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Crofting is a form of land tenure[1] and small-scale food production particular to the Scottish Highlands, the islands of Scotland, and formerly on the Isle of Man.[2] 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.


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 ha of in-bye[3] 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. Agriculturally since the late 20th century, the government classifies virtually all of the land in the Highlands and Islands as Severely Disadvantaged, under the terms of Less Favoured Area Directive, yet these areas still receive the lowest LFA payments.[clarification needed] Most crofters cannot survive by crofting agriculture alone, and they pursue a number of activities to earn their livelihood.

Despite its challenges, crofting is important to the Highlands and Islands. At March 2002 there were 17,721 crofts, and 12,000 to 13,000 crofters (some crofters have the tenancy of more than one croft; in croft absenteeism, tenancies are held but crofts are not farmed). About 30,000 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).


A form of land tenure and small-scale food production peculiar to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, crofting evolved from a turbulent period in the nineteenth century during the Highland Clearances. It was largely a means to sustain populations. In the 21st century, it is found predominantly in the rural Western and Northern isles and in the coastal fringes of the western and northern Scottish mainland.[4]

The Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Act 1886 provided for security of tenure, a key issue as most crofters remain tenants.[5] 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.[citation needed]

See also


  1. 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: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Farmers & Crofting". Manx National Heritage. Retrieved 4 August 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Pertaining to the direction towards the house. (
  4. Collins Encyclopedia of Scotland (revised ed.). edited by John Keay and Julia Keay. 2000. pp. 205–206. Retrieved March 2013. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Template:Cite

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