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At stage 1, the view of stakeholders on the franchise for crofting elections was crystal clear. Marina Dennis of the Scottish Crofting Federation stated:
"Only crofters who are registered with the commission should be entitled to vote."
"I agree with what Marina Dennis and Jonathan Hall have said."—[Official Report, Rural Affairs and Environment Committee, 10 February 2010; c 2374-5.]
The issue is the entitlement to vote being confined to those who are registered crofters. What happened at stage 2 is unfortunate, which is why we lodged amendment 107 to undo Karen Gillon's amendment. There has been some misunderstanding about what the effect of her original amendment would be and what her revised amendments would do. They would not provide for a crofter to give their vote to someone else in the household; rather, they provide that crofters with partners may get two votes, whereas the single crofter would get one vote. That is unfair. I believe that the crofting regulator should simply be elected by those whom it regulates.
I sympathise with Karen Gillon's motivation in addressing the gender balance in crofting, but I do not believe that what she has proposed is the solution to the gender imbalance, which needs to be tackled elsewhere. Moreover, the proposal to afford votes to crofters' cohabitants would be extremely difficult and resource intensive to implement. How on earth is the commission to establish whether persons of the opposite sex are living together as if husband and wife, or whether persons of the same sex are living as if civil partners? Therefore, I urge members to support my amendments in the group and to reject amendments 202 and 203.
Amendment 105 responds to the oversight that the Subordinate Legislation Committee brought to our attention, and provides the maximum penalty for any offences that are made under the power to make regulations in connection with elections to the crofting commission. The maximum penalty provided for is consistent and fair.
Amendments 106 and 108 tidy up drafting deficiencies in Karen Gillon's and Liam McArthur's amendments from stage 2. We accepted those amendments in principle, but stated at the time that we would need to tidy up the drafting.
I urge members to reject amendments 202 and 203 and to support amendments 105 to 108.