The 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.
Image Credit: © BBC Alba