John Finnie is seeking an urgent meeting with the new minister responsible for crofting, after two Grazing Committees on the Isle of Lewis were removed from office by the Crofting Commission.
The situation on Lewis suggests wider problems in the relationship between the Commission and Grazing Committees, which are elected by local crofters to manage common grazing land. There are also unanswered questions concerning the legality of the Commission’s decision to remove the Grazing Committees for Mangersta and Upper Coll, with noted crofting law expert Brian Inkster arguing that the Magersta decision was unlawful
“Direct management of common grazings by a Crofting Commission-appointed Constable is no substitute for the local, democratic control that Grazing Committees exist to provide. It is imperative that Grazing Committees are supported by the Commission, but the situation in Mangersta and Upper Coll suggests that there is a growing problem in that relationship.
“I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the new crofting minister, as soon as he or she is appointed, to discuss how this problem arose and how the partnership between the Commission and the Grazings can be repaired.
“Significant questions surround the action of the Crofting Commission in removing the Mangersta committee from office, with experts including the Crofting Law Reform Group’s Brian Inkster casting doubt on the legality of that action. I have written to the Chief Executive of the Commission, asking him to suspend the Mangersta shareholders meeting called by the Commission until he has responded to those legal questions and given the former Grazing Committee members time to seek further legal advice.
“I have also tried to submit a Parliamentary Question on the issue, which itself has become subject of legal debate by the Parliamentary authorities, a further indication, if any were needed, of the need for early resolution.”
UPDATE at 3.50pm on Wednesday 18 May — John’s question has now been ruled admissible by the Parliament’s lawyers, and has been submitted for answer by the Minister. It reads:
S5W-00122: To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on the suspended Mangersta grazing committee on the Isle of Lewis and whether it has a role to play in the mediation of this matter.