1. Executive Summary
The Scottish Government wishes to raise awareness of the forthcoming crofting election and ensure that it is transparent and fair. The election for appointments to the Crofting Commission's Board will take place in March 2017.
The Scottish Government issued a consultation paper on 18 March 2016 seeking wider views on key aspects of the election.
15 responses were received, five from organisations and ten from individuals. A summary of views from the responses follows.
Of the three options proposed by the Scottish Government for constituency boundaries, a clear majority of respondents preferred option 2 as a way to divide the crofting counties into six constituencies  . This was perceived to be fair and equitable for all areas with a relatively balanced spread of crofters and croft numbers in each constitutency. The remaining respondents favoured option 1.
It was highlighted that however elected, Commissioners have a remit to work for the good of all of the crofting community and not just their respective constituency areas.
Most of those providing a view agreed that voter eligibility should operate on the same basis as for the 2012 crofting election, in which there was one vote per croft but a crofter with more than one croft was limited to one vote.
A few respondents recommended that the crofting census data form the basis of the voter register.
The majority view was that a crofter whom the Crofting Commission has determined is not complying with the duty to cultivate their croft, or put it to another purposeful use, should be disqualified from standing for election as a Crofting Commissioner. Several respondents remarked that Commissioners must lead by example.
All but one respondent agreed that a crofter whom the Crofting Commission has determined is neglecting their croft should be disqualified from standing for election.
A few respondents emphasised the need for more information for potential candidates on what the role of Crofting Commissioner entails.
Elected Commissioner Vacancies
Most respondents were content that should an elected Commissioner vacancy arise before the 2022 crofting election, then the place should be filled by the next available placed candidate in that area. This was viewed as fair and would prevent delays in filling the vacancy.
The most common reason given in opposition to this proposal was that a by-election would be preferable.
Most of those providing a view perceived a Scottish Government appointment to fill a vacancy to be an option of last resort.
There were mixed views on whether a vacancy emerging a year or less prior to the next election should remain vacant until the election. Some considered that more than one vacancy could emerge, which if left unfilled could result in the remaining Commissioners being over-stretched and some constituencies under-represented.
Others, however, felt that Commissioners appointed at this late stage in term would have little mandate and have limited opportunities to be effective.
A recurring view was that there should be more active encouragement of target groups in order to increase the diversity of Commissioners. Various recommendations were made to encourage more women and young people to become involved, including demonstrating the value placed on their contribution.
A few respondents raised the possibility of applying quotas to increase the number of women Board members, perhaps based on the proportion of female crofters.
Most respondents did not consider that the crofting election would have a particular impact on any equalities groups.
A majority of respondents thought that the current limit of election expenses for candidates should be increased to take account of increased costs of travel, overnight stays, hall hire, postal charges and advertising.
A few respondents argued for restricting the expense limit, which they considered could potentially increase the pool of respondents, in particular to involve those less well off.
A general view was that expenses should be transparent, accounted for and made public.
Business and Regulatory Impact
Most of those providing a view did not think that the crofting election would impact significantly on businesses, public bodies or the third sector. Others felt that there might be implications, both direct and indirect, depending on the decisions of the Crofting Commission.
A key theme was that Commissioners should have the necessary skills and support required for their role. A previous theme was repeated that clearer information on what is involved in being a Commissioner should be available to prospective candidates. On-going training for Commissioners was called for.
Ideas for ensuring consistency in skills and experience amongst Commissioners included staggering elections across constituencies; and strategic in-filling of Commissioners by the Scottish Government through Ministerial appointments to address gaps in skills on the Board.
Email: Keir Scott, [firstname.lastname@example.org(mailto:email@example.com)