I am pleased to submit this report to the Scottish Parliament in terms of section 51 of the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010.
This report reflects the economic condition of crofting and the measures taken by the Scottish Ministers, the Crofting Commission and others to support crofting during the reporting period 2019 – 2022. The report builds upon the evidence base provided in the baseline report produced in 2010, and the Economic Condition of Crofting reports covering the 2011 – 2014 and 2015 – 2018 reporting periods.
In preparation of this report, the Scottish Government commissioned a survey which took place between July and September 2022, and sought the views of 4,000 crofters on a range of social and economic issues pertinent to crofters and crofting. Valuable evidence has been gathered from the survey responses and will be considered and used to help inform future policy development. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank all those crofters who completed the survey.
The first section of this report contains an analytical summary of the findings of the survey. The findings on household income indicate that the average crofting household income from non-crofting activities compares favourably to the average household income for Remote Rural Scotland in 2021.
I am happy to see that there is an increase in the number of crofters who have been crofting for less than five years. The Crofting Commission has reported there are approximately 500 new entrants into crofting each year. With the increase to its budget, the Crofting Commission will be able to continue its work in tackling absenteeism and neglect, which will help create further opportunities for new entrants. It will also help to improve the efficiency of regulatory application administration.
We all understand the importance of succession planning, and it is pleasing to note that there has been a significant increase in the proportion of crofters with a succession plan in place. It is also encouraging that the proportion of female crofters has continued to increase, and has more than doubled since 2014.
The Scottish Government recognises the potential for croft land to help address the climate change and biodiversity challenges. I welcome the inclusion of new questions to this year's survey relating to peatland restoration, biodiversity activities and forestry and woodland creation. These questions have been added to the survey to gain a better understanding of the number of crofters undertaking these activities on their croft and common grazings, and those that plan to in the future. Having this information will help the Scottish Government to develop policies in these areas.
During this reporting period we have undergone Brexit, a global health pandemic, the end of the 2014 – 2020 Common Agricultural Policy, and more recently the cost of living crisis with rising fuel and energy costs. All of which have had a real impact on our rural areas and agricultural sectors, and we know that further challenges are ahead.
In March 2022, the Scottish Government published our Vision for Agriculture, outlining how we aim to transform how we support crofting and farming and food production in Scotland. This will sit at the heart of a robust and coherent framework which will underpin Scotland's future agriculture support regime from 2025 onwards.
The Scottish Government is committed to securing the future of crofting and continuing to support crofters to live productive and sustainable lives on our land, and retain vibrant rural communities across our Highlands and Islands. With 21,394 crofts and 16,527 crofters recorded in the Crofting Commission's Register of Crofts, it is clear that crofting contributes to population retention in our rural and island areas. I am proud to say that each year this Government approves and provides croft businesses with over £40 million through a number of support mechanisms including BPS and Greening, the beef and sheep schemes and the crofting specific schemes, the Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme and the Croft House Grant.
Mairi Gougeon MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands
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