The Crofting Commission issued a statement at its Board meeting today on ‘The Common Clearances‘. Needless to say they didn’t actually refer to the situation as ‘The Common Clearances’. Their statement is as follows:-
The Commission wish to reassure shareholders that it is committed to assisting all common grazings committees and clerks to self-regulate within the provisions of crofting legislation and will work with them to do so.
To support this, it is important that all shareholders have the fullest information about the differing roles and duties of the grazings committee and the grazings clerk.
The committee are responsible for managing the rights of all crofters within the common grazings in accordance with their own, approved regulations.
The role of the clerk is to receive and pay-out all shareholders monies in accordance with their approved regulations as set out in the Crofting Act 1993.
With this in mind the Commission has arranged to meet with the shareholders in both Upper Coll and Mangersta Common Grazings in mid-May to advance the process which has already begun in these townships.
The stated commitment to assist all common grazings committees and clerks to self-regulate within the provisions of crofting legislation and the statement that they will work with them to do so does not sit well with the summary dismissal of two grazings committees without any apparent attempt to do that.
The role of the clerk is not simply “to receive and pay-out all shareholders monies in accordance with their approved regulations as set out in the Crofting Act 1993”. I will look at this in more detail in a future post. For now I would refer you again to Donald Macsween’s very astute blog post on the “nonsensical” and “totally impractical” stance by the Crofting Commission on the financial management of grazing funds.
Apparently the Crofting Commission “has arranged to meet with the shareholders in both Upper Coll and Mangersta Common Grazings in mid-May”. This has come as news to shareholders in both townships who have not, as yet, actually been contacted by the Crofting Commission concerning such a meeting!
In a statement issued today former members of the Mangersta Common Grazings Committee said:-
The Commission just blunders on. We were astonished to see from their web-site that they had ‘arranged to meet with the shareholders’ in both Upper Coll and Mangersta grazings in mid-May.’
We wish it to be known that we have heard absolutely nothing about any meeting, far less agreed to participate in it. If and when the Commission proposes a meeting, we will take legal advice on the appropriateness of attending.
We can only express astonishment at the continuing unprofessional and misleading behaviour of the Crofting Commission. One would have thought that the basic courtesy of consulting about a possible meeting and the form it might take would not have been beyond them, before making a public announcement about a meeting nobody else knows anything about.
The purpose of the meeting which no one knows anything about is apparently “to advance the process which has already begun in these townships”. That sounds very much like there is no going back on the part of the Crofting Commission and the intention is to finish what they have started even if it is illegal.
Calls made from various quarters, including politicians and the Scottish Crofting Federation for the Crofting Commission to explain their actions and/or for the committees in both instances to be reinstated, appear to be falling on deaf ears. The Scottish Crofting Federation has requested the Scottish Government to carry out “a full review of the situation as soon as possible before the damage is irreversible”. Perhaps the Scottish Government needs to send a representative to the Crofting Commission’s meeting which no one knows anything about if they can manage to find out the date, time and location thereof.
A goodly number of years ago I was clerk of a large general common grazing with nearly a hundred shareholders. We had a substantial resumption payment for a road improvement and this was banked and spent on a new fank. The shareholders’ contribution was very modest and caused no problems. We then entered into a management agreement with SNH and this produced an annual income which was banked until there was enough for my successors to pay for a very considerable length of hill fencing. These improvements ensured the future use of the grazings and if they had not happened 3500 hectares of crofting land would now be in an abandoned state. And if we had had to pay out these funds to shareholders the works could not and would not have been done, as it would have been impossible to get all the shareholders, inactive crofters, absentees, etc to pay what was due. That is the outcome that our Commission, our elected Commission, seems to wish on us. Maybe they should be building a jail for all us lawbreaking grazings committees, that’s the ones that work away quietly to do the best for their communities. Shame.
In Upper Coll it has been calculated that over £200,000 has been spent on improvements since the dismissed clerk took over. All for the benefit of us all. The thanks and acknowledgement. Dismissal for a deliberate lack of understanding on their part as to what the word “audit” means.
There is now to hand a definition provided by themselves in 2013, which proves that our village provided them with figures, which exactly correspond to their own definition, produced after consultation with their own legal officers.
If their was any logic to their actions we might understand. As there is not we don’t.
It would seem to be a recipe for doing away with grazings committees.
Might it be their mission to do away with crofting and blaming shareholders for wanting to have no part in managing grazings. That could very well be the effect of their present approach.
Mangersta , Upper Coll , who next?
What Lord Leverhulme tried to do 100 years ago, our ELECTED representatives could very well achieve in 2016.