The battle by the rebel crofters against the dark forces of the Crofting Commission took a turn in the direction of justice and rightfulness yesterday.
Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for Crofting, met with all of the Crofting Commissioners in Edinburgh to discuss the dismissal by them of three common grazings committees (two in Lewis and one on the Scottish mainland).
It has been reported that Mr Ewing told Commissioners that he expected them to rescind their decisions to dismiss and issue an apology to the three grazings committees in question.
This implies that it will bring to an end the imposition by the Crofting Commission of the grazings ‘constable’, Colin Souter, on the Upper Coll Common Grazings.
It was also reported that Mr Ewing has instructed government officials to carry out a review of the governance of the Crofting Commission.
Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: –
The Crofting Commission, like any public body, must enjoy the trust of those it is working to serve and, sadly, the disputes over the past few months have been a cause of concern for those who want to support the crofting community.
As such, I support Fergus Ewing’s commitment to moving on, apologising where necessary and putting in place the necessary safeguards so that crofters are not sidelined in the cause of small ‘p’ politics and damaged relationships.
The Scottish Crofting Federation has welcomed the news. Their Chair, Fiona Mandeville, said:-
It has taken a long battle to get to this point, but it is extremely good that it is reported that Mr Ewing has made clear his support to crofters by directing the Commissioners to issue a full, unequivocal, public apology for their mistreatment of common grazings committees. This whole episode has been badly damaging to individuals, to crofting communities and to crofting itself, so we hope an apology may be the first step in a healing process.
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.
The Scottish Crofting Federation has been asking for a review of the Crofting Commission, to look critically at its procedures and governance. The news that Mr Ewing has instructed government officials to carry out a review is very promising. This situation must be prevented from happening again by modifying the way the Commission works. It makes no sense at all that the Convener was involved in local meetings, and was making personal statements regarding grazing committee business. Acting as some sort of maverick lawman is not appropriate. The board of the Commission should be, as any board, for strategic direction and governance.
And as for Kennedy’s imposed, and lawyers say illegal, henchman, Constable Souter, he must be removed from Upper Coll immediately. He has no place in crofting, is aggravating bad feeling and is standing in the way of democratic process.
The Crofting Commissioners meet next week (on 28 September) in Brora for a board meeting. It is assumed that it will be decided at that meeting to follow the directions given by Mr Ewing and rescind their previous decisions and issue an apology to the crofters in question. That apology will presumably have to be given by Convener Colin Kennedy who has the particular responsibility of representing the views of the Board to the general public.
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