Scottish Agricultural Tenure Evidence Review

A review of tenure arrangements in Scotland and case studies of selected countries

3 Data Sources And Methods

3.1 The analysis conducted for this report draws heavily on holding level June Agricultural Census (JAC) data, provided by the Scottish Government's Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services (RESAS) for the years 2000 to 2013. The census variables relating to land tenure, whilst not comprehensively covering the whole period, were extracted at holding level and then time series for each variable were created (using MS Access queries) for each holding to allow analysis of movements over time.

3.2 In addition using Business Reference Numbers (BRNs) to County Parish Holding number (CPH) look up tables supplied by RESAS for 2009 to 2013 the JAC data was aggregated to business level to provide a secondary analysis at farm business level rather than simply at holding level. This business level analysis therefore only includes holdings that are part of businesses that have registered for a BRN (normally recipients of CAP support payments), although it is acknowledged that this does include some non-farm businesses. This analysis does, however remove a large number of minor holdings that are not really engaged in agricultural activity from the dataset.

3.3 For parts of the analysis it was essential to make assumptions about (a) the location of, and (b) the robust farm type of farm businesses that were made up of multiple holdings. As such, for each business (BRN) with multiple holdings the location and robust farm type of the "main" holding was used, failing which the location of the economically dominant holding (as measured by standard labour requirements) was taken as representation of the whole business. It is acknowledged that this will undoubtedly lead to some errors in farm types and location (i.e. when a BRN has multiple holdings of different type in different locations), but it was nonetheless considered the best option. The location is of less concern when the data is aggregated to regional levels, as often when businesses have multiple holdings they are located in the same region.

3.4 Data on seasonally let land (less than a year) is also collected from the Single Application Form (SAF) as part of the Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS) and this was supplied by RESAS for the years 2005 and 2009-2013. This data provided field data on field by field use of seasonally let land and also on total amounts of seasonally let land (both in and out) for each CPH, and hence BRN.

Data Integrity

3.5 Whilst there is a statutory obligation for holding operators to complete and return the JAC it only has about a 70% annual response rate from the industry. In addition minor holdings are surveyed on a 3 or 4 yearly cycle rather than annually. Whilst RESAS have used SAF data (if available) to complete cropping data for holdings since 2009, there is no equivalent secondary data source relating to land tenure. This means that where JAC forms are not returned, or for minor holdings that were not surveyed, RESAS are required to make an assumption about the holding's tenure (and other) data and simply use the previous year's data (which incidentally may also have been based on assumption). This means that the JAC cannot provide an exact portrayal of land tenure situation in Scotland, although it does provide a good indication of the position and trends.

Figure 1 Section of JAC form relating to owned and rented land

Figure 1 Section of JAC form relating to owned and rented land

3.6 As the SAF relates to CAP payments, to which financial penalties may be imposed for inaccuracies, it was considered that this is a more robust dataset of seasonally let land in Scotland, compared to the JAC. That said, the extracted SAF data also contained problems in that the total seasonal let land variable was deemed inaccurate by RESAS, meaning only seasonally let land used to claim Single Farm Payments could be used in the analysis.

3.7 Another issue regarding the integrity of the tenure data is that there is an underlying assumption that if there is no breakdown of the area under tenure arrangements (see "section 2" of Figure 1) then the land is assumed to be let under a 1991 Act tenancy. This therefore adds another level of potential inaccuracies into the data due to incomplete form filling.


3.8 In an attempt to identify croft holdings within the JAC two new variables have been included in the JAC form since 2007: (a) the area of land owned that is registered with the Crofting Commission, and; (b) the area of land rented that is registered with the Crofting Commission. These variables were used for 2007 to 2013 to identify 100% croft holdings (where the Crofting Commission registered area equalled total area of the holding) and part-croft holdings (where only part of the total area of the holding was registered with the Crofting Commission). Table 1 shows how the number of total croft holdings across Scotland (a) increased from 7,490 in 2007 when these two variables were first introduced to 9,679 in 2013, highlighting the data lags inherent in the system.

3.9 There were some errors in the census returns for these "croft" variables with 626 holdings in non-crofting county locations reporting as croft holdings in 2007. This figure remained stable to 2013. When all "croft" holdings in non-crofting counties local authorities were excluded (columns (b)) the number of identifiable crofts was 7,959 in 2007 and 9,790 in 2013.

