We are often asked “What exactly is a croft?” or “What is a crofter?” The list below answers these and other frequently asked questions.
Approximately 25% of the land mass of the Highlands and Islands is under crofting tenure – more than 15% of the UK. Over 12,000 crofting households represent some 30,000 family members.
Around 30% of households in the Highlands and up to 65% of households in Shetland, the Western Isles and Skye are crofting families.
What is a crofter?
A crofter is usually the tenant of the croft, paying annual rent to the landlord who owns the crofting estate. Rents are only for the bare land on the croft. The crofter provides the croft house and agricultural infrastructure. In 1976 crofters gained the right to acquire title to the croft, becoming an owner-occupying crofter. Crofters are required to live on or near their crofts and to work them.
What is a croft?
A croft is a small agricultural unit in the Scottish highlands and islands. Each croft has a share in common or hill grazings. These common grazings are managed collectively by all crofters in the township.
What are the Crofting Acts?
A series of acts passed since 1886 provides security of tenure and guarantees fair rents. Crofts are regulated by the Crofting Commission, based in Inverness.
How big is a croft?
The average size is around five hectares, but some are only 0.5 ha while a few extend to more than 50 ha. The majority of crofts cannot support a family or give full-time employment. Most crofters have other occupations for their income. Many have diversified into small-scale tourism, while off-croft employment ranges from postman to policeman to lorry driver, doctor, teacher, haulage contractor, tele-worker or weaver – and more.
What type of land use takes place on a croft?
The main product is lamb and beef, sold on to lowland farmers for fattening and finishing, due to climatic and soil quality constraints. Winter keep and potatoes may be grown across the area, and crofters have diversified into horticulture, producing a wide range of fruit, vegetables and plants. Forestry, woodland management and renewable energy have also developed.
How can I get a croft?
Few crofts come onto the market, whether tenancies or owner-occupancies. Those that do are generally in great demand. They are often advertised locally or in the property sections of newspapers such as the Oban Times, Stornoway Gazette, West Highland Free Press, Shetland Times, Northern Times or Press and Journal. Solicitors’ offices and estate agents handle such sales and can be approached directly to find out what might be available. A direct approach could also be made to estates within the crofting counties, as they might possibly have a vacant tenancy.
The consent of the Crofting Commission is required in any change of tenancy, whether by assignation by a tenant or by the re-letting of a vacant croft. A new owner-occupier is likewise liable to be subjected to scrutiny. The Commission will take into account local crofting demand and interests, and whether the proposed person intends to live on the croft and work it, and make a contribution to the local crofting community.
The SCF has a list of members who are interested in acquiring a croft. We have a number of contacts who can inform us of any crofts that become available. We will inform those on the list when any crofts become available within their chosen area(s). It is then up to the member to research the suitability of the croft for their needs and get in touch directly with the appropriate agent. The list is maintained as a service for members only.
For more information or if you are interested in registering on the list, please contact The Scottish Crofting Federation on 01599 530 005 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
What would it cost?
The price will require to be negotiated. Professional advice should be taken by the parties involved.
What is the Crofting Commission?
The Commission administers and regulates crofting and keeps under review all matters relating to crofting. It was recently changed from the Crofters Commission to the Crofting Commission to emphasize that its role is to regulate crofting.
Some useful links
Scottish Government information page on crofting
Crofting Law Group