Lifestyles and livelihoods based on woodlands are traditional in many parts of the world, but are currently rare in Scotland. Woodland crofts are an opportunity for individuals and communities to build lives and livelihoods based on the woodland resource, and the approach to management taken by woodland crofters is expected to deliver increased social, economic and environmental benefits.
A croft is a unit of land subject to the Crofting Acts. Crofting is a system of land tenure that applies in the crofting counties (and in other parts of Scotland in areas designated by an order made by Ministers). It is regulated and supported by the Crofters Commission.
Traditionally crofting has been based primarily on agriculture, often supplemented by other sources of income. The Crofting Reform Act 2007 however amended existing crofting legislation and introduced some significant changes. These included the ability for new crofts to be created, and also for crofts to be put to a 'purposeful use' other than cultivation.
As a result it is now possible to create crofts from existing woodlands, manage them as woodland and run woodland-related businesses from them.
Although it is anticipated that woodland crofts will always involve an element of woodland management, the exact nature and extent of this is not prescribed. Whilst there are constraints on how a woodland is managed at the whole woodland scale, there is considerable flexibility for individual woodland croft tenants to manage their crofts to meet their own needs and aspirations.
The main mechanism for establishing woodland crofts is expected to be through purchase of woodland from the Forestry Commission by a community body under the National Forest Land Scheme (NFLS), and the subsequent creation of crofts, although other possibilities exist.