In a somewhat unexpected U-turn on the issue of ‘The Common Clearances‘ the Crofting Commission today admitted that it:-
regrets the conflicting advice the Mangersta Grazings Committee has been given over a considerable period of time in response to the investigations which took place due to a complaint made by a shareholder.
The Crofting Commission also confirmed that it has written to shareholders of Mangersta Common Grazings to advise that the grazings constable (appointed illegally in my opinion) has concluded his investigations and has stepped down enabling shareholders to appoint a new committee of their choice.
They also in particular stated:-
Following an evaluation of this case the Commission is drafting revised guidance and has reviewed its processes.
Catriona Maclean, Chief Executive of the Crofting Commission, said:-
The Commission acknowledges that Mangersta is an active crofting community and this matter has caused prolonged uncertainty and anxiety under which a line can now be drawn. We look forward to working constructively with the new committee, once appointed, and other stakeholders in the future.
The dispute – which has massive implications for all crofting communities – centred on the Commission’s insistence that all revenue coming into Grazings Committees, mainly from government grants, should be distributed as personal revenue to individual shareholders.
In response to the Commission’s statement, the former members of Mangersta Common Grazing Committee stated:-
We are pleased and relieved that common sense has finally intervened and that this whole affair has been brought to a conclusion, with recognition by the Commission that we acted with integrity and in good faith at all times.
Latterly, we made our stand on behalf of the whole crofting community since the legal interpretation promoted by the Crofting Commission would, if implemented, spell the death of crofting on a communal basis.
We have never accepted that the funds obtained by the village for agricultural and environmental schemes should be distributed as personal income and we have no intention of doing so.
We continue to believe that there should be an inquiry into the functioning of the Crofting Commission. Even more important, it is essential that crofting law is clarified on this and other matters where ambiguity may exist.
With crofting at a low ebb in many places, it is regrettable that so much time and resources have been devoted to this unnecessary dispute. However, we welcome a line being drawn under it and will work constructively with the Commission and anyone else where it is in the crofting interest to do so.
In my next blog post I will look at the manner in which the Commission announced this U-turn and the possible reason for it. I will then, in a further blog post, explore the significance of this U-turn and the possible repercussions thereof.
Image credit: Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (aka ‘The Iron Lady’) addressing the Conservative Party Conference at Brighton on 7 October 1980 with her famous speech in which she said “You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning”. (Pa/ PA Photos / TopFoto)
Update – 2 July 2016: Yes Crofting Minister
Update – 2 July 2016: Ignore the law and the lawyers