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About crofts and crofting

This page explains what a croft is, who crofters are and how croft land is used. It also looks at how crofting laws work and what the Crofters Commission does.

What is a croft?

A croft is not a house but a unit of agricultural land. Traditionally, crofts are situated on large estates, and are rented from the landowner. Landlords can have many crofts on their estate, and there are over 17,000 crofts in Scotland.

The average croft consists of around five hectares (12 acres) of land, although they can range in size from half a hectare to over 50 hectares. Most crofts are part of a township (a community of crofts) and share common grazing land.

Each croft is listed in the Register of Crofts, held by the Crofters Commission, and regulated by special laws contained in the Crofting Acts. These laws were originally created to prevent estate owners evicting crofters from their land. Now, the Crofting Acts ensure that croft land is used properly, and that crofting tenancies can continue securely.

Where are crofts found?

Crofts are only found in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, in the former counties of Argyll, Inverness, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland, Caithness, Orkney and Shetland. These counties are now part of larger council areas.

Who are crofters?

Crofters are people who live and work on croft land. Usually they are tenants of the person who owns the land (this is the true legal meaning of the word crofter), but some crofters have now bought their crofts and become owner-occupiers.

Most crofters don't make a living from the land, but have other sources of income as well, such as part-time or full-time employment, or running their own businesses.

What is croft land used for?

Traditionally, croft land is used to raise animals and grow vegetables. Now, some crofters use the land for other means, such as tourism, forestry or renewable energy.

What is common grazing?

Most crofters share land for pasture, peat cutting and collecting water. This land is known as common grazing, and is managed and maintained by a committee, elected by the crofters who use it. The committee is responsible for deciding how the common grazing can be used, for example, how many and what kind of animals can be grazed there, whether any of the land can be used for planting trees and how the upkeep of the land is paid for.

Crofters can apply to the Commission to have part of the common grazing land set aside for their exclusive use. You can find out more about this at the Crofters Commission website.

What are my rights if I live on a croft?

Your rights as a crofter will depend on whether you rent or own your croft – find out more about your rights as a tenant, and your rights as an owner.

What does the Crofters Commission do?

The Crofters Commission is a government department responsible for sustaining, developing and regulating crofting and promoting the interests of crofters. For example, the Commission:

  • approves new tenants before they take over a croft
  • decides when new crofts can be created or when land can be 'decrofted' so it's no longer a croft, and
  • ensures crofters are using their land properly and that crofts are not left vacant.

The Commission also keeps the Register of Crofts.

What is the Register of Crofts?

The Register of Crofts lists information about every croft in Scotland. For example, it includes:

  • the name, location, rent and size
  • the names and addresses of the landlord and tenant
  • information about any common grazing the crofter has a share in
  • any other relevant information or agreements about the land.

You can ask the Commission for a copy of an entry about a croft from the Register, although you may have to pay a fee for this.

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The important points

  • Crofts are units of agricultural land.
  • Crofters are people who live and work on croft land.
  • Your rights as a crofter depend on whether you own or rent your croft.
  • Each croft is listed in the Register of Crofts, held by the Crofters Commission, and regulated by special laws contained in the Crofting Acts.

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