6. Elected Commissioner Vacancies
At present, the only way to select a replacement Commissioner should an elected Commissioner leave their post part way through their elected term is for Scottish Ministers to appoint a replacement.
The Scottish Government believes that the best way to replace a Commissioner who has left their post is to appoint the second placed candidate from the previous election. If that person no longer wishes to be a Commissioner, then the third placed candidate should be approached, and so on for however many candidates stood in that constituency.
If only one candidate stood for election in a constituency, or if none of the other placed candidates accepts office, then the Scottish Government thinks that the Scottish Government should select someone to fill the vacancy or, if there is less than a year until the next election, the post should be left vacant.
Some crofters have suggested that holding a by-election might be another possibility by which a vacancy could be filled although that option would require an amendment to crofting law which currently does not allow for this.
Question 8 (a): Should an elected Commissioner vacancy that arises before the 2022 crofting elections be filled by the next available placed candidate in that area?
Ten respondents were content with the next available placed candidate in that area filling a vacant Commissioner post ahead of the 2022 crofting elections. Whilst not ideal, this was viewed as acceptable and the fairest way to proceed; it would prevent delays in filling the vacancy and avoid the costs of a by-election.
Five respondents disagreed with this proposal, four being individuals, the other was Storas Uibhist.
The most common reason to oppose the proposal was because the respondent favoured holding a by-election instead. Two respondents expressed concern that the next available placed candidate may not have much support from their constituency who will, in effect, have the runner up from the previous election "imposed" upon them.
Question 8 (b): Should an elected Commissioner vacancy that arises before the 2022 crofting elections be filled by appointment by the Scottish Government
Of the 14 respondents who answered, three agreed that the Scottish Government should fill a Commissioner vacancy arising prior to the 2022 crofting election; the remaining 11 respondents disagreed.
Of the three who agreed, two (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and an individual) viewed this option as a fall-back position in the event of the next available candidate not being able or willing to serve as a Commissioner. The other respondent (an individual) considered that this provided the Scottish Government with the opportunity to fill any skill gaps amongst Commissioners.
The most common reason given against the proposal was that a by-election should be held instead. A few individual respondents considered that appointment by the Scottish Government should be the last resort option. The Scottish Crofting Federation opposed the proposal on the grounds that an elected commissioner needs to be replaced by an elected commissioner to maintain the proportion of elected to appointed commissioners.
Question 8 (c): Should an elected Commissioner vacancy that arises before the 2022 crofting elections remain as a vacancy if it is a year or less until the next election?
Of the 14 respondents who answered, views were evenly split between those who considered that the vacancy should remain and those who thought it should be filled.
Those in favour of the vacancy remaining until the next election argued that any incoming Commissioner at this late stage would "barely scratch the surface"; would have very little mandate, being the second-placed candidate four years down the line; and that expense would be saved by the post remaining unfilled. The National Farmers' Union Scotland agreed with leaving the post vacant only if the Commission remained quorate.
Those against leaving the vacancy until the next election argued that as more than one vacancy could arise, the burden on the remaining Commissioners who would need to share the extra workload, would be too great. They also considered it important that each constituency retains a representative on the Board.
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