Contemporary rural change and the enactment of common property rights : the case of crofting common grazings
Using the empirical example of crafting common grazings in Scotland, [this study] examines the way contemporary change - characterised in a European context by economic restructuring, socio-cultural recomposition and a changing policy framework - influences the ways in which historically enduring common property rights over land are asserted, contested, secured and undermined by various individuals and groups. Using a preliminary postal survey and in-depth case studies, it was found that rural change has profound implications for the ways in which common grazings rights are exercised and valued. The overall trend has been towards declining levels of use, involvement and regulation. The changing and predominantly diminishing opportunities to make a significant contribution to livelihoods, in either subsistence or monetary terms, has made common grazings less economically important to shareholders. Nevertheless, a minority of cases that have maintained levels of use and involvement demonstrate that common grazings rights can still be of importance to shareholders in securing a range of social, environmental and economic benefits. The reason this is not replicated more universally relates to the social, situated process of common property enactment which is caught up in a broader, morally charged struggle over the material and conceptual territory of 'crofting': what crafting ought to be, and; whom it should involve and benefit. By exploring the discursive means by which shareholders draw boundaries of inclusion and exclusion between people and practices, the study illustrates how shareholders negotiating and contesting who has the superior moral right to particular legal rights has important material consequences, both locally, in terms of realising livelihood and rural development opportunities, and more broadly, in terms of the provision of public goods. Since the common property literature focuses almost exclusively on tragedies of overexploitation, this thesis highlights the need for, and begins to develop, a theoretical basis from which more typically first-world common issues can be understood.