity still from 1914 film “In the Clutches of the Gang”, via Wikimedia Commons

Reports from a ‘Grazing Constable’


Reports from a Grazings Constable

The ‘Grazings Constable’ was under the false impression that he was a Police Constable come Court Reporter!

One of the more surprising episodes of ‘The Common Clearances‘ has been the issuing of press releases by the ‘Grazing Constable’ (illegally appointed, in my opinion and the opinion of others) of the Upper Coll Common Grazings.

To my knowledge that ‘Grazings Constable’, Colin Souter, has issued three such press releases to date. I now reproduce those here, with my comments on each added.

‘Grazing Constable’ Report #1 – 12 June 2016

I write briefly in connection with the Common Grazings at Upper Coll, having been appointed as Constable in recent weeks, by the Crofting Commission.

I should firstly stress such appointees are independent of the Commission. One of the main functions is to assume the role and responsibilities of the former Committee, representing the interests of the Crofters, whilst moving as swiftly as possible back to a situation of normality, with crofters being collectively in control of managing their own interests.

I am confident readers will appreciate the resolution to current difficulties will not be achieved overnight. I note there has been much interest, speculation and comment made on behalf of individuals who, I acknowledge, feel genuinely aggrieved with decisions the Commission has made.

On the other hand, it is only right and proper that the Commission, as a public body, should not comment on the specifics of any individual case.

Preliminary legal proceedings are currently underway at the Scottish Land Court, where it remains to be decided if the Appeal against Commission decisions will progress to the next stage. An Interim Interdict application at Inverness Sheriff Court to prevent the appointment of a Constable and further action by the Commission, was heard and refused.

It is likely that the process of the Land Court Appeal, if progressed, will take some considerable time to conclude. I will not be formally commenting in the media on the specifics of matters at Upper Coll, nor in relation to any single individual.

I do however wish to publicly acknowledge and thank those individuals at Upper Coll and elsewhere who have already contacted me since my appointment, to firstly share a collective view that there are matters at Upper Coll which need to be addressed and secondly to voice their support for a co-operative resolution over the coming weeks and months. All impartial observers must surely agree it is in the best interests of all parties to co-operate, to ensure the interests of all the crofters at Upper Coll are and continue to be properly protected.

Comment on ‘Grazing Constable’ Report #1by the Crofting Law Blog

Why, I wonder, did Colin Souter feel it necessary to issue such a statement? Was it because the Crofting Commission were staying silent on the matter? Did they sanction/encourage this statement?

How independent can Colin Souter really be? Did the Crofting Commission not provide him with a list of their ‘concerns’ for his investigation?

He has apparently stated to the shareholders at Upper Coll that his role is an investigative one. Nothing in the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 gives him such power other than, perhaps, the duty to report to the Crofting Commission on the condition of the Common Grazings and crofts with a share in the Common Grazings.

If investigations were required concerning any alleged financial impropriety on the part of the former grazings committee that would have been a role for the actual boys in blue and not for a retired police Chief Inspector who appears to think he, once more, has powers he once did. He does not.

If legally appointed, which is disputed, Colin Souter simply has to take on the role of committee and clerk. He is responsible to the shareholders. His role is purely administrative.

‘Grazing Constable’ Report #2 – 23 June 2016

On the evening of 22 June the Constable of the Upper Coll Common Grazings chaired a meeting of shareholders at Tong Village Hall. The meeting, which was well attended, discussed a number of issues and during the closed part of the meeting, the Constable, Mr Colin Souter shared a level of detail around issues and concerns which was clearly unknown to many of those present, prior to the meeting.

Mr Souter, a retired police Chief Inspector explained to the meeting that his appointment followed a communication to the Commission by the former Clerk to the Grazing, highlighting that 12 points of business needed to be addressed as soon as possible.

Mr Souter also explained that the Crofting Commission, as a public body, is unable to comment in the media on issues relating to specific individuals and their conduct but that being independent of the Commission, it was appropriate for him to share more information with the shareholders affected. At the meeting, he received further joint intimation in writing from Upper Coll shareholders, of their dissatisfaction with the conduct of the former Committee and will determine in due course whether that should be considered separately from other matters currently under investigation.

