8.1 The profile of crofters has changed little over the past four years. They are still older than the general population – both across Scotland and within the respective crofting local authorities. They are also still predominately male (although the proportion of female crofters has doubled from 13% in 2014 to 26% in 2018). In line with the findings from 2014, crofters responding to the survey tended to be a homogenous group. For the most part, they lived in 1-2 person households, were born in Scotland, had been in crofting for 20 years or more.
8.2 The majority of crofting activities are rooted in the traditional agricultural pursuits of livestock and crops – a similar picture to 2014. However, while only small proportions used their croft for other activities, a number of these activities have seen increases since 2014 (namely, bed and breakfast accommodation/holiday lets, leisure, and wood processing) suggesting greater diversification. This diversification was greatest among those that had been crofting for less than 20 years.
8.3 There have been some changes in working patterns among crofters in the last four years – the proportion of those working only on the croft and undertaking no other employment has decreased. Furthermore, 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).
8.4 Overall, the economic picture for crofters is mixed. While both crofting and non-crofting income has increased, the income derived from crofting activities is more polarised than in the past – there have been increase at both extremes of the income scale since 2014. The median revenue increased from £21,000 in 2014 to £25,000 in 2018 – and a greater increase was seen in the mean figure suggesting a greater number of very high revenues. However, there has also been an increase in the proportion of crofters who report making no revenue at all from crofting activities.
8.5 This variation in crofting revenue meant that a larger proportion were relying on income from non-crofting activities. As noted above, non-crofting income increased from 2014 to 2018 (although there was no increase in the proportion who made nothing as there was with crofting activities).
8.6 Further financial pressure has come from a greater proportion of crofters that pay rental or mortgage costs for their housing – and among those that do, the mean costs that they pay have increased in the last 4 years (from £1,500 per annum in 2014 to £3,549 in 2018). While land rental or mortgage costs were lower than the equivalent for housing, they also saw a considerable increase (from £270 in 2014 to £741 in 2018).
8.7 Despite this, there has been greater investment in crofts in the last three years than in the previous wave of the survey. In 2014, 58% of crofters said that they had invested in their croft, compared with 68% in 2018. While 92% of those who had invested, invested some of their own money, only a quarter (24%) invested grant money or money from support schemes.
8.8 This greater investment does seem positive. However, when asked if they planned to invest in the next three years, just under half of crofters (48%) said that they did, a decrease since 2014 (55%). The reason not to invest remain the same as in the previous wave: uncertain potential of investing; financial outlay/cost is too high; and no desirable opportunity to do so.
8.9 So as with the current financial picture for crofters, views of the future of crofting were also mixed. While there was an almost consensus that crofting is not economically viable without supplementing your income in some way (95% in 2018), there has 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).
8.10 The comments provided by crofters would suggest that they see improvements required in the following areas to secure the future of crofting:
- perceived lack of support/funding available to crofters
- perceived lack of support from government
- perceived lack of representation from crofting authorities.
Email: Neil Davidson