First Minister Humza Yousaf visited the Nevis Centre in Fort William today and pledged funding of around £80,000 to the Rural & Islands Parliament, Scotland’s grassroots assembly of rural and island communities, which will take place on 1st to 3rd November.
Rural & Island Parliaments are held every two years in different locations including Oban, Brechin, Stranraer, and online in 2021, attracting hundreds of participants. Supported by the Scottish Government and delivered by a partnership of over forty organisations, coordinated by Scottish Rural Action and the Scottish Islands Federation, they showcase rural and island community-led projects, and help ensure communities have their voices heard in local and national decision-making.
This year’s overarching theme – Village Halls and Community Spaces – makes the community-run Nevis Centre, which acts as a hub for people in and around For William, an ideal host venue. The First Minister was shown around the Nevis Centre’s facilities, and introduced to some of the local organisations that use them.
As well as the overarching theme, participants in November will discuss topics including transport, food production, childcare, the climate emergency and the cost of living crisis. The discussions will feed into the Scottish Government’s emerging Rural Delivery Plan and the review of the National Islands Plan. They will also feed into the European Rural Parliament in September 2024, maintaining Scotland’s deep connection with institutions and organisations in Europe.
Speaking at the Nevis Centre, First Minister Humza Yousaf said:
“When I became First Minister, I promised to lead Scotland in the interests of all of our people – and to listen and work with anyone and everyone who shares my vision of a fairer Scotland.
“I believe, therefore, that it is vital that rural and island communities and businesses have a say in decisions that affect them. The Scottish Rural and Islands Parliament – the only rural parliament in the UK – provides an important opportunity for people who work and live in these areas to have their voices heard.
“The discussions and views aired will help to inform Scottish Government policy-making. Indeed, discussions at previous Rural Parliaments helped to shape the concept of 20-minute neighbourhoods within the National Planning Framework.
“The most recent Scottish Rural Parliament in 2021 hosted a democratic assembly of over 600 participants from across rural Scotland. I would encourage anyone with an interest to sign up for this year’s event and to make what I am sure will be very valuable contributions to the discussions on the future of Scotland’s rural and island communities.”
Speaking on behalf of the coordinating organisations, Theona Morrison, Chair of Scottish Rural Action expressed her thanks to the Nevis Centre for hosting this year’s Rural & Islands Parliament and to the many organisations who will partner to deliver it. She continued:
“Rural and island places make up 98% of our country’s landmass. They are the locus of our natural assets, of our capacity to produce food and generate energy, and of a rich enterprising, cultural and linguistic tapestry. We have an opportunity now, including through the first-ever Scottish Rural & Islands Youth Parliament, to shine a light on the solutions that rural and islands communities offer to global challenges, including climate change. We look forward to sharing these solutions with the First Minister after the November event, and to working with the Scottish Government to build the resilience and sustainability of our rural and island places from the Borders and Lothians, to Shetland; and to make these solutions a reality.”
The Scottish Rural Parliament is a member of the European-wide network of Rural Parliaments. Each event is hosted by a different rural community - Oban in 2014, Brechin in 2016, Stranraer in 2018 and virtually in 2021. The programme is shaped by a wide range of rural and island organisations.
The Scottish Government has, since 2014, awarded over £900,000 to SRA to support the Rural Parliament and develop a grass-roots rural movement that connects Scotland’s rural communities with each other and with politicians and decision-makers.
The Rural and Islands Parliament will be an in-person gathering hosted by the Nevis Centre on 1-3 November 2023.