The meeting acknowledged the current position as laid out and discussed a constructive way forward, with a revised set of draft local Grazing Regulations being circulated by the Constable to all shareholders at Upper Coll to replace the current Regulations which date back to 1987. Mr Souter is also inviting contributions and comment more widely, from the Scottish Crofting Federation and National Farmers Union Scotland, as representative bodies, in an effort to secure a wide consensus of agreement. He intimated to the meeting that he was, very reluctantly, being forced to consider Court action as a last resort, in order to recover the Committee records from the former Grazings Clerk. A large number of those shareholders present expressed the view that withholding the records was not helping, declaring that it was acting against the interests of the shareholders and instead invited former Committee members to bear the cost of the Court action, should it go ahead.

The meeting closed on a positive note with an expression of thanks to Mr Souter, from the floor, for an open, informative and well-run meeting.

Mr Souter later said, “I appreciate there is a wide body of interest in events here at Upper Coll. I would like to publicly express my own thanks and appreciation to Upper Coll shareholders able to attend the meeting tonight, for their positive contributions and their willingness to begin moving forward to the point where a new Grazing Committee can be elected. Whilst that outcome is still in the distance, it has moved significantly closer, with a clearer path now defined, and shareholders having a better understanding of the concerns and the issues which brought us to where we are now.”

Note to Editor – the Upper Coll Grazings Committee was removed from office by the Crofting Commission on 15 April after failing to adequately address concerns raised by the Crofting Commission about the manner in which aspects of its business were being conducted, including the content and presentation of financial information reported to shareholders. On 16 May, some former committee members made an unsuccessful attempt to interdict the Crofting Commission from further action at Upper Coll. This was followed by submission of papers to the Scottish Land Court, seeking to Appeal against the Commission’s decision to remove them from office. The Land Court is currently awaiting submissions on jurisdiction from both sides, to help determine whether it can hear the Appeal. If the jurisdiction argument is won, the case will become sub judice until eventually concluded.

Comment on ‘Grazing Constable’ Report #2 by the Crofting Law Blog

I wonder if Mr Souter thinks that all grazings clerks should be issuing press releases about shareholders meetings held throughout the crofting counties? Local newspapers could have sections devoted to ‘Common Grazings Reports’ instead of, or in addition to, their usual ‘Court Reports’!

Where did the “issues and concerns” that Mr Souter had to share come from? I trust not from the Crofting Commission that he is apparently independent of?

Interesting that the Crofting Commission cannot comment on matters arising to the media but Mr Souter can. Has he therefore become their spokesman and if so how does that enable him to retain the supposed independence that he claims to have?

Mr Souter refers to “matters currently under investigation”. As commented on by me in connection with his first Report, his role is not an investigative one but merely an administrative one and then only if his appointment was legal which I, and others, maintain it is not.

Why was Mr Souter circulating new Grazings Regulations and who had drafted them and on what basis?

It would seem unusual for a Grazings Clerk to seek views from the Scottish Crofting Federation or the National Farmers Union Scotland on Grazings Regulations specific to a particular grazings.

Court action by a potentially illegally appointed ‘Grazings Constable’ to recover documentation he might have no right to hold would have made for interesting debate in the Sheriff Court! A suggestion that those against whom such an action was to be raised should fund the raising of the action is absurd to say the least.

Why is the election of a new Grazings Committee in the distance? What is preventing that happening sooner rather than later?

Is it perhaps in Mr Souter’s personal interest to delay the election of a new Grazings Committee. The longer he remains in ‘office‘ the longer he receives an income from the arrangement – albeit potentially an illegal arrangement that he should not actually be receiving a penny for.

Mr Souter states that “the Upper Coll Grazings Committee was removed from office by the Crofting Commission on 15 April after failing to adequately address concerns raised by the Crofting Commission about the manner in which aspects of its business were being conducted, including the content and presentation of financial information reported to shareholders.”

However, the only reason actually given by the Crofting Commission for the ultimate removal from office of the grazings committee was the failure to produce to them five years ‘audited’ accounts. The grazings committee produced financial statements produced by accountants. The irrationality, inconsistency and departure from legal advice obtained by the Crofting Commission on this point is one I will return to in future posts on this blog.

‘Grazing Constable’ Report #3 – 12 July 2016

Upper Coll shareholders met again on 11 July at a meeting chaired by the Grazings Constable, Colin Souter, who was appointed by the Crofting Commission in May. At this second meeting, shareholders covered a busy Agenda on a range of topics, including the resolution of a long-standing issue on the access of a bull owned by two shareholders, on the common grazings. Shareholders accepted the pragmatic resolution suggested by the Constable, which preserves shareholders rights to graze livestock but at the same time, acknowledges the responsibilities that go with these rights.

