2. Scottish Government Crofting Policy
The first question sought opinions on current Scottish Government policy on crofting which was set out in summary in the consultation paper. More detailed information can be found on the Scottish Government website  .
Question 1: Do you agree with the stated Scottish Government policy on crofting?
Table 2: Question 1 by Respondent Type
|Type of respondent||Yes||No||Not answered||Total|
|Common Grazings Committee||1||3||4|
|Community Landowner or Body||2||2|
|Crofting or Smallholding Representative Body or Group||1||3||4|
|Estate, Landowner or Representative Body||2||2|
|Public Agency or Body||2||3||5|
|% of organisations answering||59%||41%|
|% of individuals answering||46%||54%|
|% of all respondents||43%||45%||11%*|
|% of all those answering||49%||51%|
*Figures do not sum to 100% due to rounding
Respondents were relatively evenly divided on whether they agreed with the stated Scottish Government policy on crofting. A very small majority of all respondents (51%) did not agree. The majority of individual respondents disagreed (54%), while the majority of organisations agreed (59%). However, the majority of Common Grazings Committees, Crofting Businesses and Crofting or Smallholding Representative Body or Groups disagreed.
A total of 92 respondents made a further comment. Of these, 50 respondents had answered ‘no’, 37 had answered ‘yes’; and five had not answered the closed element of Question 1. The focus of the analysis presented below is on issues not addressed specifically at later questions.
2.1 General comments on the policy approach
A number of respondents made general comments about the policy approach set out within the consultation document. These included that it is too complicated and requires simplification (two Individuals, Crofting or Smallholding Representative Body or Group).
Several respondents felt the policy statement showed a lack of specialist understanding of crofting or crofting law by the Scottish Government (two Common Grazings Committees, Crofting or Smallholding Representative Body or Group). It was suggested that a vision for crofting is needed, as this was currently felt to be lacking (Crofting or Smallholding Representative Body or Group, Local Authority). Others suggested that the focus needs to be on dealing with inconsistent and inadequate legislation and regulation rather than more general reform (Common Grazings Committee, two Crofting or Smallholding Representative Bodies or Groups, three Individuals).
A number of the respondents who had disagreed at Question 1 and who went on to comment felt that the consultation document appears to focus on duties rather than rights and protections for crofting and crofters (Common Grazings Committee, two Crofting or Smallholding Representative Bodies or Groups, eight Individuals).
2.2 Bringing ‘new blood’ into crofting communities
A number of respondents commented on the consultation paper’s reference to ‘new blood’, including suggesting that the term has not been defined (Estate, Landowner or Representative Body, Individual) or would be better rephrased as ‘encouraging more active crofting’ (Individual) or encouraging new entrants into crofting.
There were concerns expressed about the future of Gaelic communities (Individual) and it was suggested that a balance needs to be struck with the needs of existing populations with crofting heritage (two Individuals). In particular, it was suggested that it is also important to support and encourage local people, and especially young people (Individual).
A small number of respondents commented on the cost of accessing a croft, including that crofting tenancies are at prices which are unaffordable to lower income families (Individual). It was suggested that the introduction of the right to buy has led to an increase in more affluent buyers (Individual).
2.3 Economics of crofting
A number of respondents commented on the challenges of financial viability. Crofting was described as subsistence agriculture (Individual) or small-scale farming (two Individuals).
Commenting on the financial support for crofting, it was suggested that there has been a lack of investment by national and local government (Individual). Going forward, the likely impact of Brexit was noted (Other, Individual). It was suggested that the levels of support currently available through the Common Agriculture Policy and rural development funds will need to be sustained (Other).
There were a range of options suggested which it was thought might alleviate some of the economic challenges associated with crofting. These included:
- Amalgamating current crofts to create more viable opportunities for existing crofters (Individual).
- Creating more crofts where there is demand (Common Grazings Committee, Crofting Business) but ensuring they are of sufficient size to enable crofters to earn an income from crofting (Common Grazings Committee).
- Turning all crofts into agricultural tenancies (Legal).
- Using a small percentage of any future sales to create a fund to help young people access affordable loans (Individual).
2.4 Additional value of crofting
There were a number of comments on the ‘added value’ of crofting which respondents wished to see acknowledged. For example, it was suggested that crofters are protectors and custodians of the natural environment (Common Grazings Committee, Crofting or Smallholding Representative Body or Group, two Individuals). It was also suggested that crofting’s contribution to the Scottish Government’s commitment to biodiversity and the environment should be recognised (Local Authority). Other comments included that crofting:
- Plays a role in supporting ecologically designated sites (Public Agency or Body, Individual).
- Supports the retention of populations in remote areas (two Public Agencies or Bodies). In particular, it was suggested that active crofting is a significant part of the fabric of rural economies; it is a base for economic activity and helps maintain local services and amenities (Public Agency or Body).
- Makes productive use of marginal land (Public Agency or Body).
- Contributes to local food economies through local food production, with low food miles (and reduced carbon footprint) important at times of concerns about food security (Crofting or Smallholding Representative Body or Group, Public Agency or Body, two Individuals).
The link with the preservation of heritage and culture, including the Gaelic language, was also made by a small number of respondents (three Individuals). Crofting was described as core to sustaining vibrant communities (Individual) and to maintaining cultural and linguistic assets (Public Agency or Body).
2.5 Specific geographic areas
A small number of respondents commented on particular aspects of crofting associated with their area of Scotland, highlighting that the nature of crofting can vary according to each geographical region. Comments included:
- Much crofting policy does not apply in Orkney or Shetland as most crofts are owner occupied (Legal, Individual).
- Orkney should be decrofted as crofting status for owner-occupied crofts is holding back development (Legal).
- In Shetland, most crofts are run as small agricultural businesses (Individual). Many of these consist of an amalgamation of separate crofts (Individual).
- Absenteeism and abandonment are not issues for Shetland and the policy in these areas is not suited to needs of Shetland crofters (Individual).