3.10 The amount of land reported as being owned and registered with the Crofting Commission (column (c)) in 2007 increased from 61,668ha in 2007 to 67,874ha in 2013 on 100% crofts and fell on part crofts from 92,563ha to 67,019ha. A similar trend was observed in the areas rented with 96,522ha rented by 100% crofts in 2007 rising to 122,430 in 2013 whilst on part-crofts the area rented fell from 64,731ha to 41,567ha.

Table 1 Croft holdings identified in June Census and area of owned and rented land registered with the Crofting Commission

Year Number of Holdings Crofting Commission Registered Area (Ha)
Scotland (a) Crofting Counties (b) 100% Crofts (c) Part Crofts (d)
100% Crofts Part Crofts 100% Crofts Part Crofts Owned Rented Owned Rented
2007 7,490 1,095 6,885 1,074 61,668 96,522 92,563 64,731
2008 7,882 1,109 7,294 1,084 58,881 100,489 87,372 59,795
2009 8,855 1,145 8,263 1,123 62,968 105,961 85,072 49,505
2010 8,784 884 8,208 864 70,348 112,663 46,918 47,972
2011 9,097 781 8,520 761 67,602 116,781 45,938 36,066
2012 9,182 786 8,609 764 63,547 121,601 73,662 35,031
2013 9,679 734 9,077 713 67,874 122,430 67,019 41,567

3.11 This however, was considered likely to be an underestimation, particularly in the Western Isles, due to lack of data in the JAC datasets to identify crofts satisfactorily. Therefore, RESAS released holding identifiers for 2,264 crofts they had identified through the Crofting Commission register that could not be identified through the JAC. Combining the JAC and RESAS lists provided a list that was considered the best estimate of croft holdings. The final adjustment was to remove about 115 part croft holdings from the list of crofts as they also rented land through other non-crofting agricultural tenure arrangements.

3.12 Due to the reporting and sampling issues discussed it was considered that the 2013 figures represent the best estimate of a holding's croft status, unless there has been de-crofting. Logic suggests that a holding that was a croft in 2013 was also historically a croft unless it was a new holding that emerged from a croft holding being split. In an attempt to overcome any potential inaccuracies in removal of "crofts" from the time-series dataset the croft status was taken from the RESAS list or the last completed June Census return made. Where it appeared that recent de-crofting had occurred on holdings then they too were excluded from this analysis.

3.13 Table 2 shows the estimated number of croft holdings remained relatively stable around 12,000 over the period 2007 to 2013 as did the area rented by these crofts (about 175,000ha) and area owned (about 138,000ha). It should be noted that the natural churn of holding numbers (i.e. some cease to exist and new ones are created annually for a variety of reasons) means that the further back in time this "croft list" is used the more inaccurate it becomes, as some croft holding numbers that may have been in use, for example between 2000 to 2005, were not in use between 2007 and 2013 meaning they could not be identified as a croft holding in the dataset. This will undoubtedly lead to some anomalies in the data for the crofting counties looking at time-series data.

Table 2 Total croft holdings* and areas of rented and owned land, including crofts unidentifiable in the June Census

Year Number of Crofts Area Rented (Ha) Area Owned (Ha) Total Croft Area (Ha)
2007 12,489 172,089 137,416 309,505
2008 12,522 176,854 138,400 315,254
2009 12,579 179,787 139,511 319,298
2010 11,793 176,065 139,774 315,838
2011 11,937 174,648 136,024 310,672
2012 11,970 175,922 142,479 318,401
2013 12,101 175,917 139,845 315,762

* this excludes around 115 "part croft" holdings that cover about 14,000ha as they also rent in land under agricultural tenure arrangements


Figure 2 JAC Agricultural Regions

Figure 2 JAC Agricultural Regions

3.8 3.14 The analysis endeavours where possible to show the tenure data throughout by (a) census agricultural region (see Figure 2), robust farm type and by size based on standard labour requirements (as detailed in Table 3) which is calculated using Scottish Government[1] criteria from the standard labour requirements for cropping and stocking activities for each holding or business. In addition geospatial representation of the data is also provided where possible at parish, or NUTS 4 level.

Table 3 Size grouping of farm businesses (BRNs) and holdings for analysis

Analysis Size Grouping Scottish Government Size Category Standard Labour Requirement Hours Standard Labour Requirements
Small Very small <1,900 hours <1 FTE
Small 1,900-3,800 hours 1-2 FTEs
Medium Medium 3,800 - 5,700 hours 2-3 FTEs
Large Large 5,700 - 9,500 hours 3-5 FTEs
Very large > 9,500 hours >5 FTEs

Adapted from Scottish Government 2012[2]


Email: Angela Morgan

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