Crofting Commissioner for the Western Isles is free to speak

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Murdo Maclennan says he is pleased at now being free to publicly declare his position on the long standing issues in crofting matters in the Western Isles, after the shackles applied when he confirmed a declaration of interest, were finally lifted.

The Crofting Commissioner for the Western Isles admits the past few months have been difficult as both Mangersta and Upper Coll have endured very public struggles.

“It has been very difficult for me being unable to give my opinions on the ongoing matters in Mangersta and Upper Coll but now my declaration of interests have been lifted,” he said: “It is important to say I was being held back by these declarations, but I can speak now.”

He continued: “The Constable (Mr Colin Souter) installed in Upper Coll should complete his work as quickly as possible and the move to have a new committee in Upper Coll should happen as quickly as possible.

“I would hope despite all that has happened that there can be a drawing of a line under it to move forward together, and like all committees, we will need to work with the commission for the benefit of crofting in the future in these areas.

“There are lessons learned on the commission side absolutely. In terms of Mangersta I have asked why it has taken six years to resolve? That will be open and transparent to everyone. The way matters were handled and whether a grazings officer could intervene at an earlier stage to bring communities together.”

Last week Mr Maclennan led a motion, which was seconded and agreed by officals, calling for the resignation of the Crofting Commission’s convener.

This followed convener Colin Kennedy walking out of a meeting in Brora after he refused to accept Maclennan’s withdrawal of his declaration of interest.

“I had sought to represent publicly the Western Isles crofters involved by asking for the papers and being able to take part in the discussions later on in the meeting,” said Maclennan:

“But I was denied that by the convener and after taking advice from the officials present, my position was sustained, that I could have access to the papers which led to him closing the meeting.

“The board did continue to meet and we had a full day of business. I did move that the board state, through a motion, in my opinion it was the convener’s position to retire due to the situation. This was seconded and also received the unanimous vote of the board.

“It is a question of accountability and responsibility for all that has gone on in the past six months.”