Rural and Island Youth in the Scottish Parliament

Mon, 22/01/2024 - 12:28pm

Thirty rural and island young people gathered in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday to bring forward a set of demands, asking for action on a variety of priorities including arts and culture, housing and transport. Representing areas across Scotland, including the northern and western isles, Cairngorms, Moray, Lochaber, Fife, Forth Valley and Lomond and the Borders, they met with the First Minister, Humza Yousaf, and his Cabinet on Thursday afternoon before attending a debate on their demands, hosted by Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands.

This group of young people formed following the inaugural Scottish Rural & Islands Youth Parliament, which took place on the 1st of November 2023 as part of the wider Scottish Rural and Islands Parliament, a participative democratic grassroots assembly bringing together people who live and work in rural and island Scotland to debate the issues that matter. 75 individuals aged 16 to 30 engaged in discussions, reflecting on their lived experiences to articulate what is important to them. Joined by Highlands and Islands MSP, Emma Roddick, and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, Mairi Gougeon, the youth delegates worked together on 10 topics, from education, to food and agriculture, to arts and culture, to housing.

Their demands included a youth-led reform of education; that supermarkets must have a percentage of produce on offer from a local region to reduce food miles and carbon emissions; that arts and culture be recognised as a tool for individual expression and community development, and that rural housing is tackled which meet the needs of all people in rural and island communities. They also had one specific ask for Ms Gougeon – that she be their representative in the Scottish Parliament and support their ongoing participation, developing the youth voice across rural and island Scotland.

Ellie Moore, a young representative living in Fort William, said

“Our time in the Scottish Parliament has been insightful and an important step in progressing our demands for better futures for rural and island youth, and our communities as a whole.

We were delighted to meet with the First Minister, Humza Yousaf, and his cabinet. We got to speak directly with them about our concerns. We told them about demands, one of which included the need to deliver sustainable transport which works and is up to date and fit for purpose across all areas of Scotland for all people and all forms of transport.”

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, Mairi Gougeon, said:

“This was another historic moment for the young people of rural and island Scotland, as they made their voices heard in parliament.

“It is so important that rural and island young people’s voices are not only heard but actively influence Scottish Government policies – and hearing these voices will help us drive forward the First Minister’s policy missions of equality, opportunity and community.

“This is a critical time for that, as we approach a number of pivotal moments for rural policy. We already have a strong track record of engaging meaningfully with young people in our rural and island communities, but we also have future opportunities to look forward to – including the emerging Rural Delivery Plan and Agriculture & Rural Communities Bill.

“Leadership, engagement, and participation are crucial for bringing about positive change, and I am dedicated to amplifying young people’s voices on the parliamentary stage now and in the future.”

With the announcement of the Rural Delivery Plan in 2026 from the Scottish Government, the group of rural and island young people want to ensure that their views, and those of rural youth more broadly, are heard in policy-making. They will continue to platform grassroots rural and island voices and are already in discussion as to what to do next.