AN unprecedented data-gathering exercise seeking the views of owners and operators of Scotland’s 18,000 crofts has been launched to establish the state of the industry.
The Crofting Commission, based in Inverness, is sending out a census to collect information which they hope will help take the industry forward.
It will be used to guide the Scottish government and other agencies in their work to preserve the way of life.
Crofters are legally obliged to complete the census forms and return them within three months.
The Crofting Commission is asking for information on what crofters do with their croft and any common grazing share.
Chief executive Catriona MacLean said: “The Crofting Census will increase information gathered from crofters and owner-occupier crofters enabling us to work together.
“The Census will allow the Commission to show the value of crofting not only to the Scottish economy, but also in building sustainable communities and contributing to population retention.
“The Census forms are quick and easy to complete and come with comprehensive guidance notes.
“The Commission has set up a dedicated helpline to support crofters in completing their Census forms and full details, including FAQs, can be found on our website.”
The census aims to establish a clear picture of the current state of crofting and enable the Commission to use the information to advise the Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Parliament and other agencies of the value of crofting and its contribution to life in Scotland.
With the information provided, the Commission hopes to be able to better understand and raise issues facing the future of crofting.
The Commission is promoting self-regulation and the census will allow crofters to better understand their responsibilities in fulfilling their duties.
The body says self-regulation would provide more control and management over their croft and community.
Susan Walker, Convener for the Crofting Commission, said: “Crofting is a form of land tenure unique to Scotland and one we should be proud of, with the potential to be a major driver for economic, social and cultural growth.
“Regulation is there to protect this precious asset for present and future generations.
“The Census will highlight various possibilities available to crofters in complying with their duties and the Commission will be on hand to advise on the options they may wish to consider.”
Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse supported the mammoth census operation.
He said: “If we are to ensure the best policies are developed to guarantee a sustainable, prosperous and exciting future for our crofting and crofters, it is essential we have as accurate an understanding of the current profile of crofting and crofters’ wellbeing.
“I welcome the action in gathering this information from crofters across the country.
“The data taken from this exercise will contribute towards optimising Scottish Government crofting policies and the work of the Crofting Commission in effectively regulating crofting and delivering a bright future for crofting for generations to come – something we all want to see.”
The commission claims the annual census will allow them to gather an evidence base which will grow year on year, helping to develop the case for crofting.
The census aims to allow crofters to contribute to shaping the future of their crofting community.
Crofters are being urged by the Commission to make their contribution count by ensuring that they complete and return the census forms.
The Census is a record of activity on every croft across Scotland and a form must be completed for each croft held.