Publication - Research and analysis
Economic conditions of crofting: survey 2019 to 2022
This report provides a detailed outline of the uses and financial situation of crofts in the years between 2019 and 2022.
Introduction to the Economic Conditions of Crofting Survey
- The Scottish Government recognises the contribution that crofting makes to the rural economy and rural communities and is committed to securing the future of crofting. The Scottish Government has a track record of investing in crofting and will continue to support ways in which to improve its economic condition. As part of this commitment to crofting, the Scottish Ministers are required (under Section 51 of the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010) to submit a report on the economic conditions of crofting to the Scottish Parliament every four years.
- To satisfy this, Research Resource was commissioned to undertake a survey of crofters to provide detailed evidence on the uses and financial situation of crofts from 2019-2022. This report builds upon previous publications in 2014 and 2018.
- Broadly comparable with the previous surveys, 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, and the income derived 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. A new section was introduced in the 2022 survey on peatland restoration, biodiversity activities, and forestry and woodland creation. The aim of this section was to gauge the proportions of crofters who have been involved in these activities or plan to undertake these in the future, and about any barriers preventing them from doing so. An additional question on what respondents would like to see on the Farm Advisory Service website was also added.
- 4,000 crofters were invited to participate in a self-completion survey using the Crofting Commission’s Register of Crofts (ROC) as the sampling frame. Fieldwork took place between the 11 July and 26 September 2022. A total of 942 surveys were submitted via post, email, telephone or online, representing a 24% response rate, an increase of 6% compared to the 2018 response rate. The response profile was representative of the population of verifiable crofters in terms of age, tenure and region. No information on sex or gender is contained in the ROC and so it cannot be stated whether the data is representative of sex. Previous surveys were carried out using an exclusively postal methodology.
Crofting background and demographic information
- The ROC showed that there were 16,785 registered crofters in Scotland in 2022, from these we extracted verifiable contact information for 12,409.
- Crofters are most likely to be male (68%). However, the proportion of female crofters has continued to increase with each survey, from 13% in 2014 to 26% in 2018 and 30% in 2022.
- 42% of crofters are aged 65 and over, and only 3% are aged under 35, consistent with the 2018 survey where 45% were aged over 65 and 3% between 16 and 34. Crofters are most likely to live in a two-person household (48%), and again this is consistent with the findings from 2014 and 2018 (both 47%).
- Respondents were most likely to have become crofters because they had been brought up in a crofting family (60%), 5% less than the 2018 survey results.
- The proportion of respondents who have been crofting for 20 years or more continues to decrease from 70% in 2014 to 65% in 2018 and 48% in 2022.
- The most common activity undertaken on a croft continues to be raising livestock (73%), this compares to 83% in 2014 and 80% in 2018. This is followed by growing crops (43%), and forestry and woodland creation (18%) which was a new option in the 2022 survey.
Financial issues in crofting
- In terms of income from crofting activities, 53% had made less than £10,001 and 38% had made no income. The average income was £4,538 and the median was calculated as £500.
- Furthermore, most crofters had not received any income over the last 12 months from grant money or support schemes (63%). Where they had, this tended to be less than £5,001 (30%). The mean income from public funding was calculated as £11,763.
- 82% of crofters reported either no running costs relating to their crofting-based activities or running costs of under £5,001. The mean was £5,145, down from £8,385 in 2018.
- In terms of income from non-crofting activities, 61% reported an income of between £10,001 and £50,000, in line with the 2018 survey (64%). The median household income reported from non-crofting activities was £25,000, the same as the 2018 survey results (£25,000) and slightly higher than the 2014 median value of £21,000.
- There has been an increase in the proportion of crofters paying rent or mortgage costs on their land or house, from 57% in 2018 to 64% in 2022. The average mortgage cost on croft houses in the last 12 months was £8,374. Where crofters paid annual rent, 61% paid less than £50 in the last year. The average annual rent was reported as £133.95, and the median value was £32.
- 27% of tenant crofters who responded stated their rent is reviewed annually, 20% said it was reviewed between every 1 and 10 years, 29% said it was reviewed less frequently and 24% said it had never been reviewed.
Investment in crofts
- 61% had invested in their croft in the last three years, a decrease from 68% in the 2018 survey. 62% had plans for investment which is up from the 48% reported in the 2018 survey and 55% in the 2014 survey.
