Brian Inkster: Crofting Commission ‘flouting the will’ of Parliament

Brian Inkster

Crofting law expert Brian Inkster of Inksters Solicitors has said he believes the Crofting Commissionis flouting the will of Parliament.

Mr Inkster has been researching what Parliament had to say when debating the provisions of the bill that became the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 1976. At that time Parliament looked at the question of resumption monies being payable to shareholders in Common Grazings.

An amendment was tabled by Lord Campbell of Croy to the effect that, as an alternative to apportioning resumption monies amongst the shareholders in a common grazing according to their rights therein, “a lump sum should be made available to the grazings committee who decide on improvements for the benefit of all”. This alternative was suggested by the Stornoway Trust as it was a practice “generally acceptable in their area of Lewis”.

Lord Kirkhill, on behalf of the government of the day, indicated that there was no good reason to legislate in this way as “there would seem to be nothing to prevent a voluntary arrangement being made whereby any crofter’s share would be diverted to the grazings committee”.

On this assurance Lord Campbell of Croy withdrew his amendment as being unnecessary.

In a subsequent debate Lord Kirkhill re-emphasised the position stating that: “This leaves the apportionment to be carried out on the initiative of the landlord with the agreement of the individual crofters. It will not prevent a landlord, such as the Stornoway Trust, agreeing with shareholders in a common grazing that the money should be paid to the common grazing fund.”

Indeed, as Mr Inkster says, Lord Kirkhill went to pains to spell this sentiment out several times in that debate.

Lord Campbell of Croy said in response: “We are glad to hear what the noble Lord said at the end of his speech, which was that the system practised by the Stornoway Trust can be continued.”

Mr Inkster said: “Little did Lord Kirkhill or Lord Campbell of Croy know of what the Crofting Commission had in mind 40 years later. That was to completely ignore the will of Parliament and impose their own will on the crofters of Lewis removing any and all who might argue with them from office.

“The Crofting Commission has insisted that the Grazings Committees of Upper Coll and Mangersta, both on the Isle of Lewis, must pay resumption monies to shareholders even where those shareholders want the monies in question retained within the common grazing fund for township improvements.

“There is absolutely no basis in law for this and it is clear that the Crofting Commission is flouting the will of Parliament.”