It’s been a fantastically busy year with Scottish Rural Action, an organisation working with members and partners at community, regional and national levels to:
- Build a grassroots-led rural movement in Scotland that connects rural communities with each other and with politicians and decision-makers;
- Collaborate with seldom-heard groups to create platforms that better enable their participation in the rural movement;
- Collectively develop a cross-sectoral, locally informed understanding of rural Scotland’s economy, society and culture that shapes local practice and national policy;
- Deliver the biennial Scottish Rural Parliament and a Rural and Island Manifesto for Scotland.
Following the virtual Scottish Rural Parliament in 2021, where in total, 1,500 people participated, there were 90+ discreet recommendations made, which SRA has sought to progress over the course of the last year, working with many other rural individuals and organisations to do so. These recommendations have included working on the topics of planning, economy, transport, tourism, equality, and youth participation. Each topic has required different tools and ways of working, including data collection, consultation responses, event organising, presenting to Scottish Parliament committees, organising peer-to-peer networks and campaigning for particular policy changes. Throughout all of these topics we have worked in close collaboration with a range of rural and island stakeholders and organisations, and we are hugely for this: it continues to motivate us year after year.
Somehow in amongst that we have also found the time to respond to a multitude of consultation responses, present to the UK Select Committee, organise several in-person, hybrid and online events, campaign on key issues such as fuel poverty, and have regular meetings with the Scottish Government and the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands. We even presented at the European Rural Parliament in Poland and the OECD Conference in Ireland, as well as attended various meetings and events in Scotland and across the rest of the UK.
Much of our work could not have progressed without the ongoing support of the Scottish Government, particularly the Rural Communities Team and Scottish Rural Network, who have offered both a listening ear, objective analysis and additional resources for the work SRA carried out. We are enormously grateful for their assistance and belief in our organisation.
Overall, we have felt inspired by what is going on in rural and island communities and motivated to see the sustained resilience of people after several lockdowns and during challenging socio-political circumstances in a cost-of-living crisis. Next year, we aim to progress more of our campaigns, particularly around fuel poverty, and respond in inclusive ways to Scottish Government policymaking whilst also being proactive as to how rural and island communities can better be supported. We are planning the next Scottish Rural Parliament in November 2023, and we look forward to working with many folk in organising this and actioning many of its recommendations.
Some key learnings from this year include: if there is a will, there is a way, but get others involved, and that way will be much easier and fun! Good communication is key, and positive storytelling is such an important tool for rural and island Scotland: this region holds many solutions to some of the key challenges facing us. Finally, teamwork makes the dream work: we are so delighted to have worked with many others on key rural and island issues, and we really look forward to progressing the rural movement with you all in 2023.