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):-
COMMON GRAZINGS THE RIGHTS OF CROFTERS AND THE DUTIES OF
GRAZINGS COMMITTEES AND THEIR GRAZINGS CLERKS
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
- 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.
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.
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
Image Credit: Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope © Lucasfilm Ltd
Update: Is this why the post was deleted?: Oh yes you did!