Common grazing dispute ‘badly handled’ by commission – Krause

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Less than half of all common grazings are regulated. 

A CROFTING leader says he ‘cannot understand’ why the Crofting Commission has brought common grazing complaints into the public eye – accusing the agency of badly mishandling the situation.

The accusation came after the unprecedented decision to remove the Mangersta township committee on the Isle of Lewis, followed last week by a similar move on Upper Coll.

The row escalated when Upper Coll common grazings committee applied to Inverness Sheriff Court for an interim interdict to halt the imposition of a grazings constable. This was refused, after which the commission released a statement saying that the grazings constable ‘will continue his investigations and will also be available to provide shareholders with the opportunity to deal with any concerns or urgent matters relating to the grazings that they may have’.

Confirming that this is the first time that such action has been taken by the Crofting Commission, a spokeswoman explained its reasons: ‘Action in the cases resulted from an approach to the Crofting Commission by shareholders in the grazings, asking the commission to investigate issues relating to the functioning of the grazings committee. The commission will investigate when requests of this nature are brought to us by shareholders.’

Crofters’ organisation, the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF), said its members were ‘perplexed’ at the commission’s ‘extraordinary behaviour’.

SCF chief executive, Patrick Krause, said: ‘At the moment less than 50 per cent of common grazings are regulated. We were keen to see this increase, but the current situation certainly does not encourage regulation. What is, in fact, happening is that other grazings committees are getting nervous.’

‘I don’t know what will happen next with Upper Coll. They may decide to go on as an unregulated grazing.’

After a closed meeting between the Crofting Commission and Mangersta shareholders on Tuesday May 17, the commission said: ‘We are committed to achieving a resolution in Mangersta and would like to encourage shareholders to continue to work with us, and hope that this leads to the appointment of a new grazings committee in the near future.’

Patrick Krause continued: ‘The commission has not said directly what the problem is, but I suspect that the committees perhaps failed to fulfil some of the pernickity parts of their duties, while managing the grazing as best they could.

‘The point is that I cannot understand why the commission decided to pursue this with such vigour and cost to the public purse. By sacking the grazing committees they allowed this to enter the public domain, and the accusations are terrible for the people involved.

‘What the SCF is saying is that the Crofting Commission has handled this situation really badly. This will lead to ill feeling and does nothing to help the future of crofting.’

 

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SCF chief executive, Patrick Krause.