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Crofting

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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 were established on the better land, and a large area of poorer-quality hill ground was shared by all the crofters of the township for grazing of their livestock.[3]

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Land tenure

Land tenure

In common law systems, land tenure, from the French verb "tenir" means "to hold", is the legal regime in which land owned by an individual is possessed by someone else who is said to "hold" the land, based on an agreement between both individuals. It determines who can use land, for how long and under what conditions. Tenure may be based both on official laws and policies, and on informal local customs. In other words, land tenure implies a system according to which land is held by an individual or the actual tiller of the land but this person does not have legal ownership. It determines the holder's rights and responsibilities in connection with their holding. The sovereign monarch, known in England as The Crown, held land in its own right. All land holders are either its tenants or sub-tenants. Tenure signifies a legal relationship between tenant and lord, arranging the duties and rights of tenant and lord in relationship to the land. Over history, many different forms of land tenure, i.e., ways of holding land, have been established.

Scottish Highlands

Scottish Highlands

The Highlands is a historical region of Scotland. Culturally, the Highlands and the Lowlands diverged from the Late Middle Ages into the modern period, when Lowland Scots replaced Scottish Gaelic throughout most of the Lowlands. The term is also used for the area north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault, although the exact boundaries are not clearly defined, particularly to the east. The Great Glen divides the Grampian Mountains to the southeast from the Northwest Highlands. The Scottish Gaelic name of A' Ghàidhealtachd literally means "the place of the Gaels" and traditionally, from a Gaelic-speaking point of view, includes both the Western Isles and the Highlands.

Isle of Man

Isle of Man

The Isle of Man, also known as Mann, is a self-governing Crown Dependency in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. As head of state, Charles III holds the title Lord of Mann and is represented by a Lieutenant Governor. The government of the United Kingdom is responsible for the isle's military defence and represents it abroad.

Croft (land)

Croft (land)

A croft is a fenced or enclosed area of land, usually small and arable, and usually, but not always, with a crofter's dwelling thereon. A crofter is one who has tenure and use of the land, typically as a tenant farmer, especially in rural areas.

Practice

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 hectares (5–12+12 acres) of in-bye[4] for better quality forage, arable and vegetable production. Each township manages poorer-quality hill ground as common grazing for cattle and sheep.[5]

Land use in the crofting counties is constrained by climate, soils, and topography. Since the late 20th century, the government has classified virtually all of the agricultural land in the Highlands and Islands as Severely Disadvantaged, under the terms of the Less Favoured Area (LFA) Directive, yet these areas still receive the lowest LFA payments.[6] Most crofters cannot survive economically by crofting agriculture alone, and they pursue a number of other activities to earn their livelihood.[7]

Despite its challenges, crofting is important to the Highlands and Islands. In 2014–2015 there were 19,422 crofts, with 15,388 crofters.[8] Some crofters have the tenancy of more than one croft, and in-croft absenteeism means that tenancies are held but crofts are not farmed. About 33,000 family members lived in crofting households,[8] or around 10% of the population of the Highlands and Islands. Crofting households represented around 30% of 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).[9] Crofting is regulated by the Crofting Commission.

Requirements

Tenants and owner-occupier crofters are required to comply with a range of duties specified in sections 5AA to 5C and 19C of the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 as amended. There is a duty to be ordinarily resident within 32 km of the croft. If the croft is the sole dwelling and the crofter's family are residents while the croft is away this would probably be accepted as ordinarily resident. Other circumstances involving other places of residence would require to be assessed individually. In addition to the duty of residential tenants and owner-occupiers crofters are required to ensure the croft is cultivated, maintained and not neglected or misused.[10]

History

Crofting communities were a product of the Highland Clearances (though individual crofts had existed before the clearances). They replaced the farms or bailtean, which had common grazing and arable open fields operated on the run rig system. This change was typically associated with two things. Firstly the tacksmen were steadily eliminated over the last quarter of the 18th century. A tacksman (a member of the daoine uaisle, sometimes described as "gentry" in English) was the holder of a lease or "tack" from the landowner. Where a lease was for a baile, the tacksman usually sublet to the farming tenants and may have provided some management oversight. By preventing this section of society from sub-letting, the landlords obtained all of the rent paid by those who worked the land. Secondly, landowners replaced the older farming methods with pastoral systems. In early cases, these were based on cattle. Much more common was the introduction of extensive sheep farms. In many clearances, the tenants of inland farms were moved to crofting communities in coastal areas, leaving the land they had left for sheep. This type of clearance was carried out mostly until the 1820s.

The crofts created by clearance were not intended to support all the needs of those who lived there and consequently were restricted in size to a few acres of arable land with surrounding shared grazing. Landlords intended their crofting tenants to work in various industries, such as fishing or kelp. A contemporary estimate was that a crofter needed to carry out 200 days of work away from his croft in order to avoid destitution. In the second half of the 19th century, many crofters provided a substantial migrant workforce, especially for lowland farms.

Crofting communities were badly hit by the Highland Potato Famine. The small arable plots had meant that the potato was an essential crop, due to its high productivity. The arrival of potato blight (and the collapse of the kelp industry a few years before) made some crofting communities inviable. This gave rise to the second phase of the Highland Clearances, when many tenants left the Highlands, often emigrating.[11]: 45–49 

In the 21st century, crofting is found predominantly in the rural Western and Northern Isles and in the coastal fringes of the western and northern Scottish mainland.[12]

The Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Act 1886 provided for security of tenure, a key issue as most crofters remain tenants.[13] 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.[14]

Croft work was hard, back-breaking work which yielded a subsistence living.[15]

Crofters were given the right to purchase their individual crofts in 1976. In 2003, as part of the Land Reform Act, crofting community bodies were provided with the right to purchase eligible croft land associated with the local crofting community.

