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.

1. Introduction

1.1. Introduction

This report provides an overview of the key findings of a survey on the economic condition of crofting covering the period 2019-2022 carried out by Research Resource on behalf of the Rural & Environmental Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS) of the Scottish Government.

1.2. Background and objectives

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 2022 reporting, Research Resource, an independent research organisation, was commissioned to conduct research on a range of issues affecting crofting businesses and households.

Building on previous publications, in 2014 and 2018, this report provides a detailed outline of the uses and financial situation of crofts in the years between 2019 and 2022. Broadly comparable with 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 added to the 2022 survey with additional questions on peatland restoration, biodiversity activities and forestry and woodland creation.

To date there are currently 16,785 registered crofters listed on the Crofting Commission’s Register of Crofts.

The report will provide up-to-date and accurate information to help inform decision making and legislation affecting crofting.

1.3. Research Method

The survey was carried out using a mixed methodology comprising a combination of email, online, postal, and telephone responses, with digital methods used first.

The database of crofters was provided by the Crofting Commission from its Register of Crofts. This showed there were 16,785 crofters in Scotland. From this total, a list of 12,409[1] verifiable crofters was extracted. The survey was sent to a representative sample of 4,000 crofters who were randomly selected.

The final research questions and survey design was developed in discussion with stakeholders through the Research Advisory Group (RAG), comprising of representatives from the Crofting Commission, members of Scottish Government Crofting Policy and analysts from Rural & Environmental Science and Analytical Services Division. Cognitive testing was carried out with six individuals, a mix of crofting stakeholders and crofters. The purpose of this was to test the questionnaire to investigate the way respondents understood, processed and responded to questions and to explore whether the questions, response options and any instructions were interpreted as intended. Stakeholders were asked to complete the survey themselves and this was followed up with a detailed discussion in order to understand crofter’s perceptions of the questionnaire, and to identify any potential challenges they may face in completing it. The findings from this exercise were then fed back to the Project Manager along with recommendations on how the survey could be adjusted to improve the quality of data or response rates.

A digital first approach was taken with the survey. An initial email invitation was sent to all crofters for whom an email address was held. This was sent to 2,743 crofters on 11 July 2022. Then on 29 July, a postal survey was sent to all, including those for whom an email response had not been received. These respondents were sent a letter outlining the background and purpose of the survey, including frequently asked questions, along with a self-completion questionnaire. The front page of the questionnaire included a link to an online version which could be completed in place of the postal survey if desired. For paper based self-completion surveys, a freepost return envelope was provided. This was sent to 3,662 crofters. Between 1 and 6 September, 30 participants who did not respond to either the email or postal survey completed it over the phone.

A copy of the questionnaire is provided in Annex 1. Respondents were assured that all of their answers would be completely confidential and anonymous and that it would not be possible to identify any individual or croft business in the final report.

1.4. Sample Size

A total of 942 responses were received and of these responses, 49% were completed by email (460 responses), 42% (398 responses) were completed by post, 6% were submitted online (54 responses) and 3% were completed by telephone (30 responses).

This overall level of return provides robust data, accurate to +/-3.07%[2] of the overall crofters level (based upon the 95% level of confidence and a 50% estimate). Analysis of subgroups will be less robust. Please see Annex 2 for the level of confidence on different estimates and for subgroup analysis.

Of the initial 4,000 crofter addresses, 41 were returned as undeliverable or were considered out of scope for some other reason such as the land being decrofted or where the named respondent had died. 942 responses is therefore a 24% response rate from a sample of 3,959 crofters in scope for the research.

The methodology for this survey has changed from the previous survey when the survey was undertaken exclusively by post with 739 responses received, an 18% response rate.

Tables 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 below shows the number of responses achieved by area, stakeholder type and region and how this compares to the population of verifiable crofters according to the database received from the Crofting Commission’s Register of Crofts. As can be seen in the following tables the profile achieved varies by no more than four percentage points, which means that the achieved sample of responses is considered representative of the verifiable crofting population, therefore there was no requirement to weight the data. Weighting would be undertaken if it was believed that there was a significant difference between the profile of those surveyed and the overall population. Weighting allows for a dataset to be corrected so that results more accurately represent the population being studied.

Table 1.1: Respondents by stakeholder type
Population – Counts. Population % Interviews – Counts Interviews - %
Owner-Occupier 4,173 33.6% 314 33.4%
Tenant 8,236 66.4% 627 66.6%
Grand Total 12,409 100% 941 100.0%
Table 1.2: Respondents by age
Population – Counts. Population % Interviews – Counts Interviews - %
1-20 19 0.2% 1 0.1%
21-30 260 2.1% 13 1.4%
31-40 896 7.2% 54 5.7%
41-50 1,634 13.2% 130 13.8%
51-60 2,842 22.9% 224 23.8%
61-70 2,594 20.9% 218 23.2%
71-80 2,169 17.5% 192 20.4%
81-90 925 7.5% 65 6.9%
91-100 139 1.1% 8 0.9%
101+ 2 0.0% 0
Unknown 929 7.5% 36 3.8%
Grand Total 12,409 100% 941 100.0%
Table 1.3: Respondents by region
Population – Counts. Population % Interviews – Counts Interviews - %
Highland: Badenoch And Strathspey 71 0.6% 3 0.3%
Highland: Caithness 516 4.2% 47 5.0%
Highland: Inverness 249 2.0% 17 1.8%
Highland: Lochaber 562 4.5% 33 3.5%
Highland: Ross-Shire 1,386 11.2% 110 11.7%
Highland: Skye And Lochalsh 1,491 12.0% 110 11.7%
Highland: Sutherland 1,379 11.1% 104 11.1%
Orkney 220 1.8% 21 2.2%
Shetland 1,446 11.7% 97 10.3%
Strathclyde: Argyll And Bute 587 4.7% 38 4.0%
Western Isles: Barra 337 2.7% 22 2.3%
Western Isles: Harris 418 3.4% 35 3.7%
Western Isles: Lewis 2,779 22.4% 242 25.7%
Western Isles: North And South Uist 968 7.8% 62 6.6%
Grand Total 12,409 100% 941 100.0%

1.5. Interpreting results

Respondents in the survey are representative of registered verifiable crofters (i.e. those who are included in the Crofting Commission’s Register of Crofts, minus the exclusions mentioned in footnote 2). 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.

When reporting the data in this document, in general, percentages in tables have been rounded to the nearest whole number. Columns may not add to 100% because of rounding or where multiple responses to a question are possible.

All tables have a descriptive and numerical base, showing the respondent population or population subgroup examined in it. Due to the self-completion nature of the survey, the base (number of respondents) for each question varies slightly. Where respondents have left a question blank, these have been excluded from the base.

A population is a group targeted for analysis or study, in this case crofters. A sample is part of a population that researchers and statisticians use to collect data. Samples help represent populations and can be useful for making meaningful conclusions about a population. Samples of population, so long as the sample reflects the same characteristics of the overall population, are used to collect views from the whole population. The reason we only speak to samples of people is to reduce cost and to burden less of the population.

Because of sampling variation, some differences may occur by chance. We therefore use standard statistical tests to examine whether differences are likely to be due to chance. The z-test was used to compare the differences between scores in order to establish if the difference is significant, i.e. has occurred purely as a result of the sample or if it indicates a real difference in the percentages in the target population. Only differences that are statistically significant at the 95% confidence level are described as differences in the text of this report, unless explicitly stated otherwise.



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