Economic condition of crofting: 2019 to 2022

This is a report to the Scottish Parliament as outlined in the terms of section 51 of the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010, reflecting the economic condition of crofting and the measures taken by the Scottish Ministers, the Crofting Commission and others to support crofting during 2019 to 2022.

17. Farming Opportunities for New Entrants (FONE)

17.1. Attracting new entrants to Scottish farming and crofting is crucial to the ongoing vitality, resilience and competitiveness of the sector. Finding a way into agriculture can be a daunting prospect, particularly if the prospective new entrant does not come from a farming background. Even in agricultural families, the business might not be of sufficient scale to support a new entrant. The Scottish Government recognises that there are considerable challenges to entering the sector, access to finance, land, advice, training and skills are all potential barriers, and has therefore put in place a number of initiatives to help with entry.

17.2. The Scottish Government set up the FONE Group in late 2016 to provide a co-ordinated approach to developing opportunities for new entrants. Up to 31 October 2022, FONE has helped provide 122 land opportunities across 7,440 hectares of land, allowing 82 new entrants into the agricultural sector.

17.3. The FONE Group identified the potential of a Scottish Land Matching Service (SLMS) to develop opportunities for new entrants, and at the same time develop options for established farmers and crofters to reduce their input whilst still retaining an active interest.

17.4. The SLMS was launched in October 2019, in response to industry concerns about the lack of opportunities for new entrants to farming and crofting, and the availability of land and the difficulty in accessing capital funding. The SLMS is a free service connecting those in farming and crofting throughout Scotland.

17.5. The website Scottish Land Matching Service provides a simple platform for interested parties to register with the SLMS and starts a process of engagement with the Independent Advisors who offer guidance and advice on options available, and hopefully find connections that will lead to successful joint ventures.

17.6. In 2022, a new priority was introduced to further extend the crofting involvement in the SLMS. This will involve working closely with the Crofting Commission and stakeholders to help make the best use of crofts and attract new entrants. More details can be found on the FONE website: Farming Opportunities for New Entrants Group.

17.7. The Scottish Government's Rural Payments and Inspections Division (RPID), which is responsible for the management of the Scottish Ministers crofting estates and land holdings, and has landlord responsibility for approximately 1,500 tenanted crofts, also works closely with the FONE Group. One of the priorities in the National Development Plan for Crofting (published in March 2021) was to increase the active use and occupancy of crofts, as well as attracting new entrants. Encouraging the uptake of vacant and underutilised crofts by new entrants is also a Programme for Government commitment. RPID has launched a Duties project that will seek to increase the active use and occupancy of crofts on Scottish Ministers estates, and has written to all its tenants to inform them of this project. The project will initially focus on the residency duty with officials contacting any tenant who is believed to be in breach. RPID will work with the tenant to find a solution to the breach.



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