finance

Auditor warns 'governance must improve' at Crofting Commission



The body responsible for overseeing Scotland’s 20,000 crofts “must improve its governance and rebuild damaged relationships between its board and managers”, according to Audit Scotland.

The Auditor General’s latest report on the Crofting Commission found there has been a breakdown in trust between its board and senior management team, including the board expressing a lack of confidence in the commission’s chief executive.

The report also unearthed a lack of involvement of the board in the setting of the commission’s budget, “excessive involvement” of the board and former convener in operational decision-making, and concerns about the leadership of the former convener, who resigned in June.

Auditors found that a failure to respect established boundaries between the respective roles of the chief executive, convener and board were at the heart of the poor relationship.

Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland, said: “Crofting is an integral part of life in the Highlands and Islands, but the leadership and governance of the Crofting Commission is currently falling below the standards expected of a public body.

“These is a pressing need to rebuild trust between the chief executive and the board to ensure the boundaries of both roles are respected.

“It is vitally important that all parties, including the Scottish Government’s sponsor division, work closely together to develop better relationships so that the commission can provide effective oversight of the services provided to crofting communities.”

Issues concerning the commission’s governance were previously highlighted in 2016.

At the time, the Scottish Government appointed consultants to carry out an external review of governance arrangements.

An almost entirely new Board took office in 2017, including six new elected commissioners following elections. Membership of the board stayed constant over the next four years.

The auditors’ work this year, however, identified that there has recently been a breakdown in trust between the board and its senior management.

Crofting is a system of landholding which is unique to Scotland and is an integral part of life in the Highlands and Islands, and its economy.

A croft is a relatively small agricultural land holding which is normally held in tenancy and which may or may not have buildings or a house associated with it.

There are around 20,000 crofts across the crofting counties. Crofts range in size from less than half a hectare to more than 50 hectares and are about five hectares on average.

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