Along the Pentland Road, 25 May 2017

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Crofting

Crofting. It's a way of life in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and I have the greatest respect for all those men and women who seek to, and succeed to make a livelihood with crofting. That immediately points out the in-built, purposefully designed problem with the concept.

Crofting was conceived, early in the 19th century, to give tenants sufficient land not to starve, but also insufficient to make a full livelihood. As a result, they had to supplement their income from crofting by other means. The Napier Report (1883) tells us that bonded labour to the landlord was a widespread phenomenon in the 19th century. This meant that the landlord could compel tenants to perform labour for him, whether they liked it or not.

Much has changed, but crofting remains a flawed concept. Since 2002, it has become legal to feu off infinite numbers of plots from the croft land. That completely defeats the object of the exercise. The acreage of the croft is diminished, which was a major complaint in the Napier Report - insufficient acreage.

The flawedness of crofting is also demonstrated by the large amounts of grants and subsidies that crofters are entitled to. You get a grant to build an improvement (usually a home, sometimes an agricultural building) on the croft. If the croft yielded sufficient income, this would not be necessary.

As I said, I have great respect for the crofters. They work their socks off, not just on the croft but in other areas of employment as well, to make ends meet. However, I think the current movement towards community ownership offers an opportunity for revolution. I'm not advocating abolishing crofts and crofting. I'm advocating using community ownership to make it possible to make a full livelihood out of crofting.

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