Our first Rural Summit brought together people from the public and third sectors to explore the Action Plan arising from the 2014 Scottish Rural Parliament.
The event held at The Brunton in Musselburgh on 24 November was attended by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead and almost 100 senior officials from decision-making bodies.
The First Minister praised the ‘major success’ of the first Rural Parliament and highlighted some of Scottish Rural Action’s successes since then, particularly broadband. She encouraged public sector bodies to ‘play their part in meeting our shared aims for rural communities’ and confirmed that the Scottish Government ‘broadly agrees’ with the five asks that were made by the Rural Parliament in 2014.
You can read the First Minister’s speech in full here: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/Speeches-Briefings/Rural-Summit-1fa1.aspx
Professor Sarah Skerratt of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) presented on the reasons that why we should focus on rural. She said that challenges play out differently in rural areas due to a range of factors including cost of living and isolation. Professor Skerratt also said that when it comes to community empowerment there needs to be a deliberate focus on those that are not currently empowered.
Alison Macleod from Applecross in the Highlands gave a community perspective. Their community hydro scheme Apple Juice raised £780,000 through crowdfunding in just five weeks. However, Alison also highlighted the challenges the community faces which include an ageing population, lack of affordable housing and land to build on, and a reliance on volunteers.
Participants then had the chance to put forward their views on what the Scottish Rural Parliament could do to help achieve their ambitions for rural Scotland. Issues and opportunities raised included housing, transport, the retention of young people in rural communities and many, many more. Participants were then challenged to identify work they are undertaking or planning which is addressing the needs identified. A collective ‘map’ of activity was collated and will be published shortly.
The event closed with a question and answer session with Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead, National Coordinator of Scottish Rural Action Emma Cooper, Professor Sarah Skerratt of SRUC and Councillor David O’Neill, COSLA with local democracy, community councils and community empowerment among the topics discussed.
It was announced that the next Scottish Rural Parliament will take place in Brechin in October 2016. Find out more in Next Scottish Rural Parliament location announced.