The Cross-Party Elephant?

The elephant in the crofting cross-party room

Was there an elephant in the room at the crofting cross-party group meeting?

The cross-party group on crofting met last Wednesday at Holyrood.

It was very ably chaired by Tavish Scott MSP. He is one of the three co-conveners of the group, having been elected along with Kate Forbes MSP at the last meeting to replace Michael Russell MSP after Mr Russell became Brexit Minister. Rhoda Grant MSP is the third co-convener of the group.

Fergus Ewing MSP, cabinet secretary with responsibility for crofting, was a special guest at the meeting.

Mr Ewing made it clear at the outset that he couldn’t comment in any respect on the current controversy regarding the convener of the Crofting Commission given the allegations made by him against Mr Ewing which are the subject of an independent investigation.

Mr Ewing outlined all that the Scottish Government is currently doing to assist crofting and its future.

In particular he discussed future crofting law reform. The Scottish Government wants to modernise crofting law and make it transparent, understandable and workable in practice. Mr Ewing made it clear that they very much wanted to listen with no precise timetable in mind.

Mr Ewing stressed the importance of taking time to get it right. I couldn’t endorse that view more and trust that we won’t see the chaos of a huge number of last minute amendments that was encountered in creating the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Bill in 2010. That was possibly partly responsible for many of the issues (not common grazings ones that were not affected by the 2010 legislation) that has led to the current Scottish Government having to tackle crofting law reform so soon again.

After Mr Ewing left the meeting we continued with the topic of crofting law reform. Derek Flyn outlined the background to the crofting law sump report which he described as a “collection of what is wrong with crofting law”.

Michael O’Neil, the newly appointed Head of the Scottish Government Legislation Team, then outlined proposals to take crofting law reform forward.

Mr O’Neil indicated his intention to involve as wide a range of stakeholders as possible. He will get out and about and meet anyone he needs to speak with.

He will refer to the information contained in the crofting law sump and in the Shucksmith Report.

Some questions Mr O’Neil had in mind included:-

  • Why do we need crofting legislation?
  • What changes need to be made to it?
  • How do we go about delivering the changes identified?
  • Are there other options to new legislation?

A small team has been assembled by the Scottish Government to take crofting law reform forward.

It will be interesting to see this process move forward and we will keep you posted on the Crofting Law Blog as it does.

Bill Barron, the new Chief Executive of the Crofting Commission, was attending his first cross party group meeting. On the agenda was an “update on grazing committee removals and other current Crofting Commission business”. He appeared to dodge being able to provide that update on the basis that it was his fifth day in the job.

However, sitting next to him was the Convener of the Crofting Commission, Colin Kennedy. Mr Kennedy did not offer an update on grazing committee removals and other current Crofting Commission business. Indeed, other than to introduce himself as all attendees did at the outset, Mr Kennedy sat silent throughout the entire meeting. He didn’t speak and no one asked him to speak.

This was, of course, the first crofting cross-party group meeting that Mr Kennedy has attended in this session of Parliament, having avoided the last two. He has thus not expressed the views of the Crofting Commission to the cross-party group since this session of Parliament commenced.

Mr Kennedy has, however, been very vocal in expressing his own personal views (which don’t necessarily coincide with those of the board of the Crofting Commission) in the media over the past few weeks including, in particular, in four successive editions of the Scottish Farmer.

His presence at last week’s cross party group meeting was referred to by some as the elephant in the room. But can the situation simply be ignored?

Brian Inkster

6 thoughts on “The Cross-Party Elephant?

  1. Linda Brackenbury

    No! the situation cannot be ignored. Colin Kennedy ought to have been removed from the meeting by the police if necessary,
    simply he cannot be allowed to be privy to information such as you describe Brian,
    Colin Kennedy has been asked to resign, he has refused to do so..he no longer has the right to join in any meetings to do with crofting.
    Ignoring him will not deter him, it will only inspire him more.

    Reply
  2. Janice MacDonald

    Some tips for when you find yourself in the company of an elephant.
    * If you are in an enclosed space with the elephant be sure that you know all the safety protocols and stay near the exit points at all times.
    * Remain calm. While it is terrifying to have the elephant bearing down on you, keeping a clear head may be what saves you.
    * Stay downwind of the elephant at all times to avoid a nasty encounter.
    * Try not to anger the elephant and don’t stare at its eyes.
    * Don’t expect the elephant to change direction as it finds this difficult to do.
    * Don’t bother telling the elephant to jump as it can’t perform this task.
    * Don’t show your back to the elephant as it is more likely to attack.

    A fun fact to finish – elephants are thick skinned.

    Reply
  3. Duncan MacLeod

    Poor Colin Kennedy. We all understood he had plenty of money. But looks like he is seriously struggling financially if he needs to cling to a job he does so badly and where everyone reviles him. If he needs £20,000 a year to keep him afloat, then all those claims of having plenty of money were just bluster. Why else would he carry on clinging like a tick when he is only too aware that everyone the length and breadth of Scotland, from the Minister to crofters, wants rid of him? And knows what a total disaster he is and that everywhere he goes, he is a laughing stock and singled out as a very serious contender for the worst chair of a public body Scotland has ever seen. He must be desperate. But he has lost it. Whatever he does, his reputation is forever doomed. There is nothing he can do to even faintly redeem himself. He has been the author of his own downfall. He wanted to be cock of the dungheap and ended up to his neck in mire. And now he will never shake the stink from him.

    Reply
  4. Linda Brackenbury

    Duncan MacLeod, what reputation would that be? the only reputation Colin Kennedy has ever had is the one that brands him a bully!
    I cannot for the life of me imagine why such a person would end up in a position such as the one he recently occupied, in the Crofting Commission! Its akin to giving a child a box of bombs to play with!

    Reply
  5. Neil King

    I can save Michael O’Neil, the newly appointed Head of the Scottish Government Legislation Team, a lot of bother by answering his four questions for him:-

    1. Because there are crofts
    2. See Crofting Law Sump Report
    3. Draft a bill for public consultation
    4. No

    Reply

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