Crofts form a tenure system unique to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland that goes back over 200 years. Approximately 2000 are owner-occupied but the majority remain tenanted. Approximately 25% of the land mass of the Highlands and Islands is under crofting tenure – which comprises over 15% of the land mass of UK.
Crofting embodies the principles of sustainability, diversification, co-operation, entrepreneurialism and community. Where the people share a common vision for the common good. It has a vital role in the agricultural, social, environmental and economic aspects of Scottish rural development and is central to sustaining communities in remote and peripheral areas. The small-scale low-input low-output production and communal forms of work are crucial in the maintenance of some of the most iconic, heritage and biodiversity-rich landscapes such as machair and moorlands.
Crofting can be seen as a model and solution to modern large-scale industrial agriculture in Europe at large. However, crofting’s role in UK farming policy is seldom discussed, and this session will endeavour to do this presenting some of the work undertaken by the Scottish Crofting Federation, a member-led organisation that promotes crofting. The session will specifically address the interface of education and advocacy work of SCF and present how its training programmes can support access to crofts for aspiring crofters and the creation of new crofts.
The session will explore the themes of access to land for young crofters, how they can be supported, developed and retained within the crofting areas. In addition we will consider how the vision of 10,000 newly created crofts can be achieved by 2020 and how the training programme can collaborate with community-owned land holdings and estates which wish to create new crofts by developing bespoke training.