Scottish Rural Parliament 2018
14th – 16th November 2018
Stranraer, Dumfries and Galloway
Rural Scotland convened in Stranraer
400 people from across Scotland arrived in Stranraer to take part in the Scottish Rural Parliament; for what is thought to be Scotland?s largest participatory democratic event.
The Scottish Rural Parliament takes place every two years. It brings people working, volunteering and representing rural communities together directly with policy makers and influencers to explore solutions to a range of rural challenges and to look at opportunities for community led solutions. Topics of discussion included health service provision, future rural policy, rural gender pay gap and supporting refugees in rural areas; as well as more typical rural concerns such as land based industries, connectivity and rural housing.
The twin themes of the 2018 Scottish Rural Parliament were Brexit and empowering communities to ‘Take Action’. Delegates represented most of rural Scotland, from host region Dumfries and Galloway in the south to Orkney in the north. International experience and learning was shared by representatives attending from Ireland, Finland and England. A number of young community representatives and youth organisations also took part, reflecting 2018 being Scotlands Year of Young People.
Emma Cooper, then Chief Exec of Scottish Rural Action, said the Scottish Rural Parliament is rural Scotland’s opportunity to engage with and influence policy makers. She commented:
“There has never been a more important time for rural Scotland to come together to speak with one, powerful voice. Every community in Scotland will be affected by Brexit, with rural areas particularly exposed, so it’s important that Scotland’s rural communities organise and take action to prepare for the changes ahead.
“The Rural Parliament programme was designed to empower delegates to take action in their own communities and to harness rural Scotland’s knowledge and expertise to inform post-Brexit policy decisions by inviting rural representatives to engage with and influence policy makers during this period of change. With the ongoing uncertainty over the Irish border arrangements it is fitting that we are meeting in Stranraer, a town that may yet be facing an EU border on its doorstep.”
The 2018 Scottish Rural Parliament was been supported by a number of regional and national organisations including South of Scotland Economic Partnership, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Dumfries and Galloway LEADER and Dumfries and Galloway College.
The Scottish Government sponsors Scottish Rural Action to build a rural movement and to organise a Rural Parliament event every two years. Mairi Gougeon MSP, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, commented:
“I am delighted to support Scotland?s Rural Parliament – the only one in the UK – that provides an opportunity for rural communities to gather, share knowledge, and engage directly with policy makers on the areas that matter the most to them.
“I am particularly keen that young people contribute to that discussion, it is vital that they have a voice and that we work together for the benefit of our rural communities.”
The Scottish Rural Parliament is inclusive of a wide range of representation from young people at the event, including the Highland Youth Convener and representatives from Police Scotland’s Youth Volunteers. Organisers have also involved young people throughout the planning, delivery and the hosting of the Rural Parliament. Working closely with Dumfries and Galloway College the event is supporting the skills development of hospitality students who will be collaborating with local businesses to provide catering at the event.
Fiona Herron, Campus Manager for the College?s Stranraer campus said:
“The College is excited about playing a part in the Scottish Rural Parliament. It provides us with an opportunity to showcase the Stranraer campus, in particular with the forthcoming investment through the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, but also very much the enthusiasm of our students and staff. The College is a key player in providing training, education and support for the communities and businesses in this very rural corner of Scotland with an approach to learning that very much reflects its locality.”
Cllr Elaine Murray, Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council said:
“Given the rural nature of our region, Dumfries and Galloway is delighted to host the 2018 Scottish Rural Parliament. Our rural landscape often poses some unique challenges for our area and this is added to by the uncertainties of Brexit. Our rural economy is often heavily dependent on EU funding, particularly the Common Agricultural Policy, and the impact on our communities could be great if this funding is not replaced. In 2016 it was estimated that over 6,700 people were employed in agriculture in Dumfries and Galloway, this equates to 10% of the overall Scottish agriculture workforce and 11.8% of all jobs in our region.
“In addition, our own, Council specific, EU funded programmes will also be affected, for example our Business Growth Accelerator programme is directly affected by the European Regional Development Fund. Obviously further work is needed, which will prove challenging given the current vagueness and insecurities surrounding Brexit, but by coming together at the Scottish Rural Parliament we can share our common ground and face the future together.”
Russel Griggs, Chair of the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, said:
“I am delighted that the Scottish Rural Parliament is being held in Stranraer. The South of Scotland Economic Partnership is charged with laying the foundations for the Government’s new Enterprise Agency in the south of Scotland. We are striving to ensure that the area benefits from a new approach to economic development from this new public body. This is a once in a generation opportunity to think about our part of Scotland in a different way and be ambitious in how we develop and support every aspect of our economy.”
Peter Ross, Chair of Dumfries and Galloway?s Leader Action Group who are co-hosting the event said:
“When we bid to host this event we knew that Brexit and its impact on rural Scotland would be a major theme, but we could never have anticipated that such uncertainty would remain at this late stage. For communities like Stranraer, that uncertainty is deeply concerning. Rural Scotland must begin planning in earnest for a post-Brexit world, and the concerns of rural communities and organisations must be communicated to those with influence to shape post-Brexit policy. That is what this Rural Parliament is about and it’s why this event is so critically important.”