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MSPs “extremely concerned by significant and persistent weaknesses” in the Crofting Commission

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant is calling for a review of Governance structures, especially in relation to the Crofting Commission.

Commenting on the recent statement by the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit committee about The Crofting Commission, Rhoda Grant said:

“This report is extremely concerning and highlights that there are people in Government, Boards and within organisations who do not clearly understand their role or responsibilities. This has led to the Scottish Government interfering and undermining Boards which has resulted in a lack of leadership and a lack of clarity.

“Crofting in the Highlands and Islands is a huge economic driver that retains people and fights against depopulation. To see that no real improvements have been made to improve the Crofting Commission since concerns were firstly raised is disappointing and concerning and I would like to see this urgently addressed to avoid this occurring again.

“That is why I believe it would be best to review these Governance structures so that the roles within the Crofting Commission – and other bodies – are clear and that its relationship with their Board and the Scottish Government are clearly defined.”

The Public Audit Committee of the Scottish Parliament stated that it is extremely concerned by significant and persistent weaknesses in leadership and governance arrangements which saw the Crofting Commission fall below the standards expected of a public body.

“Issues concerning the Commission’s governance were previously highlighted in 2016. At this time, the Scottish Government appointed consultants to carry out an external review of governance arrangements. The review found that strong personalities, differences of opinion and apparent incongruent individual objectives and priorities were having negative impacts on how the Commission’s Board carried out its functions. An almost entirely new Board took office over in the first three months of 2017, including six new elected commissioners following elections in March 2017. Membership of the Board stayed constant over the next four years. However, the auditors’ work this year identified that there has recently been a breakdown in trust between the Board and its senior management.”

Auditor General for Scotland

The statement from the MSPs says:

“The Committee raises concerns that these failures of leadership and governance, identified by Audit Scotland, have resulted in a breakdown of trust at the Commission. The report warns that neither the Scottish Government nor the Crofting Commission acted to address serious concerns first raised in an independent external governance review requested by the Scottish Government in 2016.

The review highlighted concerns which the Auditor General for Scotland says remain today, including differences of opinion and a lack of shared objectives amongst Commissioners. The Committee is very concerned these issues will reoccur and so seeks reassurance from both organisations that lessons will be learned to prevent this from happening in the future.”

The statement goes on to highlight the breakdown in trust and a lack of clarity of roles and responsibility.

The statement continues:

“The Committee is dismayed that performance issues concerning the former Convener of the Commission, identified by the Auditor, had not been detected and acted upon at the time by the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government is asked to confirm that effective oversight and monitoring arrangements are now in place.”

For more on this see:

Publication: The 2020/21 audit of the Crofting Commission

And the report from the Public Audit Committee of the Scottish Parliament.

Image Credit Bell