THERE HAVE been "worrying failures” in the recent governance of the Crofting Commission – and new chief executive Bill Barron has been given the job of making sure there are no more.
Responding to a review of the body's procedures – conducted with particular reference to the Bohuntin, Upper Coll and Mangersta Common Grazings cases – Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has recommended urgent action to deliver improvements in the way regulatory cases and board proceedings are managed in future.
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 we are developing a comprehensive induction programme for the new Board of Commissioners following the elections in March 2017."
The Scottish Crofting Federation welcomed the Scottish Government's pledge to put things right: “The governance review has exposed many weaknesses in basic operating procedures and in how the organisation copes with extraordinary individual behaviours," said SCF chair Russell Smith.
“The review has made it clear that a robust Commissioner appraisal process is required, to help identify and deliver ongoing training and skills development. We are particularly keen to see a rationalisation of the roles of Commissioners, establishing when they should be delegating to the executive staff. Commissioners should have a strategic and advisory capacity only. It is clear that they got too involved with executive procedures that they did not have the competence or remit for," he asserted.
“The review team recognises the huge damage done to the reputation of the Commission by the in-fighting,” continued Mr Smith, “and particularly that the vote of no confidence in the convener did not achieve a tangible result, that is, his removal. Frustratingly, the review does not suggest how this will be resolved, though the government’s recent exoneration will open up options.”