Tha an luchd-poileataigs balbh mu chroitearachd, tha Murray MacLeòid ag ràdh

Ann an suidheachaidhean àbhaisteach abair gum biodh èigheach air a bhith ann, agus bha còir sin.

Tha mòran ri reiteachd a-thaobh croitearachd agus chan eil e idir na chuideachadh gu bheil a’ choimeisein ann an staing. (Dealbh: SCF)

[English-language version below]

Ann an aithisg fhoirmeil, thuirt Buidheann Sgrùdaidh na h-Alba gun robh tè de bhuidhnean an Riaghaltais ag obair ann an àrainneachd far nach robh earbsa sam bith eadar an luchd-obrach agus am bòrd-stiùiridh; cha deach cha mhòr gin de na prìomh targaidean a choinneachadh agus dh’fhalbh neach-gairm a’ bhùird às dèidh dha, mìosan roimhe, a ràdh nach robh earbsa aige san àrd-oifigear. Abair butarrais.

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Ach, ‘s e an rud a tha a’ leum a-mach nas motha na càil eile, cho beag ‘s a chaidh a ràdh mu dheidhinn.

Bhiodh e reusanta a-rèist smaoineachadh nach eil cus diù aig Riaghaltas na h-Alba no an luchd-poileataigs dha dè tha tachairt aig Coimisein na Croitearachd.

Ach seall seo: “Tha croitearachd mu dheidhinn fada a bharrachd na còirichean fearainn… Ann an tòrr mòr de shuidheachaidhean, cha bhiodh coimhearsnachdan anns na sgìrean iomallach mura biodh croitearachd.”

Nochd na faclan sin ann am plana foirmeil an Riaghaltais fhèin airson croitearachd sa Mhàrt.

Carson a-rèist a thathas air leigeil dhan riaghladair, a tha ag obair fo mhinistearan an Riaghaltais, a dhol ann an suidheachadh cho leibideach.

Dh’fhaodadh tu a ràdh gu bheil ceistean poileataigeach nas cudromaiche air a bhith san amharc bho chionn ghoirid agus tha sin fìor.

Ach, tha an troimh-chèile anns a bheil Coimisein na Croitearachd ag obair a’ dol air ais fada nas fhaide na sin agus ‘s ann a tha aithisg na buidhne sgrudaidh dìreach ga thoirt gu solas an là.

Chan e seo a’ chiad triop a tha connspaid air a bhith a’ cuairteachadh a’ choimeisein. Chan eil e cho fada sin bho bha neach-gairm eile gu poblach a’ slàraigeadh an Riaghaltais agus e air cuid a choimhearsnachdan croitearachd a chur bun os cionn.

Tha e a-nis follaiseach, agus chaidh a ràdh ron a seo, nach eil an dòigh anns a bheil an coimeisean ag obair idir ag obrachadh.

Cha dèan e a’ chùis tuilleadh dìreach daoine eile a chur aig an stiùir. Tha còir aig an aithisg a tha seo atharrachadh bunaiteach a phiobrachadh agus, gu sònraichte, cur às dhen t-suidheachadh ghòrach far a bheil na h-oifigearan gam faicinn fhèin cunntasail dhan Riaghaltas agus nach ann chun a’ bhùird air a bheil uallach còirichean nan croitearan a riochdachadh.

Cha b’urrainn dhan àm airson atharrachadh a bhith na b’ iomchaidh. Tha croitearachd aig crois-rathaid. Air aon làimh, tha an obair air fhaicinn mar rud a tha math dhan àrainneachd, ach ‘s e tha a’ tachairt ach gu bheil croitean is taighean-croite air an reic air a’ mhargaidh airson an luaich a tha ann dha turasachd, fada seachad air a’ phrìs as urrainn duine sam bith a tha dhà-riribh airson am fearann a chur gu feum a phàigheadh – agus a-rèir choltais, chan eil a' chumhachd aig an riaghladair càil a dhèanamh mu dheidhinn.

Tha Riaghaltas na h-Alba air gealltainn gun toir iad sùil air ath-leasachadh a thoirt air laghan croitearachd.

Tha e riantanach a-nis, às dèidh aithisg na buidhne sgrùdaidh, gun toir sin a-staigh mar a tha an coimeisean ag obrachadh.

Tha làn chead aig coimhearsnachd na croitearachd a bhith tàmailteach is fiadhaich mu dheidhinn cho leibideach ‘s a tha an coimeisean air fàs. ‘S ann a bhios an sgainneal as motha ann, gèd-ta, mura tig càil a dhèanamh mu dheidhinn.

Fios bhon neach-deasachaidh:

Tapa leibh airson an aithris a tha seo a leughadh. Tha sinn an eismeil ur taic nas motha na bha riamh agus buaidh a’ Choronbhirus air buaidh a thoirt air luchd sanasachd. Mur eil sibh air a dhèanamh mar-tha, ma se ur toil, nach beachdaich sibh taic a chumail ri ar obair-naidheachd earbsach, a tha sinn a’ dearbhadh a tha fìor, le bhith toirt a-mach ballrachd digiteach.

Under normal circumstances it would have been dynamite. Audit Scotland, in a formal report, found a government body had been operating in an environment of a complete breakdown of trust between management and board, the organisation failed to meet almost all its key targets and its convener resigned in June after registering, months before, a motion of no confidence in his chief executive, who remains in post. It almost personifies the very definition of dysfunctional.

Yet the most conspicuous thing surrounding all this has been the near-silence in which this report, which could scarcely be more damning, has been met.

A reasonable conclusion might be to suggest that the internal wrangling of the Crofting Commission doesn’t mean that much, or at least not to the Scottish government and politicians.

But consider this: “Crofting is far more than just a form of land tenure… In many cases rural and remote rural communities would not exist if it was not for crofting.”

These words are from the Scottish government’s own national plan for crofting published in March and it encapsulates perfectly why it’s about so much more than the tired old cliche of a “small piece of land surrounded by legislation”.

So why, then, allow its regulator, working directly under the auspices of ministers, to become so dysfunctional as to render it practically useless?

A kind interpretation would be that they have simply taken their eye off the ball and, true, there have been much greater political imperatives in the last while.

However, the seeds of this Crofting Commission discord were sown and cultivated way before now; Audit Scotland’s damning indictment merely serving to bring it all home.

This is not the first time that the workings of the commission have been shrouded in controversy, with a previous covenor engaged in open warfare with the government after his heavy-handed approach in some communities.

It is now clear, as has been pointed out before, that the working arrangement of the commission is – to coin a phrase pervasive in popular political parlance – “not fit for purpose”.

Simply replacing the personnel involved will no longer do. The Audit Scotland report should serve to clear the ground for an overhaul and, in particular, to get rid of the absurd situation where management see themselves as answerable to civil servants and not the board, whose remit is specifically to represent the crofting interest.

Scarcely could the timing for change be more fitting. Crofting stands at a crossroads. On one hand its land management practices are seen as highly beneficial for the environment, but the reality on the ground exposes a more unpleasant reality: crofts and croft houses are being sold for their tourism potential way beyond the reach of young families or anyone who aspires to actually work the land, with the regulator standing idly by.

The Scottish government has given an assurance that they will look at crofting reform in the current parliamentary term. It is now imperative, on the back of the Audit Scotland report, that this includes how the commission is able to fulfil its regulatory duties.

The crofting community can rightfully feel disappointed and betrayed that the government’s regulator has been allowed to become so dysfunctional. The real scandal will be, however, if nothing is done about it.