Blurred lines at the Crofting Commission

THINGS ARE still very far from fair at the Scottish Crofting Commission, which has just come out on the wrong side of yet another investigation into its internal workings.

Following the October 2021 report from the Auditor General of Scotland, which was itself a re-examination of issues first raised during a performance review of the Crofting Commission in 2016, the Audit Committee Holyrood audience took the floor to express extreme concern at the “weaknesses in leadership and governance” displayed in the body.

As previous reports have suggested, the fundamental problem is a “lack of clarity” over the roles and responsibilities of those who make up the Crofting Commission, a non-departmental public body, charged with regulating crofting and promoting the interests of the crofting. communities, which operates independently of government, but for which Scottish Ministers are ultimately responsible.

The October report highlighted the schism between its chief executive, the organizer and the board, and a general “blurring” of lines on who should do what. The Holyrood cross-party committee which has now looked into the matter has agreed that the Crofting Commission has failed to meet the standards expected of a public body – no less than one with an annual outlay of £3.1million, of which £2.4 million pounds sterling represented the payroll for around fifty employees.

PAC manager Richard Leonard MSP said: ‘It is incredibly disappointing that neither the Scottish Government nor the Crofting Commission have taken sufficient action to prevent the recurrence of serious problems highlighted as far back as 2016.

“The Committee remains gravely concerned that these problems will continue to recur unless, this time, lessons are drawn and learned quickly. We welcome the fact that an action plan is now in place to change things, but what we also demand is a change in culture.

“When the new board is elected next month, it will need to build a strong relationship with the Scottish government and avoid the day-to-day running of the commission – focusing instead on transparency, openness and accountability to communities. of crofting it serves.”

Speaking from the Scottish Crofting Federation, chief executive Patrick Krause agreed that the findings of the PAC report had been “quite damning”, and that there was something very clearly wrong when the body responsible for s The care of Scottish crofting communities had for so long been preoccupied with its own internal failings rather than dealing with crofters’ problems. However, Mr Krause said he was optimistic that the looming board elections in March would allow for something of a fresh start, with newly elected members receiving much more training from the start.

Responding to Audit Scotland’s previous report, Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon said the government was working with the Commission on the issues highlighted: “We will, of course, carefully consider and address any matters relating to the Scottish Government and its sponsorship of the Croftings Commission.

“The Commission will publish an improvement plan shortly and we will continue to work closely with them on the implementation of the plan and the completion of core activities.”

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