Crofting Reform: From Research to Policy and Practice
Submitting InstitutionNewcastle University
Unit of AssessmentArchitecture, Built Environment and Planning
Summary Impact TypePolitical
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Human Geography, Policy and Administration, Sociology
Summary of the impact
The Crofting Reform Act 2010 and Scottish Government's Policy Statement
on Crofting 2008 implemented the main recommendations of the report of the
Committee of Inquiry on the Future of Crofting, chaired by Professor Mark
Shucksmith. The Inquiry itself was an example of a co-production approach
to the generation of knowledge for legal and policy application. The
report, in turn, was informed: by work of CRE researchers at Newcastle
University in the 1990s and 2000s on "neo-endogenous rural development";
by theories and studies of "collaborative planning" developed by planning
researchers in Newcastle University; and by Shucksmith's work, often
synthesising the two, from 2005. This body of research informed a major
overhaul of crofting legislation and governance in Scotland aimed at
reversing the decline of crofting as a social practice with major
territorial effects, and is actively debated in other countries as an
appropriate approach to rural development.
The concept of neo-endogenous rural development was first elaborated in
the 1990s in the Centre for Rural Economy (CRE) by Philip Lowe (Professor,
1995-) (1), Neil Ward (Research Associate/Lecturer/Professor,
1993-2001, 2004-2008) (1), Jonathan Murdoch (Research Fellow,
1992-1995) (1), and Christopher Ray (Research Fellow 1996-2007) (2,
3) in order to explain emerging evidence about the nature of rural
development in Europe. This work has been developed further since 2005 by
Mark Shucksmith (Professor, 2005-), working across the School of
Architecture, Planning and Landscape (APL) and CRE, refining and promoting
both the conceptual framework and its implementation in policy and
practice (4, 5).
The concept of neo-endogenous rural development critiqued both the
dominant model of `top-down', exogenous development (exemplified by the EU
Common Agricultural Policy) and transformed the model of `bottom-up',
endogenous development, based on local, participative approaches. It
proposed instead a `networked' model of development, acknowledging that
both local and extra-local factors are critical to processes of rural
development and it developed and populated a new conceptual framework that
has informed far-reaching analytical and normative responses. This
framework stressed the role of human and social capital and the dynamics
by which it accumulates in individuals, businesses and organisations.
Shucksmith (4) pointed out the affinities of this model with
Healey's (Professor, Emeritus Professor) collaborative planning approach (6),
and specifically with the concept of institutional capacity, and he
proposed concepts of `networked development' and `disintegrated rural
development' which brought together these two literatures and schools of
thought. The result was an emphasis on: mobilising local actors and
communities in place-shaping; a focusing of attention on the
`mobilisation' process, in particular, on the role of the state as an
enabler of locally controlled development; and, in addressing issues of
inequality and capacity. There is a risk with bottom-up development that
it exacerbates inequality because there is an unequal capacity to act
between local place-based communities, and because, within communities,
powerful elites can capture most of the benefit. For Shucksmith, there is
a crucial role for the state in engaging in capacity building so that
local actors are enabled to influence both local and extra-local domains (4).
In summary, the networked (neo-endogenous) approach to rural development
- the mobilisation of assets (tangible and intangible, human and
non-human), both within and outwith the locality;
- the building of capacity to act, both amongst individuals but
especially collectively in terms of the capacity of people within an
area to work together towards a shared vision of their future;
- networks which connect people within and beyond the locality; and
- an enabling state, with appropriate cross-sectoral and partnership
working at all levels with a culture of institutional learning at its
It is important to note that this body of research develops both a
conceptual framework and a normative agenda: it not only analyses what is
underway in some rural places, but also promotes it as a means of `doing'
rural development in other areas. Recently, Shucksmith has been the main
academic advocate of Newcastle's networked development approach, bringing
the arguments to a wider, non-academic audience, most recently through the
Carnegie UK Trust's publication of his report, Future Directions in Rural
Development (October 2012) and lectures such as his 2008 Macaulay Lecture
(Available in audio online at http://www.macaulay.ac.uk/MacaulayLecture/2008/)
and his 2013 address at the House of Lords. The invitation to Chair the
Inquiry into Crofting hence provided him with the opportunity to put into
practice what he was advocating in terms of the networked development
References to the research
1. Lowe, P., Murdoch, J. and Ward, N. (1995) Beyond endogenous and
exogenous models: Networks in rural development, in J.D. van der Ploeg and
G. van Dijk (eds) Beyond Modernisation: the impact of Endogenous Rural
Development. Assen, The Netherlands: van Gorcum, pp.87-105.
