The key themes for the Scottish Rural Parliament are being announced this week.
The themes have been identified through a survey conducted with over 1,000 people from across rural Scotland and they will be examined by people from rural communities and decision-makers at the Scottish Rural Parliament in November.
The themes are confirmed to be:
- Rural businesses and employment
- Land use, planning and land reform
- Transport infrastructure
- Protecting our natural assets and adapting to environmental changes
- Broadband and connectivity
- Support for communities to lead with confidence
Although not identified as a main theme, sufficient interest and concern arose through the consultation on the topic of ‘Delivery of health and social care? that this will be adopted this as a future theme to follow from the first Rural Parliament in November.
Chair John Hutchison said; ?This is a major step forward in delivering a collective voice for rural Scotland. We?re pleased to have had guidance from so many rural people in setting our themes and can now move ahead to create Scotland?s first Rural Parliament.
“The themes reflect a broad range of the challenges that are faced by people in rural communities and we will be examining them in some detail before presenting our findings to the Rural Parliament in November.?
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said; ?My ambition for the Scottish Rural Parliament is to give rural communities a stronger voice and these emerging themes reflect the big issues facing those who live and work in rural Scotland today. It?s great to see the Rural Parliament making progress and the growing number of people getting involved which is key to its future success.?
The Scottish Rural Parliament will bring together community people and decision-makers from public bodies, NGOs and private bodies, with the aim of improving rural policy and finding better ways of providing services. There are currently local Rural Parliament events taking place all over rural Scotland which can be accessed by the public and which will contribute to the discussion at the Rural Parliament.
The Rural Parliament follows in the footsteps of other European countries where Rural Parliaments have been established for over 20 years and provides a link to this network through the European Rural Parliament.
The first Scottish Rural Parliament will be held in Oban in November 2014 and will bring together 400 people from rural communities and decision making bodies to make recommendations about the best way forward on key themes. These recommendations could be for implementation at a community, local, national or European level. Bookings for the event are opening in August. To attend the event, sign up on the Scottish Rural Parliament website for updates.
A number of key organisations have recently expressed support for the Scottish Rural Parliament’s chosen themes:
Scott Walker, Chief Executive of NFU Scotland said; ?NFU Scotland welcomes the inception of the Scottish Rural Parliament. It provides an opportunity to bring together communities, businesses and politicians to discuss how Scotland?s rural areas can further develop and flourish.?The key themes underpinning the first SRP meeting in November touch on what are vast and intertwined issues that affect all those who live and work in rural Scotland. Whilst the Scottish and UK Government are looking in detail at some of these issues, it is essential that the Scottish Rural Parliament uses the gathering to consider how and what changes can bring about the best outcome for rural Scotland and all that reside in it. If we can gather consensus on a few clear and progressive recommendations to offer to governments, then we are confident the Scottish Rural Parliament will be a success.?
Jemma Neville, Director of Voluntary Arts Scotland said; ?Voluntary Arts Scotland welcomes the inclusion of ?support for communities to lead with confidence? as a key theme in the first Rural Parliament this November. Across rural Scotland, the creative citizens who- beyond their own participation and beyond any remuneration- give their time to lead voluntary arts groups- need strong and sustainable local cultural infrastructure such as accessible venues, affordable transport and reliable communication networks to enable more people to take part in creative cultural activity.?
Sarah-Jane Laing, Director of Policy and Parliamentary Affairs at Scottish Land & Estates, said: ?The key themes cover a multitude of issues but demonstrate that the areas in which our members are actively involved in such as employment, business development, protecting our natural assets and the many things which are covered by land use, planning and land reform are equally important to all those who live and work in rural Scotland.?
?Partnership remains key when creating innovative solutions to the issues faced by rural communities across the length and breadth of the country. We hope that the first parliament in November will contribute to this positive cooperation and we look forward to playing our part in the lead-up to first parliament and beyond.?
David Cameron, Chair of Community Land Scotland said; “The interest of community land owners is to develop a more sustainable confident future for their own community through a wide range of actions. The emerging agenda for the first Rural Parliament fits very well with the interests of people seeking to make a difference for their own community and for the benefit of all Scotland.”
Dr Susan Taylor, Chair of the Remote and Rural Practitioners? Association, said; ?As chair of the Remote and Rural Practitioners’ Association of doctors in Scotland I look forward to exploring the challenges of delivering high quality Health and Social Care within the framework of the new Rural Parliament. We need to work closely with other agencies who understand the problems of working in remote communities.?
Murray Ferguson, Director of Planning and Rural Development at the Cairngorms National Park Authority said; ?We welcome these key themes as they reflect the priority issues that have come out of our own consultations with communities across the National Park. Action around conservation, land management, economic and community development is fundamental to the success of the Cairngorms National Park and we look forward to discussing this at a national level with community representatives and partners.?