Crofting Convener in Hiding

Crofting Convener in Hiding

Hide and seek was a favourite pastime at Great Glen House

The Cross Party Group on Crofting met on Wednesday night at Holyrood.

This followed the private meeting between Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary responsible for crofting, and all of the Crofting Commissioners. At that private meeting Mr Ewing told Commissioners that he expected them to rescind their decisions and issue an apology to the three grazings committees removed from office since December 2015.

One would have expected the Convener of the Crofting Commission, Colin Kennedy, to have represented the Crofting Commission at the Cross Party Group meeting. However, he was nowhere to be seen at that meeting. Where was he? He was in Edinburgh (presumably in the very same building) earlier that very same day for the meeting with Mr Ewing. One assumes he would not have been able to get back to the Isle of Coll after that meeting to tend to his croft and would have been staying overnight in Edinburgh in any event?

As Convener of the Crofting Commission, Colin Kennedy, has the particular responsibility of representing the views of the Board to the general public. This will include those attending the Cross Party Group on Crofting.

Colin Kennedy did not attend the last Cross Party Group meeting in June on the day when the Crofting Commission took a massive U-turn on their stance at Mangersta Common Grazings.

Colin Kennedy did not attend the last Scottish Government Crofting Stakeholder Forum meeting when the Chief Executive, Catriona Maclean, announced her resignation.

Colin Kennedy did not attend this week’s Cross Party Group meeting when one would have thought he should have been there to advise that meeting of the outcome of the earlier meeting that day between Commissioners and Mr Ewing.

Instead Commissioner Murdo Maclennan attended this week’s Cross Party Group meeting, disclosed nothing about the earlier meeting with Mr Ewing and refused to answer questions verbally saying he would only do so in writing. However, after the meeting he appears to have released information to the BBC that again one would have thought could and perhaps should have been revealed first to the Cross Party Group.

Why is the Convener in hiding?

Why is the Convener not attending meetings on the Commission’s behalf and representing the views of the Board?

Is the Convener “unsuitable to continue” in that role given this clear dereliction of duty on top of and in addition to the abuse of power he has been accused of?

Presumably the Convener will have to come out of hiding for the Board meeting of the Crofting Commission at Brora on 28 September. Presumably after that meeting it will have to be he who gives the public apology to the crofters affected by the decisions to remove grazings committees from office. Thereafter he can perhaps go into hiding again especially if he takes the advice of the Chair of the Scottish Crofting Federation, Fiona Mandeville, who said:-

As the person who seems to be behind the on-going attacks on crofting committees, it would be appropriate for the Convener of the Crofting Commission, Colin Kennedy to give the apology in his resignation statement.

Brian Inkster

6 thoughts on “Crofting Convener in Hiding

  1. Linda Brackenbury

    Why have a dog and bark yourself, yes, the convener will have had his henchmen to take instruction and do his yapping,
    maybe he is in his safe house on Coll, or maybe a holiday to Unst.. of course he might have flown the coop and gone to Ireland, North or South, maybe?

    Saying sorry is not in his vocabulary, he knows not the word apology.

    Saying goodbye is something he won’t do, its just not in his remit….. resignation? Not that word either.. he will hold on and on and on.. waiting to see if there might be some kind of financial payoff with his name on it..

    Not holding my breath here.

  2. Donald E Meek

    It is very sad to reflect on what has happened to the Crofting Commission. When I was becoming a bit weary of academia in the late 1990s, I used to reflect on the possibility that I might become the next Chairman of the Crofters’ Commission. I admired its Chairmen, and the Commission itself. We had our disagreements, sometimes strong ones, but I never lost my respect for the Commission. It was very fair to me as I struggled to get the family croft in Tiree on to a good footing. It knew when to apply common sense rather than bad law, and I still treasure the encouraging letters I received from its Chairmen.

    What a change! Today I shudder when I even consider being a Commissioner. It is not a prospect that attracts me in any way.

    As for the Convener, it is easy to ask for a public hanging. That may alter little, even if it happened, and even if it is well deserved. The fundamental question is how a body which was once highly respected has been reduced to this. That cannot be the work of one man. He may reflect the central failing, but as symptom and not as cause.