Available from HEI on request.
3. Ray, C. (2006) Neo-endogenous rural development in the EU. In Cloke,
P, Marsden, T, Mooney, P (eds) Handbook of Rural Studies, London,
Sage. Available from HEI on request.
4. Shucksmith, M. (2010) Disintegrated rural development? Neo-endogenous
rural development, planning and place-shaping in diffused power contexts.
Sociologia Ruralis 50 (1), 1-14. REF2 output: 139216. Note: draft
paper first presented at Waseda University, Tokyo, 2005, and at ESRS XXI
Congress, Keszthely, Hungary, 2005, so preceding Crofting Inquiry.
5. Shucksmith M and Rønningen K (2011) The Uplands after Neoliberalism?
The role of the small farm in rural sustainability, Journal of Rural
Studies, 27, 275-287. REF2 output: 170871.
6. Healey P (2006) Collaborative Planning: Shaping Places in
Fragmented Societies, MacMillan, 2nd Edition. [First
edition published in 1997; Google Scholar: 3061@ 16.10.2013]. Available
from HEI on request.
Details of the impact
An important opportunity to put the networked rural development approach
into practice on a significant scale arose in 2007, when Mark Shucksmith
was appointed Chair of the Scottish Government's Committee of Inquiry into
Crofting. Crofting is a distinctive and highly regulated form of land
tenure specific to the northern half of Scotland. It is also a cultural
heritage of major international significance. At the same time, there have
been years of decline in crofting and the Shucksmith Inquiry was charged
with ensuring it had a future.
Principles of networked rural development were central to the approach
and conduct of the Inquiry and the Inquiry Report, and thereby impacted on
the Scottish Government's Crofting Policy (2008) and the Crofting Reform
(Scotland) Act 2010 and are beginning to impact on changes in crofting
governance and to crofters lives. The networked rural development approach
was operationalized in the Inquiry as: allowing people in places more
control over the decisions made about them, and in the state adopting a
more enabling role.
The approach and conduct of the Inquiry during 2007 and 2008 was shaped
by Shucksmith's commitment to applying the insights from the research on
networked rural development. The Inquiry commissioned a review of evidence
of the effectiveness of rural development approaches from a researcher at
Newcastle University (Atterton), which summarised the contributions made
by researchers in CRE and elsewhere in developing the concept of
neo-endogenous rural development. Such knowledge from academia and other
`experts', though, was matched by a valorisation of the knowledge of local
people through a programme of local meetings which allowed them a
collective voice. The Director of the Scottish Crofting Foundation (now
Federation) was quoted in The Herald as saying "There is no doubt the
authentic voice of Scottish crofters is in this report" (IMP1).
The 2008 Inquiry report itself is explicit in drawing attention to the
Atterton research, with a summary of the commissioned review of research
forming one section of the Inquiry report (IMP2), and the
underpinning research explicitly referenced. Briefly, the Inquiry report
proposed local mobilisation and community empowerment in respect of both
regulation and development, supported by generative state action and by
refocused managerial technologies which would operate to encourage local
strategies and initiatives. These proposals illustrate how neo-endogenous
rural development and place-shaping might proceed in practice. Using the
neo-endogenous approach, the Inquiry sought to build the capacity of
crofting communities to mobilise strategically and collaboratively,
empowering communities at various levels.
The Environment Minister, responding to the Inquiry report (IMP3),
drew contrasts with the 1954 Taylor Inquiry into Crofting which emphasised
the need for initiative to come from outwith the crofting communities in
order to bring about change, a clear acknowledgement of its exogenous
development approach. Referring to the Shucksmith report he emphasised its
contrasting networked development approach: "The principles of localism
and communality are central to the report's recommendations and, like the
committee of inquiry, I believe they are at the heart of crofting. The
Government believes strongly in empowering communities to take control of
their own destinies and in enabling people to make the plans and take the
decisions that affect them and their communities". He went on to say that
any new governance structures should facilitate local input, reflecting
the need for supportive external networks for neo-endogenous development.