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Highland Clearances

Highland Clearances

The Highland Clearances were the evictions of a significant number of tenants in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, mostly in two phases from 1750 to 1860.

Run rig

Run rig

Run rig, or runrig, also known as rig-a-rendal, was a system of land tenure practised in Scotland, particularly in the Highlands and Islands. It was used on open fields for arable farming.

Pastoral farming

Pastoral farming

Pastoral farming is aimed at producing livestock, rather than growing crops. Examples include dairy farming, raising beef cattle, and raising sheep for wool. In contrast, arable farming concentrates on crops rather than livestock. Finally, mixed farming incorporates livestock and crops on a single farm. Some mixed farmers grow crops purely as fodder for their livestock; some crop farmers grow fodder and sell it. In some cases pastoral farmers are known as graziers, and in some cases pastoralists. Pastoral farming is a non-nomadic form of pastoralism in which the livestock farmer has some form of ownership of the land used, giving the farmer more economic incentive to improve the land. Unlike other pastoral systems, pastoral farmers are sedentary and do not change locations in search of fresh resources. Rather, pastoral farmers adjust their pastures to fit the needs of their animals. Improvements include drainage, stock tanks, irrigation and sowing clover.

Highland Potato Famine

Highland Potato Famine

The Highland Potato Famine was a period of 19th-century Highland and Scottish history over which the agricultural communities of the Hebrides and the western Scottish Highlands saw their potato crop repeatedly devastated by potato blight. It was part of the wider food crisis facing Northern Europe caused by potato blight during the mid-1840s, whose most famous manifestation is the Great Irish Famine, but compared with its Irish counterpart, it was much less extensive and took many fewer lives as prompt and major charitable efforts by the rest of the United Kingdom ensured relatively little starvation. The terms on which charitable relief was given, however, led to destitution and malnutrition amongst its recipients. A government enquiry could suggest no short-term solution other than reduction of the population of the area at risk by emigration to Canada or Australia. Highland landlords organised and paid for the emigration of more than 16,000 of their tenants and a significant but unknown number paid for their own passage. Evidence suggests that the majority of Highlanders who permanently left the famine-struck regions emigrated, rather than moving to other parts of Scotland. It is estimated that about a third of the population of the western Scottish Highlands emigrated between 1841 and 1861.

Phytophthora infestans

Phytophthora infestans

Phytophthora infestans is an oomycete or water mold, a fungus-like microorganism that causes the serious potato and tomato disease known as late blight or potato blight. Early blight, caused by Alternaria solani, is also often called "potato blight". Late blight was a major culprit in the 1840s European, the 1845–1852 Irish, and the 1846 Highland potato famines. The organism can also infect some other members of the Solanaceae. The pathogen is favored by moist, cool environments: sporulation is optimal at 12–18 °C (54–64 °F) in water-saturated or nearly saturated environments, and zoospore production is favored at temperatures below 15 °C (59 °F). Lesion growth rates are typically optimal at a slightly warmer temperature range of 20 to 24 °C.

Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003

Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 is an Act of the Scottish Parliament which establishes statutory public rights of access to land and makes provisions under which bodies representing rural and crofting communities may buy land.

Source: "Crofting", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2023, January 10th), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crofting.

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References
  1. ^ Chambers's encyclopaedia: a dictionary of universal knowledge for the people. Vol. 3 (revised ed.). W. and R. Chambers. 1901. p. 575. Retrieved 1 August 2009.
  2. ^ "Farmers & Crofting". Manx National Heritage. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
  3. ^ "crofting scotland sheep - Google Search". www.google.ca. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  4. ^ Pertaining to the direction towards the house.
  5. ^ MacColl, Allan W. (1 January 2006). Land, Faith and the Crofting Community: Christianity and Social Criticism in the Highlands of Scotland, 1843-1893. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748623822.
  6. ^ The review of the less favoured areas scheme: 13th report of session 2008-09, report with evidence. The Stationery Office. 4 June 2009. ISBN 9780108444357.
  7. ^ Byron, Reginald; Hutson, John (1 August 1999). Local enterprises on the North Atlantic margin: selected contributions to the Fourteenth International Seminar on Marginal Regions. Ashgate. ISBN 9781840149326.
  8. ^ a b "Crofting facts and figures". Crofting Commission. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  9. ^ Doogan, John; Girvan, Edith (1 January 2004). Changing life in Scotland and Britain: 1830s-1930s. Heinemann. ISBN 9780435326920.
  10. ^ "FAQ | Crofting Commission". www.crofting.scotland.gov.uk.
  11. ^ Devine, T M (1994). Clanship to Crofters' War: The social transformation of the Scottish Highlands (2013 ed.). Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-9076-9.
  12. ^ Collins Encyclopedia of Scotland (revised ed.). edited by John Keay and Julia Keay. 2000. pp. 205–206. ISBN 9780007103539. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  13. ^ "Crofters Holdings (Scotland) Act 1886". Legislation.gov.uk.
  14. ^ McAllister, Angus (26 February 2013). Scottish Law of Leases. A&C Black. ISBN 9781847665669.
  15. ^ Lynn Abrams Myth and Materiality in a Woman's World: Shetland 1800-2000 0719065925 2005 "As the nineteenth-century visitors correctly observed, croft work was hard, back-breaking work which yielded a subsistence living at best. The small agricultural holdings tenanted by most rural Shetlanders in the nineteenth century consisted of a dwelling, a small area of arable or cultivable ground (which, while runrig was still practised, could be scattered and fragmented around"
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