The Economic Condition of Crofting: 2019 to 2022 Report to the Scottish Parliament ('the Report') was published last month. The Report is the third in a series introduced by the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010. The previous two reports covered the periods 2011-2014 and 2015-2018.

Survey of crofters

At the time of preparing the Report, the Crofting Commission's Register of Crofts contained a record of 21,394 crofts and 16,527 crofters.

4,000 crofters were invited to participate in a survey between July and September 2022, and 942 surveys (24%) were returned. The findings from responding crofters, set out in greater detail in the Report, include the following:

  • Most crofters are male, over 55 years old and living in a two-person household;
  • The number of female crofters continues to increase – from 13% of respondents in 2014 to 30% in 2022. By comparison, the 2021 Scottish Agricultural Census found that 40% of those who live and work on farms are female;
  • 42% of responding crofters are 65 and over, with 48% having been crofting for over 20 years. Only 3% are under 35. However, the number of new crofters is growing – 17% of those who responded have been crofting for less than 5 years, an increase from 8% in 2014;
  • 38% reported receiving no income at all from crofting, while the average reported income is £4,538. Only 22% work in crofting alone, with most having other jobs to supplement their income;
  • The average annual rent reported is £133.95;
  • Raising livestock is the most common crofting activity, followed by growing crops, then forestry and woodland creation;
  • These are also the activities most responding crofters plan to invest in between 2023 and 2026. 39% of the crofters had invested money from grants or support schemes over the last 3 years;
  • The 2022 survey included new questions about peatland restoration, biodiversity activities and forestry and woodland creation – activities which had been carried out by 28% of responding crofters between 2019 and 2022, and are planned by 34% between 2023 and 2026;
  • Of those who had undertaken these activities, most were younger crofters; although forestry and woodland creation was found to be most likely undertaken by crofters aged 55-64. The majority (75%) had not used any schemes – such as the Forestry Grant Scheme or Agri-Environment Climate Scheme – to fund these activities.


Work of the Crofting Commission

In addition to findings from the survey, there is also information from the Crofting Commission ("the Commission") about its regulation of crofting which involves processing approximately 2000 regulatory applications and notifications per year. Between 2019 and 2022, the majority of applications related to assignation of croft tenancies, decrofting (removing land from crofting regulation) and bequests of croft tenancies.

The Report notes that typically less than 3% of applications are refused, and the most commonly refused applications are those seeking to decroft an entire croft. Between 2019 and 2022, decrofting applications were granted which supported: the provision of housing in rural communities; commercial and employment opportunities; diversification into tourism related developments; and environmental purposes and the generation of energy.

17 new crofts have been created with the Commission's approval – including the first croft in Moray. 9 of these are primarily for use as woodland crofts.

10 croft tenancies have been terminated as a result of tenants being in breach of the statutory duty to be resident on, or within 32 kilometres of, their croft. 4 of these crofts have been re-let, 3 to new entrants to crofting. In the period 2020/2021 – 2021/2022, there were a total of 1006 new entrants, just under half of whom were female, with a quarter under the age of 41. The high price of crofts is understood to be a barrier for those looking to become crofters in recent years.

Registers of Scotland also provided details in the Report about the map-based Crofting Register which was introduced in 2012. As at 24 November 2022, 8666 crofts and 335 common grazings had been registered.

Further information

Further information about the survey, the Commission and the Crofting Register - together with details of support for crofting provided by the Scottish Government, the Commission and others over the past 3 years across a range of themes, schemes and programmes – can be found by accessing the Report in full.

Contributors

Ros James

Associate

Karren Smith

Partner