Shareholders also voted in favour of a revised set of Grazing Regulations which would encompass key elements of the previous regulations which dated back to 1987. Mr Souter hoped the final draft of the document which had already been subject to wide-ranging consultation would be ready to send to the Crofting Commission for approval, in the next few weeks. During a candid and honest discussion, some of those present, including former Committee members advised they had been entirely unaware of the existence of the 1987 Regulations.

After the meeting, Mr Souter said, “The key to progress here is an acceptance from shareholders that good Regulations make it easier for shareholders and for Committees to interact and minimise the potential for friction or conflict. We are nearly there, in terms of a finished product and whilst there are still a number of other issues for me to resolve with shareholders, we are steadily moving in the right direction. I am grateful for the support shown by shareholders this evening, in voting to move ahead.”

A number of other issues, including finances and areas of activity permissible for a Grazings Committee or Constable on behalf of shareholders, under the 1993 Crofting Act were explored in a closed session. No date was set for the next meeting, with Mr Souter indicating he would distribute a final updated draft set of Regulations amongst all shareholders. And once approved by the Commission, every shareholder would receive a personal copy of the revised Regulations.


Note – Mr Souter is a retired police Chief Inspector, appointed to the role of Constable at Upper Coll after the previous Committee were removed from office by the Crofting Commission. Following their removal, it was reported to the Commission that shareholder business remained outstanding and unresolved. Whilst he is appointed by the Commission, Mr Souter has successfully gained acceptance that he is independent of the Commission in all his decision-making.

Comment on ‘Grazing Constable’ Report #3 by the Crofting Law Blog

I asked shareholders of the Upper Coll Common Grazings for their views on this latest Report from Colin Souter. Here is a selection of comments received from them:-

  • The new regs would certainly have to come before shareholders again before being submitted. There will be nothing to stop us bringing in further changes at a full meeting of shareholders at a later date if that is needed.
  • The Grazings Regulations are at the “discussion” stage and still have much work to be done on them. There was no revised Regulations issued with no mention of changes some of us suggested. They are far from being at a stage for presenting to the Commission.
  • The constable has thus far refused to protect the interests of shareholders by bringing any scrutiny to bear on the  Commission’s own dubious actions of the recent past. This goes to prove that he is not wholly independent of the Commission and shows that he who pays the piper calls the tune.
  • The majority of shareholders are still of the view that the position of Constable has been illegally imposed on the Upper Coll Grazings. These shareholders do not have any personal prejudice against Mr Souter but it is his position they question.
  • Shareholders were of the view that the Constable should be working “for” the shareholders and should therefore be working to see that some of the injustices done to the previous Committee are redressed. As he seems to be investigating the work of the previous committee then this “investigative” role should also be targeted at the Crofting Commission’s actions.
  • The minute of meeting of the 11th should also clearly show that we considered that the Commission had erred greatly in dismissing a democratically elected voluntary committee when they had legal obligations instead to advice and support it in the first instance. We suggested that this is going to be costly to the Commission.
  • The meaning of “audit” given by the Constable is not one shared by the vast majority of shareholders.
  • It is felt by the majority of shareholders that the term “financial irregularities” used by the Commission in relation to the Upper Coll Grazings Committee should be withdrawn and an apology issued to the committee by the Commission.
  • Mr Kennedy’s continued presence as Convenor of the Crofting Commission is in the opinion of the majority of shareholders untenable.

So clearly a different slant on things from the propaganda issued by the ‘Grazings Constable’. This demonstrates the nonsense of the whole situation.

Why is Colin Souter seeking to introduce new regulations? What is wrong with the existing ones other than perhaps the use of the word “audit”, which has caused much of the problems encountered by the former committee in their dealings with the Crofting Commission?

The former grazings committee were actually in the process of amending their regulations prior to being removed from office by the Crofting Commission. Why did the Crofting Commission not allow them to amend the regulations as they wished to do so?

Are the Crofting Commission influencing the new regulations proposed by Colin Souter? Do these new regulations follow the latest template promoted by the Crofting Commission which do not actually reflect the law as set out in the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993?

Mr Souter refers to his “decision making”. What ability does he actually have to take decisions that are contrary to the wishes of the shareholders?

Mr Souter states:-

No date was set for the next meeting, with Mr Souter indicating he would distribute a final updated draft set of Regulations amongst all shareholders. And once approved by the Commission, every shareholder would receive a personal copy of the revised Regulations.

