North West of Scotland and Western Norway
: A comparative study of factors which can impact on small-scale agriculture within similar peripheral communities

  • Gavin Christopher Parsons

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by OU/Aberdeen)


The research project was undertaken to investigate factors which might contribute to sustaining or strengthening small-scale agriculture as a part of resilient rural communities in west coast Scotland and Norway. The reasons for an increasing concern at government level about food security, as part of the multifunctionality of agriculture, are discussed as a background to the study. Case-study areas were identified in each country, Trotternish in Skye, which is mainly under crofting tenure, and Askvoll, in Sogn og Fjordane on the west coast of Norway where owner-occupied farms are of a similar size to the Trotternish crofts. These case-study areas were examined through statistics, to determine the extent of changes in agricultural practice since 1970, and this was then compared with the impressions from small-scale farmers from the two areas, to try to unravel the complex combinations of factors which had produced these changes. Factors examined included land tenure systems, governance at local, national and international level, agricultural policy, and traditional, cultural, social and communal practices. The role of social capital was considered in relation to the various types of cooperative working which occur in each study-area. Diversification as a strategy for increasing viability was considered as were the prospects for the next generation. Findings include the small part played by land ownership in land-use decisions in these areas, due to the particular security of crofting tenure and the regulation of farm purchase in Norway; that the closeness of local governance to communities has only a small effect on agriculture and that tradition plays a part in the continuation of small-scale agriculture, particularly in Trotternish. The thesis concludes that communal practices show particular strengths in various types of social capital and that agricultural policy-makers should consult more closely with small-scale farmers and address support to these strengths.
Date of Award26 Nov 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh
SponsorsUHI Millennium Institute
SupervisorGillian Munro (Supervisor) & Robert Stradling (Supervisor)

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