Here at HSPC, we are often asked about crofts and what it involves so we've teamed up with the Crofting Commission to break down the key elements and most sought after questions for crofting in Scotland.

1 What does crofting mean?
Crofting is a system of landholding, which is unique to Scotland, and is an integral part of life in the Highlands & Islands. There are around 20,000 crofts across Scotland. More than 750,000 hectares of land in Scotland is in crofting tenure, with approximately 33,000 people living in crofting households. A croft is not a house, but often a house will be associated with a croft.

The old joke is that a croft is a piece of land surrounded by a sea of legislation; whilst crofting land is not as straight forward as purchasing or renting non crofting land; the Crofting Commission is here to support crofters or would be crofters with the process.
2 What are the key elements of crofting and what does it involve?
A croft is a relatively small agricultural land holding, which is normally held in tenancy and which may or may not have buildings or a house associated with it. Crofts range in size from less than 1/2 hectare to more than 50 hectares, but an average croft is nearer 5 hectares. Crofters have responsibilities defined in legislation. These are:
  • A duty to be resident on or within 32 kilometres of their croft
  • A duty not to neglect their croft
  • A duty to cultivate and maintain their croft or to put it to another purposeful use
Traditionally crofts have been used to compliment a household income and provide food. In recent years we have seen examples of crofts diversifying and growing as small businesses which are vital to their communities. All sorts of small enterprises and businesses can be based round a croft and the Development Team in the Crofting Commission is always on hand to support crofters with developing their crofts.
3 Which locations in Scotland will I find a croft?
Crofts can be found in Argyll & Islands, Caithness, Inverness-shire, Ross-shire, Sutherland, Orkney, Shetland, Moray, North Ayrshire, and the Western Isles.
4 Can you buy/sublet or rent the land?
Yes, crofting land can be bought and sold on the open market, but buyers must be aware that the three legal duties of a crofter must be complied with. You can also sublet or rent crofts from landlords or existing crofters, provided you follow the procedures that the Crofting Commission have in place.

More detailed information can be found on the Commission website.
5 Does someone in ownership of a property on crofting land, also own the land?
Not always, a croft is not a house. You must check with your solicitor or estate agent before purchasing land or property that is listed as being a croft to make sure you know if there is land associated with the property.
6 What does an owner-occupied croft mean?
An owner-occupied croft means that the land has been purchased and is owned by the owner-occupier. The croft remains in crofting tenure but is not tenanted in the way as landlord and tenant. The owner of the croft works the land and complies with the crofting duties themselves. There are several important matters to consider if you are thinking of becoming an owner-occupier crofter. Contact the Crofting Commission via their website for more information and support.
7 What does de-crofted mean?
De-crofted land is land that has been removed from crofting tenure. To de-croft a piece of land you must make an application to the Crofting Commission, it's important to know that not all applications for decrofting will be accepted and certain criteria must be met before an application will be approved. More detailed information on this can be found on the Commission website.
8 Can anyone buy a croft?
In some cases, yes. The Crofting Commission is not directly involved in the sale of owner-occupied crofts, which are seen commonly for sale in the open market. If you do purchase an owner-occupied croft, you will still be expected to abide by your legal duties.

In the sale of a croft tenancy the legal procedure is a little different. The outgoing tenant must submit an application to the Crofting Commission; which is called an assignation. The Commission will then assess the new tenant before making a decision on the assignation to ensure that they will be able to meet the requirements of their legal duties as a crofter.
9 Can an owner of a croft work their own land?
Yes, there are many owner-occupier crofters throughout the crofting counties, although most crofts are worked by tenants. It's very important to remember that owner occupiers must still abide by the three legal duties that crofters have.
10 Can you get a mortgage to buy a croft?
No, croft land is not mortgageable.
11 What are the usual legalities of owning a croft?
If you own a croft you must comply with the legal duties of a crofter, some owners choose to do this by letting out the croft land that they have to tenants; whilst others choose to work the land themselves. All three duties must be complied with; but it is important to remember that the Crofting Commission is always on hand to assist owners with ensuring that crofting land is being well looked after and the owner's legal responsibilities are being met.
12 What legalities are there to renting a croft?
If you rent a croft you must comply with the three legal duties of a crofter and its always best practice to ensure that you have a good relationship with your landlord. The Crofting Commission will assist and support all crofters, be them tenants or owners, to ensure that the land is being put to good use and that legal duties are being complied with.

If you'd like more information on crofting in Scotland, visit the Crofting Commission website or you can also call the HSPC team on 01463 231173.

*The information included in this page does not constitute legal advice, it is vital that parties seek their own legal advice.

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