Highlands & Islands

'Worrying failures' at Scottish Crofting Commission

Ewe and lamb Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The Crofting Commission had to apologise following a row over the running of land shared by crofters to raise livestock

Scottish ministers have demanded "urgent action" after a report highlighted "worrying failures" at the Crofting Commission.

A review ordered by the government found "personality clashes" amid issues with management at the group.

There has been a long-running row at the commission over its leadership and the management of common grazing land.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said it was "essential" that governance was improved "immediately".

Bill Barron, the new chief executive of the commission, said the review had raised "important points" which he was "committed" to addressing.

The review follows a protracted internal dispute in the commission, which grew from a row over the running of land shared by crofters to raise livestock.

Some members demanded the resignation of convener Colin Kennedy, who recently insisted he would stand for a fresh term in the role.

Mr Kennedy has also complained about Mr Ewing's handling of the matter, and has threatened to take legal action against the group. A separate government review concluded that Mr Ewing had behaved "appropriately".

Image copyright Crofting Commission

The latest report highlighted a range of areas requiring action, including governance standards, procedures and other arrangements at both executive and non-executive levels and arrangements for handling conflicts of interest.

It said there had been "notable failures in governance within the Crofting Commission", which "has not been working as a fully effective, coordinated entity".

The authors noted that "considerable time" had been spent on "discussing internal problems and reacting to crises and conflicts", which had "particularly impaired" its work.

They added: "Strong personalities, differences of opinion and apparent incongruent individual objectives and priorities have impaired effective and efficient governance.

"There is a strong case for the commission seeking professional support from an independent expert to work through the interpersonal issues which are impacting the workings of the organisation."

'Worrying failures'

A full action plan to deliver "necessary improvements" is to be drawn up in response to the report.

Mr Ewing said: "This review highlights notable and worrying failures in the governance of the Crofting Commission which must be improved immediately. That is why I have asked the new chief executive to urgently prepare an action plan to take this forward.

"Crofting is an integral part of Scottish rural life and it is essential that it has an effective regulator. This review, and the action plan which will follow, must help to deliver the necessary changes and ensure the commission is able to lead the crofting industry forward."

Mr Barron said: "A number of important points have been made in the governance review and we are committed to ensuring robust processes are in place to achieve a high standard of governance within the organisation.

"We have already made some of the improvements recommended in the review and building on this, along with continuous improvement, will help us to create a focussed and effective commission."

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