Neilson wins Argyll vote to serve on commission

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Crofters elected six new commissioners to serve on the Crofting Commission Board, with Billy Neilson of Taynuilt beating former Commission convener Colin Kennedy of Coll for the South West Highlands seat by just two votes.

Mr Neilson secured 201 votes at the count held by Western Isles Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, in Stornoway on March 17, also beating Ronnie Campbell of Lochaber, Catherine MacKinnon of Roybridge, and Uilleam Smith of Inverness for the most-contested constituency covering Argyll and Bute, Lochaber, Arran and Cumbrae and the Small Isles.

The other successful candidates are: Iain MacIver who took the Western Isles seat with 1,069 votes, Mairi MacKenzie who gained the West Highlands with 694 votes, and Rod MacKenzie who won East Highlands with 181 votes.

As only one candidate stood in each of the Orkney and Caithness and Shetland constituencies, Cyril Annal for Orkney and Caithness and Andy Holt for Shetland were elected unopposed.

There are around 16,000 crofters in Scotland, and 33,000 people living in crofting households. Crofts account for about a quarter of land area in the highlands and islands. More than 80 per cent of crofts are in the Highlands and Eilean Siar (Western Isles).

Commissioners are responsible for the Crofting Commission’s performance, and set its direction and polices on regulatory matters that affect crofters. Rural secretary Fergus Ewing said: ‘Crofting is an integral part of Scottish rural life and it is essential that it has dedicated people to represent and reflect the interests and diversity of our crofting communities.

‘The elected crofting commissioners will give crofters a stronger say in how they are regulated, bringing valuable local knowledge and experience to the role.’

This is only the second time crofters have had an opportunity to elect commissioners, who serve five-year terms. The first elections to the board of crofting’s regulatory body were held in 2012. Commissioners work four and a half days per month and currently receive a daily rate of £161.29. Expenses are paid for travel.

The commission’s chief executive Bill Barron said: ‘I would like to congratulate the successful candidates and thank everyone who stood for election. They will join the three appointed commissioners and, along with all the staff at the commission, I am determined to provide the best possible support to the new board, as they take on the responsibilities of leading the Crofting Commission for this new term.’