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.

1. Introduction and methodology

1.1 Every four years, the Scottish Government is required to submit a report to the Scottish Parliament on the economic condition of crofting, in line with Section 51 of the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010. To inform the 2018 reporting, Ipsos MORI, an independent research organisation, was commissioned to conduct research on a range of issues affecting crofting businesses and households.

1.2 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.

1.3 The report provides up-to-date and accurate information on the status of crofters to inform decision making and legislation affecting the crofting community, including the new Crofting Bill planned for this parliamentary session.


1.4 Crofting is a system of land holding which is unique to Scotland. A croft is a relatively small agricultural land holding which is most commonly held in tenancy and which may or may not have buildings or a house associated with it. While the average croft size is around 5 hectares (ha), crofts range in size from less than half hectare to more than 50ha. There are approximately 20,570 crofts in Scotland, mainly in the crofting counties of the Highlands and Islands, and around 33,000 people live in crofting households.

1.5 Crofters have a number of duties under the current legislation: to reside within 32 km of their croft; to cultivate the croft, or put the croft to another purposeful use; and not misuse or neglect the croft.

1.6 Crofting was designed to supplement other forms of employment rather than to be the sole source of income. In addition to agricultural activities, crofts are also used for a wide variety of other activities such as growing fruit and vegetables; growing trees; bed and breakfasts and holiday lets; and renewable energy production.

1.7 The most recent legislative reform was the 2010 Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act which resulted in the reform of the Crofters Commission, with changes designed to make it more accountable, and its renaming as the Crofting Commission.

1.8 Last Autumn, the Scottish Government launched a public consultation on Crofting Legislation and Future Priorities for Crofting, seeking views on the legislative change that may be required and priorities for crofting in the future. In total, 122 responses were submitted, seventy-four per cent of which were from individual members of the public.


1.9 Replicating the 2014 survey, this survey was a self-completion postal survey. This was considered to be more reliable than an online survey for the purposes of this research, due to the below average internet connection speeds in the crofting counties, and the relatively low internet use rates among the 60-74 and 75+ age groups in Scotland, which are disproportionately represented among the crofting population.

1.10 Surveys were sent to 4,000 crofts in Scotland in total, in two mail-outs[3] of 2,000, using the Crofting Commission’s Register of Crofts (ROC) as the sampling frame. In line with the sampling approach for the last wave of the survey, the sample was stratified by local authority[4] before crofts were randomly selected to take part, to help ensure that the composition of respondents reflected the geographical spread of registered crofters. We also stratified the sample by tenure to ensure the balance of owner-occupier and tenanted crofts was reflected in the sample.

1.11 Respondents were sent a letter outlining the background and purpose of the survey, including FAQs, along with a paper questionnaire, and freepost return envelope. A postcard reminder was sent out approximately three weeks after the first mail-out.

1.12 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.

1.13 Where percentages do not add up to exactly 100%, this can be explained by the rounding of results to the nearest 1%.

1.14 Respondents in the survey are representative of registered crofters (i.e. those who are included in the Crofting Commission’s Register of Crofts). As only one person in the household can be included in the Register, this may not cover all crofters in the household. However, respondents are referred to as crofters throughout the report for the sake of brevity.


Email: Neil Davidson

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