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Crofter numbers in Scotland hit five-year high

By Gregor White

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News of an increase in crofter numbers has been broadly welcomed.
News of an increase in crofter numbers has been broadly welcomed.

New figures from the Crofting Commission show a significant increase in new entrants to crofting – with over 500 joining the sector in the year to March 2023.

This marks a five-year high and highlights the growing interest in this unique land tenure system, particularly among younger generations.

Key findings:

  • 510 new entrants to crofting in 2022/23.
  • 45 per cent of new entrants are women.
  • 29 per cent of new entrants are aged under 41.
  • New entrants span all crofting counties across Scotland.

Of the total 510 new entrants, 211 of those were in the Highlands, with 91 of those female and 109 male (11 'not known').

Sixty were aged 40 or under.

Scottish Government Minister for Energy and the Environment, Gillian Martin, welcomed the data.

“I am delighted to see, yet again, that the Crofting Commission is reporting a healthy number of new entrants into crofting," she said.

"Attracting and providing opportunities for new crofters is critical to its future. It is pleasing to note that 46 per cent of new entrants are women and 29 per cent are aged under 41.

“It is encouraging to see such a healthy number of new people embracing crofting. This is testament to the vibrancy and potential of this sector, and I am particularly pleased to see more women and young people getting involved.

“The Scottish Government is committed to supporting crofting and its role in rural communities. We will continue to work closely with the Crofting Commission to create opportunities for new entrants.”

Malcolm Matheson, convenor of the Crofting Commission, added: “These figures are not just encouraging, they represent a shot in the arm for rural communities facing depopulation challenges. It’s clear that crofting continues to offer exciting opportunities for people seeking a rewarding and sustainable lifestyle.”

The news was also welcomed by the Scottish Crofting Federation, which campaigns on behalf of crofters, though it said improvements could still be made to the sector as a whole.

Chairman Jonathan Hedges said: “As an organisation, we have long known that there is significant demand for crofts and have campaigned that more should be done to enable new entrants to access croft land. The figures released by the Crofting Commission demonstrate that demand.

“The fact that 29 per cent of these are young crofters is very positive news but there is still much more work to do to increase the availability of crofts to this age group, as well as keeping them affordable, allowing young families to continue to live and work in rural communities.

"We call on the Scottish Government to consider what else can be done to support this progress.”

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