    For instance, how thoroughly were candidates vetted for roles as Commissioners and as Conveners? What unidentified luggage did they have concealed in their trailers? How many bogs were they in with their tractors before they decided to ‘steer straight’? How familiar were they with crofting law?

    Are we seeing the inadequacy of a particular structure for crofting regulation? A failure of practical politics, rather than the failure of individual people? Could we have a better structure? Crofting boards in localities, with a secretariat in Inverness, rather than ‘a wee Politburo’?

    There is much here on which we must reflect – deeply.

  3. Callum MacLeod

    I have been favoured with early sight of a couple of pages from the script of a forthcoming episode of “The Antiques Roadshow” which may be of interest to your correspondents

    The Antiques Roadshow – 09 October 2016


    The presenter is standing in the middle of a field in Mangersta. Assorted Hebrideans are queuing at tables, carrying a variety of “collectibles” – huge old Bibles, spinning wheels, primitive farm implements, fine old porcelain artefacts (mostly inscribed: “A Present from Lowestoft”) and a very few oil paintings. An ancient Ferguson tractor, coughing and spluttering in the background, is attracting a large crowd.


    FIONA BRUCE (for it is she) : Ah, Mr MacSween, I see that you have brought us a fine Constable. Can you tell us anything about it? How long have you had it? Where did you find it?

    Mr MacSWEEN: Och, well it’s very hard to say. One day we didn’t have one and the very next day – no warning, mind – there it was, as large as life. It’s now as if it’s been here forever, domineering, sorry, dominating the place. Ha! Ha! My Beurla’s not so good.

    FB: Yes, it is very large. Constables are known for that. It seems to have something of the East about it. Are you sure you did not find it in Inverness?

    Mr MacS. Inverness! I would not set foot in that place, no, not even if you bought my ticket!

    FB: I asked, because it’s known that a shadowy organisation there has been releasing fake Constables on to the local market, duping unsophisticated crofters like yours… like your neighbours. I think this may be one of them.

    Mr MacS: Neffer!

    FB: I’m afraid so, Mr Mac. Some people have lost their entire bank deposits as a result of this, community money, too,
    [ENTER a large gentleman]
    …and now I think that Detective Constable MacLeod would like a word with you about its shady provenance.

    Det. Const. MacL: Indeed, Fiona a ghràidh, all the authorities agree that what we have here is a fake, being passed off as a real Constable.

    Mr MacS: ILLEGAL, you mean?

    Det. Const. MacL: Chust so! Now if you’ll only help me get it into the back of my van. Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

  4. Donald E Meek

    I am increasingly of the view that the model of Commission now in operation, with elections of representatives from different areas, is the heart of the problem. How can we guarantee that we are getting the best people in terms of knowledge, diplomatic skills, and knowledge of crofting law? We cannot, because they are not selected by a knowledgeable panel. We get the people who fancy that they are good at crofting and understand ‘it’, and their communities may well know them, and even admire them, and vote for them…but we may end up with a huge ‘skills deficit’ in terms of the real job of looking after crofters and crofting in the wide. What we are likely to see at national level is a reflection of the local disputes that are common in communities, with a complete lack of perspective when it comes to standing and acting ‘above the battle’. Commissioners and Convener become an integral part of the battle.

    1. Kenny MacDonald

      Following on from Donald Meek’s concerns about the electing of local representatives is surely the concern we have regarding quality control and quality assurance within the governance structure of the Commission.

      Evidently, lines were crossed on many occasions over many months. Had there been in place an alert system to the minister’s office, the late intervention could have been an early one. This would have prevented the disaster, and the enormous losses we continued to suffer.

      The legal advisers to the commission have shown themselves to be team players indeed.

      Attendance to a rigorous set of criteria, had such been in place, would have forced them to consider if what was in the plan actually promoted the objectives of crofters and the government.

      Instead of fighting tooth and nail to enable and defend the crossing of lines, their first duty would have been a consultation with the minister’s office to prevent it from happening.

      Instead of these safety valves functioning to under-gird the governance system from unruly unlawful impositions, we have witnessed this tragic outcome. A government funded department employing all its resources to impoverish and destroy what it has been commissioned to defend.


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