Running a crofting business can be challenging, and it is essential that crofters are able to access the right information when they need it. There is a great deal of information provided by various organisations on such topics as crofting law and regulation, grazings committees, finance and grants, livestock and animal welfare, environmental issues, training opportunities, markets and much more.
Crofters navigate this information as and when they need it, drawing on professional advice from representative organisations, agents and solicitors, and with newer crofters benefiting from the advice of their more experienced neighbours. However, there is no easy guide to the kinds of information that are available online from the different national organisations. The Scottish Government, the Crofting Commission and other partners intend to remedy this.
The Scottish Government recognises the importance of providing up-to-date and relevant information to crofters on crofting, and currently there exists a significant number of sources of advice and support available, such as:
- Scottish Government – local RPID offices
- Crofting Commission
- Highlands and Islands Enterprise
- Colleges and Universities
- Scottish Forestry
- Farm Advisory Service
- Membership Organisations
- Business Gateway
- Crofting Community
- Land Matching Service
Indeed, the Scottish Government's 2018 report on the 'Economic Condition of Crofting' indicated that just over a third of the crofters surveyed had looked for advice or support on crofting activities in the previous 12 months. However, it also showed that a significant number of crofters were unaware of the information sources available to them. For example, of those who responded, only 73% of crofters were aware of the Commission, 59% were aware of the Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme, and only 48% were aware of the Croft House Grant. Similar results were seen with regard to other sources of support, including membership organisations.
This indicates that crofters are not fully aware of the wide range of support and advice that is available to them.
In order to address this issue, the Scottish Government, working with key stakeholders, aims to help develop a centralised online signposting service designed to direct users to the numerous grants and support available. It will also direct users to the organisations that support crofting and crofting activity, and that constitute a vital source of information and guidance on crofting.
The Commission is in contact with all crofters at least once per year and is well placed to develop both proactive communication and a responsive service to crofters' enquiries.
It is intended that the signposting service will improve the visibility of available information and the efficiency with which the individual is able to access it. This will support informed decision-making, improved information-sharing, and greater empowerment of the individual within the crofting community.
Providing accessible information to crofters about their options and opportunities is also very important in the case of crofters who are either not able to fulfil their duties or are looking to pass on their croft.
The Scottish Government will expect all stakeholders to work collaboratively to take the following objectives forward, and to identify suitable mechanisms for ensuring that crofters are more aware of the assistance available.
In 2021, the Commission, in partnership with the Scottish Government, will create an online central signposting portal for crofters, which will also be made available in Gaelic.
The Commission, in partnership with the Scottish Government and stakeholder organisations, will make available crofting factsheets providing information and guidance on a range of subjects.
The Commission and stakeholders will encourage crofting communities to continue to support one another through the sharing of knowledge, information and good practice.
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