The Scottish Crofting Federation has written to the cabinet secretary for crofting, Fergus Ewing MSP, expressing deep concern that crofters’ democratic rights are being flouted by a constable appointed, perhaps illegally, by the Crofting Commission.
Chair of the Scottish Crofting Federation, Fiona Mandeville, said:-
The majority of shareholders of the Upper Coll grazings have voted, yet this constable, whose legality of appointment is refuted by lawyers, is completely ignoring them. The shareholders have demanded that the constable, Colin Souter, who was appointed by the Crofting Commission, stands down so that they can reinstate a democratically elected grazings committee. Why is he still there?
Democracy is the very foundation of grazings committees. A lack of democratic procedure by the removed Upper Coll committee is something that the constable has been trying, unsuccessfully, to find evidence of. The shareholders have the legal right to elect their own committee and Souter is standing in their way. He must stand aside or be removed.
Judging by the press releases Souter issues, he clearly has misunderstood the role of a grazings clerk, or that of an appointed constable fulfilling the duties of clerk – were his appointment legal. He seems to be either completely out of control, or under the control of the Crofting Commission, an organisation that has lost all credibility. In addition Souter and his masters are attempting to undermine the viability of crofters’ collaborative enterprises by questioning their entitlement to SRDP and registration for VAT. Are they trying to bring to an end 130 years of crofting? The only recourse is for the Scottish Government to take control of the situation and to remove him.
This incredible situation is extremely harmful, not only to the crofting community of Upper Coll, but to crofting itself. We can understand that the Scottish Government is reluctant to interfere with a democratically elected Commission, but this constable is not democratically elected, claims to be independent of the Crofting Commission who appointed him, and is flouting democracy. There is nothing to stop the Scottish Government from doing the right thing, and it must do it now.
Colin Souter and anyone else within the commission who is openly supporting this man truly ought to be in the very least suspended, subject to inquiry.
It is not good enough that our appointed Rural Affairs Minister has not made any further moves in this regard and the message being sent out is one of complacency, and in the workplace there is no room for complacency!
My opinion is this, the Government must take control of this situation which is already past the point of no return.
If the convener gets his way, if no one within the commission has the guts to stand up to him well, God help anyone who does get in his way.
CK – Sorry, I must have misheard you. I thought that I was to rule by autocracy, but you said democracy. I am a bit hard of hearing! Remind me, what is democracy again?