This suggests that Mr Souter is going to finalise the draft Grazings Regulations without necessarily calling a meeting to approve them. He appears to simply be planning to get the approval of the Crofting Commission. If this is indeed the case it is outrageous.

However, it should always be borne in mind that Mr Souter’s appointment was, in my view and the view of others, illegal and any action taken by him is simply null and void.

Brian Inkster

The deleted Crofting Commission post

Rebel Crofters store the data from the Crofting Commission

The Crofting Commission did not bank on the Rebel Alliance of Crofters having the technology to store and retrieve data

In the last post on this blog reference was made to the Crofting Commission deleting its history. The possible purpose for this historical revisionism will become apparent in subsequent posts on this blog. For now we reproduce, for posterity, that deleted post from 25 April 2016 (the Crofting Commission clearly not being technologically savvy enough to completely cover their tracks):-


It seems to me like a very good time to remind shareholders in Common Grazings
what their rights are and what the duties of the Grazings committee and their
Grazings clerk are. The following is a brief overview of the key points that everyone
involved should understand. Many people reading this may think that this is not what
happens in their village and may feel that it is overly bureaucratic but this is what is
contained in the Crofting Acts. If this process is not what is now required then the
only way to address it would be to ensure that any new Act reflects current
requirements. Until then the Commission have a responsibility for regulating crofting
within current legislation.


  • Crofters who share in a common grazing have certain rights over the land. These
    rights, or pertinents, include the grazing of stock, access to a house or pier or
    foreshore, an area for laying up a boat, the right to collect seaware, the right to cut
    peat, the right to use heather and grass for thatching. These rights, shared with
    others, are over the whole area comprising the common grazing. There are also
    certain common Grazings used as arable machairs, particularly in the Western Isles,
    where the crofters may have a right of cropping. The crofting acts state that the only
    way this can be changed is:-
  • If the landlord resumes an area of the Grazings for a reasonable purpose and
    the shareholders are compensated for their loss and obtain a share of the
    development value of the resumed land.
  • An individual gets an apportionment when his souming may be adjusted.
  • If shareholders enter into a forestry project in terms of section 50 or 50A of the
    crofting Act.
  • If the land court has agreed to a scheme for development under section 19A
    which is binding on all parties.
  • If the majority of the shareholders voting and the Grazings committee or
    constable have obtained the Commission’s consent to use part of the
    Grazings for some other purposeful use under section 50B.
  • Through Compulsory purchase by an acquiring authority with powers of
    compulsory purchase under section 37 of the Act, subject to compensation
    and share in the development value as with resumption.
  • By a reorganisation scheme.
  • Any other local Grazings arrangement is not binding on shareholders who, if they
    choose to do so retain the right to graze stock equivalent to their souming over the
    whole Grazings and the committee and clerk should ensure that any shareholder
    wishing to use the Grazings is accommodated.

Grazings Committees

The most important thing that shareholders in a common Grazings need to
understand is that the Grazings committee act as trustees of the shareholders. The
Land Court has stated that:-

..they (that is the Grazings committee) have clear duty to act as trustees of
the WHOLE shareholders in the Grazings and therefore it is their duty to act
impartially and judicially, keep in view what is their paramount consideration
– how the common Grazings can best be administered to the greatest
advantage of ALL of the tenants sharing in the Grazings….

The general responsibilities of the Committee are to:-

  • Make regulations (which require the consent of the Commission and) which
    should in the spirit of their primary duty to accommodate the requirements of
    all shareholders. Regulations cannot themselves curtail the right of any
    shareholder to graze his souming across the whole Grazings other than in the
    circumstances detailed under the paragraph entitled ‘Shareholders’ or to meet
    any specific environmental designations.
  • Hold an annual general meeting and the clerk should give the meeting an
    account of the work of the committee and of the financial position. At this
    meeting the committee should answer the questions of the shareholders
    whom they represent.
  • MAINTAIN the Grazings and any fixed equipment. That is clearly any existing
    fixed equipment such as fences. They can do this without reference to the
    shareholders and they should claim back any costs INCURRED from each of
    the shareholders whether they are actively using the Common Grazing or
  • Should the committee wish to carry out any IMPROVEMENTS to the Grazings
    they cannot do so unless they have served notice on each shareholder and
    told them how much the shareholder’s proportion of the cost will be. This
    gives the shareholder the opportunity to make representations against any
    such proposal to the Commission.

