There are over 750,000 hectares of land in crofting tenure in Scotland, with approximately 33,000 people living in crofting households. More than 550,000 hectares is made up of common grazing land. All of this represents a massive opportunity in terms of dealing with the key challenges we face with respect to tackling climate change and combating the loss of biodiversity.
Crofting means different things to different people. Whether a family is new into crofting or whether it has been crofting for over a 100 years, different considerations come to the fore as do other factors such as the geographical location. Crofting in Shetland can be quite different from crofting in the Uists or crofting in Gairloch. Stories will be as varied as crofting itself. Crofting is far more than just a form of land tenure, and to class it as such would be missing how and why it has endured for such a long time. For many crofters and their families, crofting is a way of life. For others it forms the sole basis for generating subsistence, and for others still it forms a foundation upon which family units can live and work on different occupations to supplement income from crofting. In many cases rural and remote rural communities would not exist if it was not for crofting.
A croft is an agricultural land holding that is either held in tenancy or owned by the crofter (owner-occupier), and which may come with a share in a common grazing. A croft may have buildings and a house associated with it, or it may simply be bare-land. Although crofts range in size from 0.5 hectares to more than 50 hectares, the average size is approximately 5 hectares.
The traditional crofting counties are Argyll, Inverness, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland, Caithness, Orkney and Zetland (Shetland). However, since February 2010, the Scottish Ministers designated parts of Highland, Moray, Argyll and Bute, and North Ayrshire as areas within which new crofts can be created, thus extending the traditional crofting counties.
The system of crofting is regulated by the Crofting Commission, having replaced the former Crofters Commission on 1 April 2012. To this day the Commission has responsibility for maintaining an up-to-date Register of Crofts, recording the status of the croft, its extent, and the identity of the crofter and the owner. This register should not be confused with the Crofting Register, which is maintained by Registers of Scotland.
As at 2020, there were 21,186 crofts recorded on the Crofting Commission's Register of Crofts, 15,137 are tenanted and 6,049 are owned. Approximately 770,000 hectares of land across the crofting counties falls under crofting tenure, whether as in-bye croft land or common grazing land.
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