Economic conditions of crofting 2015-18: survey

This report provides a detailed outline of the uses and financial situation of crofts in the years between 2015 and 2018.

Key Findings

  • Building on previous publications, in 2010 and 2014, this report provides a detailed outline of the uses and financial situation of crofts in the years between 2015 and 2018.
  • Broadly comparable with the last survey in 2014, this year’s survey covered a wide range of social and economic issues such as the demographic composition of crofting households; the activities on crofts; the employment status of crofters; the investments made in, and the income from crofts; and the outlook of crofting households. It also touched on crofters’ views of support and information sources available to the crofting community and the future of crofting more broadly.
  • 4,000 crofters were invited to participate in a self-completion postal survey using the Crofting Commission’s Register of Crofts (ROC) as the sampling frame. Fieldwork took place between 10th July and 17th September 2018. A total of 739 surveys were returned, a response rate of 18%. Results were weighted to reflect the profile of the crofting population by local authority and tenure.

Profile of Crofters

  • In line with 2014, the majority of registered crofters were male (74%), higher than the Scottish population as a whole[1]. Only a quarter were female. However, the proportion of female registered crofters has doubled from 13% to 26% in the last four years
  • The age profile of crofters is older than the wider population – just under half (45%) are aged 65 and over, while only 3% are aged under 35. For comparison, just under a fifth (19%) of people in Scotland as a whole[2] are aged 65 and over.
  • Crofters tend to live in 1-2 person households (69%), be born in Scotland (85%) and to have been crofting for 20 years or more (65%).

Crofting Activities

  • Crofting activities are most likely to comprise of livestock and/or crops - a similar picture to 2014. However, a number of activities have seen increases since 2014, suggesting increased diversification:
    • Bed and breakfast/holiday lets have increased from 8% in 2014 to 15% in 2018
    • Leisure activities have increased from 3% to 7%
    • Wood processing has increased from 2% to 5%.
  • The proportion of those working on the croft and undertaking no other employment has decreased from 28% in 2014 to 23% in 2018.
  • There has been an increase in the proportion of households that have no-one working on the croft or other earning activities from 10% in 2014 to 18% in 2018.

Financial Issues in Crofting

  • There is a mixed economic picture when it comes to income from crofting activities. The median has remained the same between 2014 and 2018 - £2,000. However, there has been an increase in the mean income. This is because a small number of crofters reported very high incomes, and is not necessarily reflective of crofters as a whole.
  • Income derived from crofting activities has become more polarised than in the past. As noted above there were a number of crofters with very high incomes in the sample. However, there was also an increase in the proportion who say they get no income from crofting (from 18% in 2014 to 25% in 2018).
  • Income from non-crofting activities has increased. The median household income reported was £25,000, up from £21,000 in 2014. Just under a third (32%) of crofters reported an income of £10,001-£25,000, with the same proportion (32%) reporting an income of £25,001-£50,000.
  • The median running costs of a croft, excluding land and housing costs, were estimated at £2,000 – a small increase from 2014 (median of £1500).
  • The majority of crofters (73%) reported no running costs related to their crofting-based activities or running costs of under £5,000. The three most common responses were up to £1,000, £1,001-£5,000 and Nothing at 30%, 30% and 13%, respectively.
  • Compared to 2014, there has been an increase both in the proportion of crofters that pay rental/mortgage costs for their housing and in the average costs. While the proportion of those paying nothing has decreased from 52% to 32%, the mean cost has risen from £1,500 per annum to £3,549.
  • The average land rental and mortgage costs were much lower, with a median annual cost of just £64 and a mean cost of £741, though these have also risen considerably since 2014, from £25 and £270 respectively.

Investments in the Croft

  • Just over two thirds of crofters (68%) had invested in their croft the last three years – a considerable increase from 58% in the 2011-2014 period. This was also higher than the proportion of crofters who said that they planned to invest in their croft in the 2015-2018 period in the previous survey (55%).
  • Just under half (48%) of crofters said that they planned to invest in their croft in the next three years, down from 55% in 2014. The median planned investment was £2,000, while the mean figure was much higher at £16,450, and up from £9,100 in 2014.
  • The three most common reasons for not investing were uncertainty of the potential benefit of investing (35%), that the financial cost/outlay of investing was too great (33%) and that there was no perceived desirable opportunity to do so (22%).

Sources of Information on Crofting

  • Just over a third of crofters had looked for advice or support on crofting activities in the last 12 months.
  • Less than a third of crofters had actively looked for any guidance or advice on crofting in the last year although only 5% felt that they would not know where to go to get information. The Crofting Commission and Crofting Counties Agricultural Grants were the most popularly quoted sources of information that crofters would use.
  • Postal communications are significantly the most preferred method for receiving information on crofting (74%), although 38% also supported the use of email for this purpose.

The Future of Crofting

  • The clear majority of crofters thought that crofting is not economically viable without supplementing their income in some way and this has increased from 88% in 2014 to 95% in 2018. There has also been an increase in the proportion who see diversification as the way to secure the economic future of crofting from 54% in 2014 to 62% in 2018.
  • When asked to comment on the future of crofting and issues surrounding the industry, crofters identified three key themes:
    • a lack of support/funding available to crofters
    • a lack of support from Government
    • a lack of representation from crofting authorities.


Email: Neil Davidson

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