Financial management

As trustees any money received by the committee belongs to the shareholders and
should be distributed to them as soon as is reasonably practicable. It is NOT the
township’s or the committee’s money and as such it is the duty of the Grazings Clerk
to distribute any money received from whatever source, but in particular
resumptions, according to each individual shareholder’s share entitlement whether or
not they are active crofters.

When the Grazings Committee require monies to maintain the common Grazings
and the fixed equipment or to carry out works for improvements, the committee must
levy and recover the required monies directly from the shareholders for onward
payment to any third parties.

The rights of crofters have been detailed above and there is no explicit provision
in the crofting acts for the Grazings committee or clerk to be involved in the
administration or coordination of schemes falling within the provisions of
IACS regulations. So any involvement or concern regarding this should be directed
to the scheme administrators. Notwithstanding that fact, as the committee are acting
on behalf of the shareholders, any monies received and lodged in the Grazing
Committee Bank Account belongs to shareholders and must be distributed to each
shareholder in accordance with their share entitlement. It is important that all monies
are distributed to all shareholders timeously in order to assist correct financial
accounting by each individual shareholder should they require to make an annual
return to the HMRC.

There is nowhere in the Crofting Acts that allows a Grazings Committee to retain and
spend shareholders’ money on projects, village improvement works, or make gifts or
donations no matter how altruistic the purpose for which that money is to be spent.
Should townships wish to do this they should set up a separate, appropriate,
mechanism to do so and gather in any necessary funds from those willing to

Finally, I would like to say that the Crofting Commission is keen to see, wherever
possible, that crofting communities regulate themselves. It may be that shareholders
in your Common Grazings were unaware of the law and your committee has not
been being run in line with the requirements of the Crofting Act. If this is the case it
is important that shareholders and the committee hold a meeting to discuss this and
work together to ensure your Grazings Committee functions within the requirements
of the Crofting Acts.

Colin N Kennedy
Crofting Commission

Image Credit: Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope © Lucasfilm Ltd

Update: Is this why the post was deleted?: Oh yes you did!

Crofting Commission deletes its history

Crofting Commission deletes its history

No… the Crofting Commission never said that!

The ‘Crabbit Crofter‘ brought to our attention today the fact that the Crofting Commission have been deleting/changing their website in so far as guidelines concerning ‘common grazings the rights of crofters and the duties of grazings committees and their grazings clerks’ are concerned.

In April 2016 the Crofting Commission published guidelines on this topic by their Convener, Colin Kennedy, who stated:-

It seems to me like a very good time to remind shareholders in Common Grazings what their rights are and what the duties of the Grazings committee and their Grazings clerk are.

This came almost immediately on the back of us publishing a post on this blog concerning alleged abuse of power within the Crofting Commission linked to what has become known as ‘The Common Clearances‘.

The Crabbit Crofter reveals that those guidelines have now been deleted from the Crofting Commission’s website:-

Crabbit Crofter - Crofting Commission Deletes its History

Crabbit Crofter - Crofting Commission Deletes its History

It is extraordinary that a public body in Scotland in this day and age is resorting to historical revisionism and we shall return in a subsequent post to the significance of this in light of what the Crofting Commission is now claiming their current and past position on ‘The Common Clearances‘ to be.

Brian Inkster

Update – Read what the Crofting Commission tried to hide: The deleted Crofting Commission post and why: Oh yes you did!

Claims against Mangersta Common Grazings Committee withdrawn

Mangersta Village with common grazings

Mangersta Village and common grazings (Photo by Elsie Mitchell)

The former tenant in the crofting village of Mangersta, whose activities led to the disbandment of the Common Grazings Committee, has withdrawn all of his financial claims.

Following recent publicity, the individual – who had sought a personal share of grants paid to the village  while he was an absentee tenant between 1994 and 2012 – said  in a letter to the former Grazings Clerk that he was withdrawing  “any and all claims … with immediate effect”.

I, as agent for the former clerk to and four former members of the Mangersta Common Grazings Committee, have now written to the Crofting Commission informing them of the development and asking them to reinstate the Grazings Committee and clerk without delay.  I previously described the Commission’s conduct in replacing the Committee with a Grazings Constable as “unreasonable” and “illegal”.

Members of the former Grazings Committee said in a statement:-

We welcome the withdrawal of these demands and sincerely hope it will bring all of this to an end.

We repeat our call for an inquiry into the workings of the Crofting Commission and particularly the guidance they have sent out, in response to events in Mangersta and Upper Coll, on financial management by Grazings Committees.

As is now widely appreciated, these have extremely damaging implications for the whole crofting system.

Brian Inkster