Crofting consultation 2024

Page 1 of 12

Closes 2 Sep 2024


In 2021, the Scottish Government published our National Development Plan for Crofting, setting out the importance of crofting across the Highlands and Islands and the need for the development of crofting, its communities, its economic strength and its contribution to the environment. The National Development Plan was accompanied by Scottish Government investment in a renewed development role for the Crofting Commission, and it also set out plans for reforming crofting legislation, which we are now building on with this consultation.

The principal legislation for crofting is the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993, as amended, and this is referred to as "the 1993 Act" or "the Act" throughout this consultation. 

The last time the Scottish Parliament made significant reforms to crofting law was in 2010 through the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010. That legislation established the Crofting Commission as successor to the Crofters Commission; introduced the Crofting Register; defined the status of an Owner-Occupier Crofter; and introduced substantial new procedures for the Commission’s enforcement of crofters’ residency and land use duties, including the requirement for every crofter to return an Annual Notice (census).

These reforms have led to profound changes in crofting. Registration has brought certainty about land holdings where there was none before, and the coverage of the new Crofting Register continues to increase, now covering about 40% of crofts and common grazings.  The Crofting Commission, under the leadership of successive majority-elected Boards, has established new ways of working in regulation, enforcement of duties, and supporting both crofting communities and grazings committees; and the census and the new process for addressing breaches of duty have changed the fabric of the system. There is greater fairness between tenant and owner-occupier crofters than previously.

However, crofting faces continuing challenges and opportunities. While many crofters are active members of their communities and working their land productively, too many crofts are currently in the hands of those who are not able, or not willing, to use their land.  Similarly, although there has been an upturn in the number of active grazings committees, they and the landowners face complex processes if they wish to take forward innovations such as peatland or habitat restoration. For those aspiring to become crofters, the price of obtaining a croft in the area of their choice can be prohibitive. And both the Crofting Commission, and the crofters who make applications to them, advise that the regulatory processes set out in law are often onerous and sometimes illogical. Reform is now needed to address these and other challenges and to ensure that we protect and enable active crofting, and for crofters to play their role in changing land use across all the crofting areas.

We now propose to develop legislative options to build on earlier reforms. The priorities are:

  • to help more people become crofters and better support existing crofters and their activities and businesses;
  • to enable more and different activity to be undertaken on common grazings, including peatland restoration and other environmental initiatives;
  • to empower the Crofting Commission to tackle breaches of duty through streamlined processes; and
  • to resolve crofting regulatory issues more quickly through new and revised powers for the Crofting Commission.

The consultation seeks your views on proposals on:

  • entry to crofting
  • crofting communities
  • use of common grazings
  • strengthening residency and land use
  • enhanced Crofting Commission powers
  • simplifying crofting

The final section invites any comment on a number of clarifications and corrections that we propose to make to existing legislation.