ANGRY crofters are calling for the head of the body that regulates crofting in Scotland to step aside as a dispute over the management of shared land in the Outer Hebrides escalates.
Members of the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) expressed outrage after two common grazings committees were removed from office by the Crofting Commission.
The officials were deposed after questions were raised over financial records and transactions at Upper Coll and Mangersta on the Isle of Lewis.
Now the commission has appointing constables to manage the land while committee accounts are investigated.
The move has sparked further fury among crofters, who have described the commission’s actions as “belligerent”, “utterly irresponsible” and possibly unlawful.
“The behaviour of the Crofting Commission is causing widespread resentment and bewilderment in the crofting communities,” said SCF chairwoman Fiona Mandeville
“We are all completely dismayed that the body that is supposed to be promoting the interests of crofting is instead behaving so negatively and harmfully. It seems to have lost all sense of reason.”
A vote of no confidence in the commission was passed at a recent SCF meeting, with members demanding the convener to stand down to allow an inquiry into the debacle.
“Whilst being questionable in legality, imposing constables is belligerent,” Ms Mandeville added.
“The Commission has to be reined in and held to account. We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the new minister for crofting as soon as she or he is in place and will call for a full external inquiry.”
A spokeswoman for the statutory body said: “The actions of the SCF are not a matter for the commission.”
Crofting law specialist Brian Inkster, of Inksters Solicitors, believes the appointment of the constables is illegal.
He said: “The Crofting Commission have no power under the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 to appoint grazing constables where they have removed from office committees and clerks.
“They appear to be making up the rules as they go along.”
The regulator stated it is legally obliged to“follow up allegations”, and investigations will continue “until suitable explanations are provided”.