The Inquiry itself, the report, and the processes leading to policy and
governance change and enactment have stimulated debate, between local
people in meetings, in the media, and in the Scottish Parliament, so
extending the impact of the Newcastle research. As identified by a former
Chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), "Many of the
Shucksmith Report's proposals have been implemented in subsequent
legislation — which has resulted, as the report recommended, in the
formation of a largely elected Crofting Commission and in more vigorous
action being taken to deal with problems such as those arising from
crofter absenteeism and neglect of holdings" (IMP4). The changes
to crofting law and governance emanating from the Shucksmith report are to
be found in the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010; the setting up of an
elected Crofting Commission in 2012 to replace the appointed Crofters
Commission; responsibility being passed to HIE for crofting development;
and implementation of a new definitive map-based crofting register.
The Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 (IMP5, IMP6) in
particular enacts the proposals in the Shucksmith Report for radical
measures to extend the `place-shaping' neo-endogenous rural development
approach beyond those areas in which community buy-outs had occurred under
the earlier land reform legislation. The new Crofting Commission has six
of its nine Commissioners elected by Crofters, and sees its regulatory
role as having "the potential to create stronger, more resilient,
ambitious, sustainable and culturally rich communities, and a well-managed
landscape and environment in the crofting areas" (Crofting Commission,
para 20) (IMP7), so emphasising its focus on communities rather
than simply on individual crofters' rights. HIE has accommodated its new
crofting development responsibilities in its Strengthening Communities
division alongside the Community Land Unit, so underlining the commitment
of the new governance arrangements to empowered people in places, as
recommended in the Shucksmith Report.
The new systems of governance are still very new, but participatory
cultures are emerging: crofters are beginning to engage with processes
which seek to involve them in determining their futures (e.g., the
election of crofters onto the new Crofting Commission with local turnouts
of between a third and a half of crofters (IMP8)); and measures
are being introduced to encourage crofters to engage in local collective
action (e.g., the Scottish Government's encouragement of voluntary,
community-led mapping and registration rather than mandatory registration
by individuals (IMP9). A former Chairman of HIE said "the overall
outcome [of the Shucksmith Inquiry] has been to give crofting a more
assured future." (IMP4). Similarly, the Minister told the Scottish
Parliament that "crofting is in a perilous state and we have an obligation
to ensure that it carries on into future generations. Mark Shucksmith and
his colleagues have done us a great service in helping us to ensure that
it does" (IMP3).
While crofting is specific to Scotland, and the impact of the networked
development research can be tracked through the conduct of the Inquiry,
the Report findings, the policy and governance changes, and to the
engagement of crofters in determining their futures, in Scotland, the
underpinning research and the Inquiry's work have had influence beyond
this jurisdiction. The Irish Government recently launched an Inquiry into
land reform in rural Ireland, modelled on the Crofting Inquiry's work, and
presentations on both the research and the Crofting Inquiry's proposals
have been of interest to policy and practice users in Norway (Nationen,
9 September 2009, p.18) and England. In 2013, the report of the Crofting
Inquiry was translated into Japanese (IMP2) because "Japan is a
country of peasants and community and is suffering from the same problems,
such as absenteeism. Grappling with the land problem in Scotland is a very
instructive experience to our society" (IMP10).
Sources to corroborate the impact
IMP1 The Herald, Leader article, 10 August 2009. Available
IMP2 Committee of Inquiry on Crofting (2008) Final Report,
Edinburgh, Scottish Government. (ISBN 978-0-7559-5723-1). Available at:
Translated into Japanese by Mitsuyoshi Ando and published by the
University of Tokyo, as
全国農地保有合理化協会『土地と農業 No.43(2013) (ISSN 0287-0053).
IMP3 Official Report, Scottish Parliament, 15th May
2008, columns 8620-8624. Available at:
IMP4 Personal communication from former Chairman of HIE
(1998-2004), founding Director of the Scottish Crofters Union (1987), and
best-selling author of `The Making of the Crofting Community'.
IMP5 Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010.
IMP6 The Scottish Government News. Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/releases.
For example, news stories on 19 May 2009, 5 January 2010, 10 March 2010,
13 May 2010, 2 July 2010.
IMP7 Crofting Commission (c2013) Policy Plan. Available at:
IMP8 Crofting Commission — details of commissioners. Available at:
IMP9 The Scottish Government, Crofting Policy. Available at:
IMP10 Personal Communication, Professor, University of Tokyo.