The inaugural Scottish Rural & Islands Youth Parliament took place at Caol Community Centre on the 1st of November. This youth-focused event engaged individuals aged 16 to 30 in discussions relevant to them, enabling them to reflect on their lived experiences and 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, youth delegates had a unique opportunity to work together on a range of topics from housing to transport to food and agriculture and put forward key demands they want decision-makers to act upon.
On the 18th January 2024, thirty rural and island young people gathered in the Scottish Parliament 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.
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.