The summary report from the Scottish Rural Parliament 2018 has been launched at an event at the Scottish Parliament. The launch event was sponsored by Finlay Carson, MSP for Dumfries & Galloway, which hosted the Rural Parliament in November 2018. The event attracted cross-party representation from MSPs including Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment Mairi Gougeon MSP and Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations Michael Russell MSP.
Read the report here: Rural Voice January 2019
The report includes key findings from the third Scottish Rural Parliament during an exhibition at the Scottish Parliament at which MSPs from all parties were invited to pledge to ‘Speak Up for Rural Scotland’. Contributions during the Rural Parliament from more than 50 workshops have now been analysed and Scottish Rural Action have summarised the findings as Six Rural Asks, they are:
- More decision-making should be carried out at a local level, and more services should be delivered at a local level. There was consensus that rural people believe there are a wide range of issues on which their voices are not heard and needs not met by the public and private sector. It is generally believed that urban needs are prioritised because more people live there.
- There needs to be a transparent, formalised and obligatory process for identifying rural-urban tensions and needs within the policy-making process. Rural communities require support and information in understanding how public sector decisions are made and if, and how, those decisions balance rural and urban needs.
- The rural voice needs to be heard on issues which are key to the future and sustainability of rural communities. Too often the rural voice is often not present in the room when policy is being agreed. For example, the Homelessness and Rough Sleepers Action Group had no rural representation.
- Communities need to be educated and supported to take advantage of new legislation designed to empower them, for example, making use of compulsory purchase legislation to build new housing. This legislation could be highly effective, but only if communities are effectively supported in utilising it and bureaucracy in doing so is minimised.
- Rural communities can be and are agents of change. By proactively engaging with decision-makers, leading by example in terms of inclusion and being innovative in solving problems, rural communities are often the key to unlocking rural potential.
- There is a need for increased cross-sector knowledge and experience-sharing; examining specific issues and solutions with a view to adapting and replicating the innovation which is taking place in some rural areas. Challenges can be best addressed cost-effectively through co-production and partnerships; we need to be working together to tackle those issues which are going to have the deepest impact on the sustainability of rural communities.
Emma Cooper, Chief Executive of Scottish Rural Action, said:
“While the Rural Parliament covered a very broad range of topics and challenges, there were clear overarching themes and asks from rural Scotland that primarily relate to equality, inclusivity and knowledge sharing.
“What has emerged from the Rural Parliament is a clear demand that the voice of rural Scotland should be heard. This is particularly crucial during the Brexit negotiations and post-Brexit policy development. We know that rural areas will be particularly affected by divergence from EU policies and removal from EU structural funds.
“We were very pleased to be able to share our findings with elected representatives in Holyrood and we are grateful to Finlay Carson MSP for sponsoring our exhibition and reception. No matter what constitutional and funding changes take place in the years ahead, there is a real opportunity for Scotland to take a more inclusive and more innovative approach to meeting rural needs.”
Finlay Carson, constituency MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries, commented:
“In many ways Stranraer was the perfect host venue for the Rural Parliament as it exemplifies many of the challenges rural areas face, such transport difficulties, an aging population and simply not being heard. Importantly Stranraer also highlights what is best about rural Scotland, in particular its people.
“I was pleased to sponsor Scottish Rural Action’s event in the Scottish Parliament as it is important that rural issues and opportunities are understood by all MSPs, particularly those issues that present differently in rural communities, such as rural homelessness. I’m pleased to support the important work of Scottish Rural Action and I will personally be doing my best to speak up for rural Scotland.”