Crofting convener in resignation move

The Crofing Commission convener Rod MacKenzie, from Beauly, has resigned from his post, leaving a vacancy at the top of the organisation.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 1:06 pm
The Crofting Commission regulates all crofting land, including common grazing. Pic: John MacKinnon
The Crofting Commission regulates all crofting land, including common grazing. Pic: John MacKinnon

As we went to press yesterday (Wednesday) no explanation was offered by the commission as to the reasons for his departure, although it is understood that it was for personal reasons. Efforts to contact Mr MacKenzie for comment were unsuccessful. It’s understood he will carry on as a commissioner.

Mr MacKenzie was appointed four years ago after being elected as one of the commissioners from across the Highlands and Islands. A life-long crofter, he was also an auctioneer and a member of NFU Scotland.

When appointed to the post in 2017, he said: "I'm delighted to have been selected to be the new convener of the Crofting Commission. Though based in Beauly, my role with the auction marts has taken me to many more remote crofting communities, particularly in the Northern Isles, so I know that crofting is a jigsaw made up of many different pieces.

"Somehow, as the regulator for the whole of crofting, the commission has to make the pieces fit together and administer fairly and openly and within the constraints placed on us a public regulator. We must continue promoting the interests of crofting, to help sustain this unique land management system for future generations.”

The commission’s scheduled board meeting, which was due to take place last week, was subsequently postponed. It is expected that the commission vice convener Mairi MacKenzie, from Lochbroom, will assume the duties of convener in the meantime.

The appointment of a convener is the responsibility of Scottish Government ministers, although it is understood that they may choose to delegate the matter to the other commissioners.

A message on the commission website said: “Rod Mackenzie resigned from his role as the Crofting Commission’s Convener on 21/06/21. As yet, the Cabinet Secretary has not appointed his successor. The Commission’s board meeting, planned for 24/06/21, has been postponed until a new Convener has been appointed.”

The appointment of Mr MacKenzie and a new cohort of commissioners four years ago was seen as an opportunity to usher in a new period of stable governance, following a highly fractious and controversial tenure under the direction of former convener Colin Kennedy.

After a lengthy and bitter dispute over the distribution of village funds in Upper Coll in Lewis, Mr Kennedy was asked to resign and the commission issued an apology for their handling of the situation. Mr Kennedy then accused the Scottish Government Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing of being in breach of the ministerial code. Mr Kennedy did seek re-election, but failed in 2017.

The commission is made up of six elected commissioners representing different regions – other than Mr MacKenzie and Mrs MacKenzie, then others are Andy Holt, Cyril Annal, Iain MacIver and Billy Neilson – and three Scottish Government appointees: David Campbell, Malcolm Mathieson and James Scott.