Am Bratach No. 203
Foundation meets MacRae as Shucksmith suffers delay
A sense of emergency at the Scottish
Crofting Foundation may have prompted a meeting between their
leaders and one of the principal critics of the Shucksmith report
on crofting, and of the organisations surprising reaction
Mr MacRae, the organisations senior representative in North West Sutherland, who also chairs the Assynt Crofters Trust and the North West Cattle Producers Association, had given several interviews the first appeared in Am Bratach in June since the publication of the Committee of Inquiry on Croftings controversial final report on May 12. In the interviews he had condemned the main recommendations and chastised the foundation leaderships enthusiasm in unreservedly welcoming the publication of what they termed our report.
I got the clear impression from Norman Leask, who represents Shetland, that Shetland crofters are very much opposed to burdens, for example, commented Mr MacRae. Norman Leask is, of course, a past chairman of the foundation and I have a lot of confidence in him I get the distinct impression that hes more realistic as regards these recommendations than some others.
I think he recognises that a lot of crofters are opposed to Shucksmith. But what the official view of the SCF is going to be at the end of the day I dont really know, because theyre still forming it.
However, they did say to me that they hoped to have a meeting of all the directors plus the area representatives very shortly when the final position will be thrashed out. I presume that everybody can have a say and that theyll [the leadership] be able to hear from the area representatives what people on the ground are thinking. Not that there can be any doubt what people up here are thinking.
I think they were keen to reassure me that the SCF was listening. As I said to them Ive given them a pretty hard time Im only reflecting the views of the members up here.
The thing that concerns me is that they are now consulting crofters because theyve been forced to. They gave the impression they didnt want that at the start. You cant get away from that.
He said he read about how crofting minister, Mike Russell MSP, speaking at a meeting on Skye, had urged crofters to work within the framework of Shucksmith. I thought he was supposed to be listening to the crofters, commented Assynts pioneer land reformer.
All I can say is that the idea of having local boards of commissars looking over your shoulder is a case of bringing the state into your living room. I think thats shocking. He added: I said commissars with good reason, because thats what youre looking at.
My late father used to
say that the worst ground officer you could have would be a local
man, once they get a bit of power. There are always those who
will go along.
The delay is not connected to the hostile response to the report, insisted a spokeswoman for the Scottish Government. I am trying to find out precise reasons but I fear they could be extremely boring time-tabling of debates or something similar.
Later, it transpired that the interruption is being caused by an apparently unforeseen requirement for the report to be translated into Gaelic a process which could take two weeks to completed publication.
Any expectation that more consideration of crofters views might be entertained before the government gives its formal response to the Shucksmith report a notion fuelled by the Skye-based West Highland Free Press on August 29 in which the crofting minister is reported to have pledged a fresh round of consultation before the recommendations were considered for legislation was given short shrift by the spokeswoman.
You asked if the information and inferences drawn from reports in the WHFP were correct they are not, she told our reporter.
We are not holding additional consultations. There will be a consultation as planned from the outset when a draft Crofting Bill is published next year. There is no additional consultation taking place.
We are intending on publishing our response to the report in late September, the spokeswoman added.