This report is produced to provide relevant information to the Scottish Government on the issues for crofting in the context of Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) development 2014-20 and to present recommendations for a future SRDP. Stakeholders involved in discussing and/or compiling this paper were: The Crofting Commission; with input from Scottish Crofting Federation; National Farmers Union Scotland (Crofting Committee); Scottish Natural Heritage; Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; HIE; Scottish Landed Estates; and the European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism.
The decision in 2003 by the European Union to decouple CAP support from production has had a detrimental impact on agricultural activity and a decline in the agricultural contribution to the economy in peripheral, often fragile areas of Scotland.
The key singular message being conveyed is the public benefit which crofting has the potential to deliver in terms of agricultural, social, economic, environmental, and landscape measures, with potential to also enhance tourism, housing, carbon reduction and cultural measures. In recent years, various studies have suggested that crofting faces serious issues, with declining use of both inbye and common grazings land, evidenced by a reduction in livestock and a historic reduction in cropping. At the same time, crofting has seen a very low uptake of SRDP funding, despite the fact that the programme had specific measures to benefit crofting and small units.
Various studies indicate that crofters demonstrate a desire to continue crofting, even when the economic returns are poor or negligible; however there is less appetite to continue crofting when the activity actually costs the crofter. Additionally, at a socio-economic level, many of the areas where crofting takes place are designated as fragile due to multiple deprivation. Many of the most remote areas are seeing a significant decline in the primary industries of agriculture, fishing and forestry, as well as significant population loss or migration towards larger centres, and unsustainable demographic changes.
It appears that with comparatively low levels of support, crofters are willing to continue delivering the public benefits which crofting brings. However, without targeted, easy to access and relevant support, the indications are that crofting will continue to decline, with a concomitant loss of skills and infrastructure, making it more difficult for crofting to recover in the future. The loss of active crofting through a failure to provide targeted support would result in a significant loss of public benefit.
The report addresses the why there is a need for a programme for crofting and the how in making recommendations.