The row between the national body which oversees the crofting system and local crofters on Lewis appears to be deepening, with lawyers insisting the Crofting Commission is acting illegally.

The Commission last month removed the eight members of the Upper Coll Grazings Committee following local complaints and subsequent concerns over accounts and distribution of money. The former members of the committee are applying to the Scottish Land Court to challenge the decision.

But the Commission announced todaythat a ‘Constable’ had been appointed to replace and do the work of the Upper Coll committee, “which has been out of office since April 14 this year.”

It explains that as the regulator, it is required by legislation "to follow up allegations made by shareholders in a township of financial irregularities and, until suitable explanations are provided, the Commission will continue with their investigations. This decision mirrors the action taken in other situations where Constables have been appointed to replace committees in similar situation."

A Constable had also been appointed in Mangersta on the west of the island

This followed the removal of the five members of the Mangersta Grazings Committee before Christmas, over a dispute about payments to an absentee crofter.

But the absentee crofter at the centre of the row has written withdrawing “any and all claims … with immediate effect”.

Solicitor Brian Inkster, a specialist in crofting law has written to the Crofting Commission informing them of this and asking them to reinstate the Grazings Committee and clerk without delay. He had previously described the Commission’s conduct as “unreasonable” and “illegal”.

Ken MacLeod of Inverness solicitors MacLeods WS, is acting for the former members of the Upper Coll committee. He said of the appointment of a Constable “I believe such an action is not legally competent. But we are well on the way framing the land court action, and think this will be decided ultimately by the land court.”

Grazing committees manage the common grazings, the areas of land shared by local crofters traditionally for their sheep or cattle. The crofters are shareholders and elect the grazing committee members, who are not paid.

Members of the Crofting Commission are to meet shareholders in both Upper Coll and Mangersta grazings next week "to find the best way forward," a Commission statement said. But it added there would be no further comment "at this point on these live cases other than to say each case will be dealt with on its own individual circumstances and, if necessary, any findings will be passed to the appropriate authorities in due course."