Crofting is unique to the seven crofting counties of Argyll, Caithness, Inverness, Orkney, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and Zetland. Regarded as a vital contributor to the rural economy and maintaining rural communities and cultural heritage, it is, however, subject to complex legislation, rules and regulations.

There is therefore a lot to be considered when thinking of buying a croft.

What is a croft?

A croft can generally be viewed as a unit of agricultural land, either with or without a house located on it. A croft is not the croft house itself.

There are three different types of crofting rights – the tenancy of a croft; an owner-occupied croft ( where a tenant crofter buys the whole croft from his landlord, in accordance with very specific requirements); and, where the purchase of the croft has not met the requirements to constitute an owner-occupied croft, the purchaser becomes landlord of a vacant croft. It's important to understand whether a croft is a tenancy, an owner-occupied croft or a vacant one, as different rules apply to each of these situations.

Because of the numerous regulations surrounding crofts, banks will almost never lend mortgage funds to purchase a croft.

If you are thinking about buying land subject to a crofting tenancy, you should be aware that the tenancy will continue to exist. It's very difficult for landlords to end a tenancy or take land out of crofting tenure. A crofting tenant also has the right to buy the croft house, and the croft land for 15 times the annual rent. Crofting rents are generally lower than rents under agricultural leases.

What duties does a crofter have?

The main point about buying a croft is that as the tenant or owner of a croft, there are various legal obligations contained in the crofting legislation that you must comply with. Failure to comply, could result in enforcement action being taken against you by the regulatory body, the Crofting Commission, which could result in termination of a croft tenancy or the imposition of a new tenant.

There are three main duties a purchaser should consider before buying a croft:

  1. A crofter must live within 32 km of the croft;
  2. A crofter has a duty to cultivate and maintain the croft. This is traditionally seen as keeping livestock or growing crops or trees, but permission can be sought for other 'purposeful uses' that do not adversely affect the croft, the crofting community or the public interest and won't prevent future cultivation of the croft. Using croft land in connection with renewable energy is an example of an accepted and alternative, purposeful use; and
  3. A crofter must not misuse or neglect their croft. 'Misuse' is the use of the croft for an unauthorised purpose, and 'neglect' is not using the croft in a way that meets the standards of good agricultural and environmental conditions.

You can apply for permission to let or sub-let your croft, or to be absent for a period, but the aim of the legislation is to have people living on and working their crofts. You should be aware of these obligations when considering whether the purchase of a croft is right for you.


Pete Tolmie

Senior Solicitor