Crofting is a form of land tenure and small-scale food production
particular to the Scottish Highlands, the islands of Scotland, and
formerly on the Isle of Man. Within the 19th century townships,
individual crofts are established on the better land, and a large area
of poorer-quality hill ground is shared by all the crofters of the
township for grazing of their livestock.
4 See also
6 External links
Crofting is a traditional social system in Scotland defined by
small-scale food production.
Crofting is characterised by its common
working communities, or "townships". Individual crofts are typically
established on 2–5 hectares (5–12 1⁄2 acres) of in-bye
for better quality forage, arable and vegetable production. Each
township manages poorer-quality hill ground as common grazing for
cattle and sheep.
Land use in the crofting counties is constrained by climate, soils and
topography. Since the late 20th century, the government has classified
virtually all of the agriculture land in the Highlands and Islands as
Severely Disadvantaged, under the terms of Less Favoured Area (LFA)
Directive, yet these areas still receive the lowest LFA payments.
Most crofters cannot survive economically by crofting agriculture
alone, and they pursue a number of activities to earn their
Despite its challenges, crofting is important to the Highlands and
Islands. In 2014-15 there were 19,422 crofts, with 15,388 crofters.
Some crofters have the tenancy of more than one croft, and in-croft
absenteeism means that tenancies are held but crofts are not farmed.
About 33,000 family members lived in crofting households, or around
10% of the population of the Highlands and Islands. Crofting
households represented around 30% those in the rural areas of the
Highlands, and up to 65% of households in Shetland, the Western Isles
and Skye. There were 770,000 hectares under crofting tenure, roughly
25% of the agricultural land area in the
Crofting Counties. Crofters
held around 20% of all beef cattle (120,000 head) and 45% of breeding
ewes (1.5 million sheep).
Tenants and owner-occupier crofters are required to comply with a
range of duties specified in sections 5AA to 5C and 19C of the
Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 as amended. There is a duty to be
ordinarily resident within 32km of the croft. If the croft is the sole
dwelling and the crofter's family are resident while the croft is away
this would probably be accepted as ordinarily resident. Other
circumstances involving other places of residence would require to be
assessed individually. In addition to the duty of residence tenants
and owner occupier crofters are required to ensure the croft is
cultivated, maintained and not neglected or misused.
Crofting communities were a product of the
Highland Clearances (though
individual crofts had existed before the clearances). They replaced
the communal farms or bailtean, which had common grazing and shared
arable fields operated on the run rig open field system. This change
was typically associated with two things. Firstly the tacksmen were
steadily eliminated over the last quarter of the 18th century. A
tacksman (a member of the daoine uaisle, sometimes described as
"gentry" in English) was the holder of a lease or "tack" from the
landowner. Where a lease was for a baile, the tacksman sublet to the
farming tenants and provided some management of the communal farm. By
preventing this section of society from sub-letting, the landlords
obtained all of the rent paid by those who worked the land. Secondly,
landowners replaced the older farming methods with pastoral systems.
In early cases, these were based on cattle. Much more common was the
introduction of extensive sheep farms. In many clearances, the tenants
of inland farms were moved to crofting communities in coastal areas,
leaving the land they had left for sheep. This type of clearance was
carried out mostly until the 1820s.
The crofts created by clearance were not intended to support all the
needs of those who lived there, and consequently were restricted in
size to a few acres of arable land with a surrounding shared grazing.
Landlords intended their crofting tenants to work in various
industries, such as fishing or kelp. A contemporary estimate was that
a crofter needed to carry out 200 days work away from his croft in
order to avoid destitution. In the second half of the 19th century,
many crofters provided a substantial migrant workforce, especially for
Crofting communities were badly hit by the Highland Potato Famine. The
small arable plots had meant that the potato was an essential crop,
due to its high productivity. The arrival of potato blight (and the
collapse of the kelp industry a few years before) made some crofting
communities inviable. This gave rise to the second phase of the
Highland Clearances, when many tenants left the Highlands, often
In the 21st century, crofting is found predominantly in the rural
Western and Northern isles and in the coastal fringes of the western
and northern Scottish mainland.
Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Act 1886
Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Act 1886 provided for security of
tenure, a key issue as most crofters remain tenants. The Act
encouraged tenants to improve the land under their control, as it
ensured that the control could be transferred within families and
passed to future generations.
Croft work was hard, back-breaking work, mainly done by women which
yielded a subsistence living.
Agriculture and agronomy portal
^ Chambers's encyclopaedia: a dictionary of universal knowledge for
the people. Volume 3 (revised ed.). W. and R. Chambers. 1901.
p. 575. Retrieved August 2009. Check date values in:
^ "Farmers & Crofting". Manx National Heritage. Retrieved 4 August
^ "crofting scotland sheep - Google Search". www.google.ca. Retrieved
^ Pertaining to the direction towards the house.
^ MacColl, Allan W. (2006-01-01). Land, Faith and the Crofting
Community: Christianity and Social Criticism in the Highlands of
Scotland, 1843-1893. Edinburgh University Press.
^ Committee, Great Britain: Parliament: House of Lords: European Union
(2009-06-04). The review of the less favoured areas scheme: 13th
report of session 2008-09, report with evidence. The Stationery
Office. ISBN 9780108444357.
^ Byron, Reginald; Hutson, John (1999-08-01). Local enterprises on the
North Atlantic margin: selected contributions to the Fourteenth
International Seminar on Marginal Regions. Ashgate.
^ a b "
Crofting facts and figures".
Crofting Commission. Retrieved
April 29, 2016.
^ Doogan, John; Girvan, Edith (2004-01-01). Changing life in Scotland
and Britain: 1830s-1930s. Heinemann. ISBN 9780435326920.
^ http://www.crofting.scotland.gov.uk/faq. Missing or empty
^ Devine, T M (1994). Clanship to Crofters' War: The social
transformation of the
Scottish Highlands (2013 ed.). Manchester
University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-9076-9.
^ Collins Encyclopedia of Scotland (revised ed.). edited by John Keay
and Julia Keay. 2000. pp. 205–206. Retrieved March 2013.
Check date values in: access-date= (help)
Crofters Holdings (Scotland) Act 1886". Legislation.gov.uk.
^ McAllister, Angus (2013-02-26). Scottish Law of Leases. A&C
Black. ISBN 9781847665669.
^ Lynn Abrams Myth and Materiality in a Woman's World: Shetland
1800-2000 0719065925 2005 "As the nineteenth-century visitors
correctly observed, croft work was hard, back-breaking work which
yielded a subsistence living at best. The small agricultural holdings
tenanted by most rural Shetlanders in the nineteenth century consisted
of a dwelling, a small area of arable or cultivable ground (which,
while runrig was still practised, could be scattered and fragmented
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