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The truths they don't want you to read....

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Crofting reform

The news that Brian Wilson has called for the break up of the Crofters Commission and the devolution of decision making to the local communities, fills me with a mixture of dread and despair, with just a smidgen of support.

It is really no surprise that Brian is making this statement, when one considers the Stòras Uibhist submission to the Shucksmith Inquiry into crofting, which I have seen in full.

One section of the submission reads as follows (my emphasis):-
Community ownership of the land is tied to Community Self Determination and to Community Development. Consequently, Stòras Uibhist believes that powers over land use arrangements should be given to democratically accountable community companies. Community land owners should be given powers to veto the purchase of crofts on land owned by them, to veto the sale of croft tenancies, and to decide the appropriateness of croft assignations. They should be given the powers to develop crofting for the benefit of crofter. They should be given powers over the effective administration of township common lands and should be given powers to decide the effective use of common lands for community benefit. Likewise, they should be given powers over crofter diversification to enable crofters to enter the tourism market.

It's almost like Brian Wilson has written (or at least had a major influence on) the Stòras Uibhist submission.

Now, I like the idea of devolving the power downwards; and I think that the Crofters Commission needs major reform, as it seems that nobody is happy with the current set-up. That's the end of the good news.

Basically, the Stòras Uibhist submission seeks the power to decide who can live in a crofting community, who can sell and buy a house, and who can transfer a croft. I wouldn't like to be on the wrong side of whoever held control of the Board of such a community organisation, as they could destroy your entire livelihood.

Unanswered is the question of how far down the chain such decentralisation should be, and the extent of any powers that are transferred. Should the Grazings Committee in each village have similar powers of veto? Should the Grazings Committee and the landlord have to agree on any veto? Should everyone in the village or everyone in the area controlled by the Community Company have a vote on any veto?

If the Stòras Uibhist submission were adopted, then you have swapped one controlling landlord for another, and given the numerous conflicts of interest and personality issues that arise in any small community, giving such power to Stòras Uibhist (or any other similar body) is a recipe for conflict.

There requires to be a body with a wider remit to oversee the whole system; there requires to be greater control over absentee crofters; there requires to be restrictions on the speculative sale of crofts; yet, the crofters need to be able to profit from their efforts on the land.

I don't have the answers, but I do know when something just smells wrong.


Anonymous said...

This isn't really a comment, but just wondering about your views on the current application to erect 16 turbines on the Eishken Estate. Your blog has been silent - as well as the newspapers- on this.

Angus said...

I've actually been trying to check the legislation about the ability of a developer to make multiple 'small' applications and when it becomes a 'big' application. Until I can get any information on this, I'm holding fire on commenting, as there may be some wider issues arising.

If that sounds like a cop-out, it isn't ;-)

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's like looking for a needle in a haystack - but there'll be something.Very much looking forward to reading the outcome of your enquiries.

Anonymous said...

Is it true that the new factor in Uist used to be a Researcher or Parliamentary Assistant to Brian Wilson? Is it true that Brian Wilson has been co-opted onto the Storas Board?

Is it any wonder they are singing from the same hymn sheet!

Anonymous said...

Was there a state of 'Emergency' as in Pakistan declared by the leaders of Storas Uibhist so as to keep democracy and transparensy quashed? After all you don't want to over whelm a lesser mind commuinty with such nonsense as running a COMMUNITY CONCERN. I'm sure the lawyers would be more than happy!