Thank you to everyone who completed Round One of our survey into the impact of Covid-19 on rural communities. We have now published our report which you can download here.
More than 500 people took part, representing every local authority area in Scotland with a rural population. This was a phenomenal response and it has meant politicians and decisions makers have taken notice of your views and recommendations.
Vanessa Halhead, Acting Chair of Scottish Rural Action, commented:
“The findings paint a vivid picture of the extraordinary response of rural communities to the pandemic and the lockdown, and it provides clear direction for how government can support rural recovery.
“The overarching finding was that thinking, resourcing and acting local is critically important. Rural communities are diverse and complex in their needs, so there can be no one-size-fits-all approach. Rural areas must be resourced, empowered and trusted in developing and delivering the recovery planning that best suits the needs of their local area. There has never been a more important time for government to devolve responsibility and resource to communities.”
In your survey responses you told us that community-based, localised approaches have been the key to responding to rural needs. One size does not fit all in rural Scotland, so locally differentiated approaches will be needed as rural Scotland responds to the longer-term impacts of COVID-19. A consistent request from rural Scotland was to ask government to trust and resource local responses to planning recovery and revival.
Respondents also highlighted the essential role that local businesses have played in responding to lockdown, in some places local businesses – village shops and micro enterprises – have played an equally prominent role to community organisations. This is an important finding, and we are recommending that the lifeline status of local businesses in strengthening civil society is given greater recognition in the future.
While community funding programmes are generally perceived as a success story, financial support for individuals and businesses still leaves many people in rural areas falling through the gaps. The examples you gave were communicated to the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 Strategic Stakeholder Group. It was also acknowledged that there is an ongoing and desperate need for specialist support for younger people, carers, those with dementia and people with learning disabilities.
Increased community cohesion was a positive impact of the pandemic response, but it is also perceived to be fragile. The tension between those in the community who wish tourism to be encouraged, and those who see tourism as a threat, is one factor which may erode it.
Many respondents described ‘positives’ associated with lockdown, such as more power to design community services, more people interacting at a community level, the benefits of home working and shopping locally. There is a need to understand how these beneficial changes can be safeguarded and built upon as part of wider discourse on the wellbeing economy; appreciating that these positives are important personal and community resilience factors.
There is still a lot of work to be done and many changes still to come. Scottish Rural Action has launched a follow-up survey to explore how communities and individuals are adapting as we move in the next phases of the pandemic response. Please take a moment to complete it here.