Crofting expert urges apology and reinstatement of grazings committee

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Crofting law expert Brian Inkster this week described the decision by the Crofting Commission to remove the Mangersta Common Grazings Committee as ‘illegal’ and he has urged the commission to issue an apology and reinstate them.

The clerk and five members of the Mangersta Common Grazings Committee in Lewis were this week removed, just a short time after the Upper Coll Common Grazings Committee were too removed from office by the Crofting Commission.

Mr Inkster believes the moves constitute ‘an abuse of power’ and he is urging the Scottish Government to launch an inquiry.

He said: “It is very clear to me that the Crofting Commission in deciding to remove the clerk to and members of the Mangersta Common Grazings Committee from office took a decision so unreasonable that no reasonable person acting reasonably could have made it.

“This is a settled test in law known as the Wednesbury principle. Furthermore that decision was based on a complaint concerning financial matters that the Crofting Commission had no remit to handle.

The Crofting Commission’s own guidelines in this respect state:-

“The Commission will not get involved in any matter relating to alleged financial impropriety. This is potentially a civil and/or criminal matter and should be dealt with by the relevant authorities.”

He has written to the Chief Executive of the Crofting Commission calling upon the Crofting Commission to both issue an apology to and to reinstate them as members of and clerk to the Mangersta Common Grazings Committee without further delay.

He continued: “If the Crofting Commission decide to remove a committee of five and a clerk from office they must appoint, or provide for the appointment of, five committee members and a clerk to replace them.

“Therefore the Crofting Commission has acted illegally in appointing a Grazings Constable and any actions taken by him are null and void.”

“This latest revelation compounds the allegations of abuse of power made against the Crofting Commission and highlights once more the urgent need for the Scottish Government to institute an inquiry into their actings.”

The reason for the removal from office of the Mangersta Common Grazings Committee appears to relate to the payment of monies to an absentee tenant who had returned uncashed the cheque sent to him by the committee.

The Upper Coll Common Grazings Committee were apparently removed from office for producing to the Crofting Commission financial statements prepared by an accountant rather than “audited” accounts.