- Crofters were most likely to invest their own money (99.6%) than money received from grant or support schemes (39%), and crofters were most likely to invest in livestock (46%). The average amount invested from crofters’ own money was £12,832 (£20,007 in 2018) and from public funding was £4,612 (£6,554 in 2018).
- One in ten crofters who had invested in their croft during the 2019-2022 period reported additional income because of the investment. The median reported additional income has fallen from £1,500 in 2018 to £1,000 in 2022.
- 62% of crofters said that they planned to invest in their croft in the next four years, up from 48% in 2018 and 55% in 2014. The average figure was £6,503, down significantly from £16,450 in 2018. Again, investing in livestock was the most common response when asked where the future investment would be spent (52%).
- The three most common reasons for not investing were that the financial cost/ outlay of investing was too great (36%), that there was no perceived desire to do so (32%), and the uncertainty of the potential benefit of investing (29%), which is consistent with the reasons from 2014 and 2018.
- The proportion of crofters with a succession plan in place has continued to increase with each survey, from 46% in 2014 and 47% in 2018 to 60% in 2022.
- Most crofters were in agreement that crofting is not economically viable without household members supplementing income from non-crofting activities (92%), consistent with the findings from 2018 (95%). Just under two-thirds of respondents (64%) believed that income from, for example, wind farm developments on the common grazing, should benefit the whole community and this has continued to increase with each survey from 50% in 2014 and 60% in 2018. The proportion of respondents who agreed the Scottish Government is committed to protecting the future of crofting has decreased from 49% in 2014 and 2018 to 42% in 2022.
Sources of information on crofting
- Just under a third of crofters had looked for advice or support on crofting activities in the last 12 months (30% in 2022, 33% in 2018).
- The Crofting Commission, Commissioner or local Crofting Commission Assessor were the sources that crofters were most likely to use for advice and support on crofting activities (60%), an increase of 10% from 2018.
- The most common service crofters would like to see developed on the Farm Advisory Service website was an advice line (34%), followed by technical notes (28%) and videos (28%).
Peatland restoration, biodiversity activities and forestry and woodland creation
- 28% of crofters have carried out peatland restoration, biodiversity activities or forestry or woodland creation activities in the 2019-2022 period and 34% plan to carry out these activities in the period 2023-2026.
- The most common activities that were carried out were biodiversity activities on the croft (12%), and woodland or forestry creation on the croft (18%). These were also the two activities most likely to be carried out in the next four years (15% and 21% respectively).
- Of those that had not used any available schemes to either restore peatland, carry out biodiversity activities, or create forestry and woodland, 38% stated they lacked information on how to do this and 37% said they were uncertain of the benefits.
- The profile of crofters remains predominantly male, however the proportion of female crofters has continued to increase since 2014 (13%), to 26% in 2018 and 30% in 2022. The crofting population is more likely to be older, with 42% aged 65 and over. 60% were brought up in a crofting family. 48% of crofters have been a registered crofter for more than 20 years, this is a marked decrease from 2014 (70%) and 2018 (65%). On the other hand, the proportion of respondents who have been crofting for less than five years has increased from 8% in 2014 and 11% in 2018 to 17% in 2022. Those who have been a crofter for 20 years or more were significantly more likely to be older crofters, with 70% of this group aged 65 and over compared to just 5% of those aged 16-44.
- Most crofting activities are rooted in the traditional agricultural pursuits of livestock and crops – a similar picture to 2014 and 2018. A small percentage used their croft for other activities such as, forestry or woodland creation (18%), biodiversity activities (8%), glamping/camping (3%) and peatland restoration (1%). These new activities were more likely to be carried out by crofters aged under 65.
- The number of crofters who work only on the croft (22%), has not changed significantly since 2018.
- 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. 90% of crofters who responded had income from non-crofting sources. This was also the case in 2014 and 2018.
- 60% have invested in their croft with the average investment being £12,832. In 2018, 68% invested in their croft with the average investment being £20,007.
- Thinking to the future, an increasing proportion of crofters (62%, up from 48% in 2018) said that they planned to invest in their croft in the next four years, most commonly on livestock (52%).
- Although planning to invest in the future, 92% of crofters agreed that crofting is not economically viable without household members supplementing income from non-crofting activities.
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