Rising costs affecting Scotland’s unique way of life

Cattle on Skye

According to the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) crofters are changing the way they live and work due to large increases in costs.

Crofting is a tenure system described as unique in Scotland.

There are approximately 33,000 people living in squatter households across parts of the Western and Northern Isles, the Highlands, Argyll and Moray.

The SCF said that the initial results of a survey they were running were feed and fuel costs of greatest concern.

Carolyn MacPhee, a tenant farmer on Harris in the Western Isles, said she and others were trying to find ways to cut costs, including alternatives to heating oil, which many rely on for hot water. and to heat their homes.

But she said there was little savings available to farmers raising animals for sale.

She said: “If you have livestock, you can’t put them on rations. Feeding obviously affects the selling price and the weight further down the line. So it’s a battle.”

Carolyn McPhee

Carolyn MacPie is a croft tenant in the Western Isles

The SCF is collecting information on Input Costs, which closed on Wednesday, under financial pressure.

Rising animal feed costs emerged as the biggest concern so far, followed by fuel prices for vehicles and machinery and then electricity costs.

The SCF said some people have been creative in their ways of cutting costs, including using virtual fencing to reduce reliance on physical fences, which can be expensive to build and maintain.

Virtual cattle fencing involves electronic collars that give the animals a mild electric shock if they stray outside where they should be grazing.

Other solutions include farmers growing their own grain for feed, but in some areas the SCF said crops were being destroyed by overgrazing by wild geese.

He said there were other worrying developments.

A spokesman said: “Not all rising costs have a simple solution and not all solutions are available to everyone.

“Some respondents indicate that the changes they are making include reducing the number of stocking (livestock), cutting back on their own basic needs such as heating, or ending certain farming activities altogether.”

Coffee logs

Like many other crofters, Ms Nic a’ Pí has ​​various jobs as well as looking after her croft. She has a full-time job in the third sector and also works nights in a local hotel.

Rising heating oil costs to heat her traditional croft house is one of her biggest concerns and the price of filling a 1,200 liter oil tank has risen from 36 pence per unit in 2020 to 95p now.

Carolyn McPhee

Ms MacPhee said the islanders wanted to be innovative in how they heat their homes.

Ms MacPhee also has multiple heating burners, and like other islanders she is trying to find other fuels for it.

She said: “I’m collecting coffee grinders from a company to make coffee logs at home, and I have a paper brick maker which basically breaks down paper and cardboard to make bricks that you can burn.

“Because I’m a shaker I’m allowed to burn peat and I’m burning a lot more peat now than ever before.

“Before, I would cut turf as a tradition but now I’m using every scrap to keep myself warm and as an alternative to oil.”

Ms MacPhee said she had so far seen no benefit from schemes designed to help people with their energy bills.

Additional funding

The Scottish government said it was acutely aware of the cost of living pressures families and businesses, including farmers and crofters, are currently facing.

A spokesman said: “While most of the policy levers to address energy prices and inflation lie with the UK government, we are doing what we can within our limited powers.

“We have brought forward the farm payment date to September, to support the Scottish agricultural sector with cash flow.

“Over 14,000 businesses have already benefited from this change – more than £320m has been paid out in cash due to early bank account hits.”

He said additional funding would be provided to tackle fuel poverty.

The UK government said it was putting aid in place.

A spokesman said: “We recognize that people are struggling with the rising cost of living, including those who use heating oil to heat their homes.

“That’s why, as well as a £400 payment from October to March and a two-year Energy Price Guarantee for their electricity costs, we’ll be offering an extra £100 payment to off-grid households.”

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