Croft­ing faces ‘catas­tro­phe’

The Oban Times - - News - LOUISE GLEN lglen@oban­times.co.uk

THE CHAIR­MAN of the Croft­ing Com­mis­sion has asked First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon to out­line her po­si­tion on the al­lo­ca­tion of mil­lions of pounds worth of cash that he be­lieves has been al­lo­cated un­law­fully to graz­ings com­mit­tees.

Croft­ing Com­mis­sioner Colin Kennedy said there is go­ing to have to be ‘a dirty day’ to sort out the misun­der­stand­ings within the Scot­tish Govern­ment.

Mr Kennedy said: ‘ Whether known or un­known, the govern­ment has been act­ing against le­gal ad­vice,’ which, he said, was re­ceived by the Croft­ing Com­mis­sion. ‘Sub­se­quently, the Scot­tish Govern­ment has been fund­ing multi-mil­lion-pound projects on croft­ing land against ad­vice the Croft­ing Com­mis­sion had re­ceived,’ he added.

Mr Kennedy said a num­ber of graz­ings com­mit­tees have been ap­ply­ing for and ac­cept­ing Scot­tish Ru­ral Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme (SRDP) cash with no le­gal en­ti­tle­ment to do so, un­der sec­tion 48 (1) of the Crofters Act.

Mr Kennedy added: ‘The com­mis­sion re­ceived le­gal opin­ion from Sir Crispin Agnew QC in late June. ‘His opin­ion at that time was that graz­ings com­mit­tees are not el­i­gi­ble to claim SRDP.’ Mr Kennedy out­lined his po­si­tion to The Oban Times: ‘This mat­ter is not go­ing to sim­ply van­ish and I will en­sure these is­sues will be re­solved.

‘Of­fi­cials ad­vis­ing the First Min­is­ter and her cab­i­net min­is­ters will need to mod­ify their po­si­tion to stem a cat­a­strophic sit­u­a­tion emerg­ing in croft­ing.

‘I am not will­ing to al­low my rep­u­ta­tion to con­tinue to be trashed as though I knew noth­ing about croft­ing while those with ran­dom agen­das are af­forded sup­port from a govern­ment which clearly, by the ac­tions of its cab­i­net secretary, fails to un­der­stand the Crofters (Scot­land) Act 1993,’ he con­tin­ued.

A Scot­tish Govern­ment spokesman re­sponded: ‘We are ab­so­lutely clear that com­mon graz­ings com­mit­tees are el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for cer­tain SRDP schemes which are ad­min­is­tered by the Scot­tish Govern­ment.

‘The Croft­ing Com­mis­sion is a pub­lic body that op­er­ates at arm’s length of Scot­tish min­is­ters and its board is re­spon­si­ble for tak­ing de­ci­sions in line with the law. It is wrong to sug­gest that the Scot­tish Govern­ment has acted in­ap­pro­pri­ately. We have not asked, and would not ask, the Croft­ing Com­mis­sion to act out­side its pow­ers.’

Colin Kennedy: ques­tioned the le­gal­ity of some projects.

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