The Crofting Commission has witnessed a significant increase in new entrants to crofting with more than 500 from across Scotland joining the sector in the year to March 2023.
Despite huge uncertainty in the industry, this marks a five-year high, with 510 new entrants recorded in 2022/23, 45% of which are women and 29% under the age of 41.
Malcolm Matheson, convenor of the Crofting Commission said: “These figures are not just encouraging, they represent a shot in the arm for rural communities facing depopulation challenges.
“It’s clear that crofting continues to offer exciting opportunities for people seeking a rewarding and sustainable lifestyle.
“I look forward to visiting new crofters and witnessing firsthand how crofting contributes to the economic and social fabric of the Highlands and Islands.”
Minister for Energy and Environment Gillian Martin MSP also praised the latest figures from the Crofting Commission.
She said: “I am delighted to see, yet again, that the Crofting Commission is reporting a healthy number of new entrants into crofting.
“Attracting and providing opportunities for new crofters is critical to its future. It is pleasing to note that 46% of new entrants are women and 29% are aged under 41.
“It is encouraging to see such a healthy number of new people embracing crofting. This is testament to the vibrancy and potential of this sector, and I am particularly pleased to see more women and young people getting involved.
“The Scottish Government is committed to supporting crofting and its role in rural communities. We will continue to work closely with the Crofting Commission to create opportunities for new entrants.”
The Crofting Commission regulates over 21,000 crofts across Scotland and supports new entrants through development and grazings teams.
It also oversees the creation of new crofts, including recent woodland crofts on the Isle of Mull.
The Highland area has seen a total of 211 new crofters.
This breaks down to 91 females, 109 males, 151 aged 41 and over, and 8 aged 40 and under.
Orkney has welcomed two new crofters and Shetland has 50 new crofters, 25 of which are female, 36 aged 41 and over, and 14 aged 40 and under.
Meanwhile, the Western Isles has 215 new crofters.
Of this total, 93 are female, 151 are aged 41 and over, and 64 are aged 40 and under.