We run on our croft and some tenanted land a small tourism and sheep business, the latter around 60-odd ewes and gimmers, on the northwest coast in Achiltibuie, around 25 miles north of Ullapool.

A few years ago, in order to become more independent of subsidies and subsidy changes in agricultural policies, we joined the Highland Mule Breeders Association, QMS and HISHA to sell our ewe lambs at a premium at the Mule Breeders sale in Dingwall.

The first year was a bit of a learning curve but in the following years, this became quite successful. We were the only association members to the northwest of the Great Glen.

The scheme requires exclusive access to hill ground – that is no mixing of one’s flock with any other sheep – which is difficult in an area dominated by common grazings.

Originally, we managed to rent some rough grazing with exclusive use but to put the business on a more permanent footing, we applied to the Crofting Commission to take our hill share as an apportionment out of the common grazings.

The SGRPID report on our proposal, which was commissioned by the Commission, came out as a ringing endorsement of what we did and of its prospects. Unfortunately, however, our grazings committee is dominated by inactive crofters, largely retired from professional and middle-class jobs without any visible interest in the grazings, apart from using their position to tell active crofters like us what we can and what we can’t do. Our landlord did her utmost, too, to scupper our objectives.

That would be neither here nor there and not unusual in today’s crofting counties. What is beyond belief, however, is that the Commission sided with the objectors and their flimsy objections against us, and against the SCRPID report. It took the Commission three years to come to their decision to turn us down and effectively to scupper a forward-looking enterprise.

We appealed it to the Land Court, but the Commission‘s digression in law is such that this turned out to be a pretty hopeless attempt to rectify matters.

We are quite old but we will carry on with our sheep business – but in a way far more reliant again on subsidies. Many others might have given up. No wonder there are ever fewer enterprising young crofters.

It can be thoroughly disheartening to deal with a bureaucracy which is supposed to help crofters – but is doing anything but.

Reiner and Sheileagh Luyken, Polbain House, Achiltibuie