2. Rural Economic Strategy
2.1 In the consultation document the NCRA highlighted its clear goal to create an ambitious Rural Economic Strategy. To support the shaping of the strategy, the NCRA asked questions about how policy makers in Government should make sure that the economic needs of rural Scotland are taken into account.
The findings in this chapter are largely drawn from analysis of responses to the following consultation question:
Question 1: The development of relevant Scottish Government mainstream policies should consider the effect upon the Rural Economic Strategy and its consequent policies.
- How should policy makers in Government make sure that the economic needs of rural Scotland are taken into account? Should there be an ability to call to account Scottish Government and their Agencies to ensure collaboration and actions to meet the objectives of the Rural Economic Strategy?
- Should there be an ability to call to account Scottish Government and their Agencies to ensure collaboration and actions to meet the objectives of the Rural Economic Strategy?
2.2 The majority of respondents (102 out of 130) answered the question “Should there be an ability to call to account Scottish Government and their Agencies to ensure collaboration and actions to meet the objectives of the Rural Economic Strategy?”. Of these, most answered yes (90%), a minority (3%) said no, and 7% said they don’t know.
2.3 Most respondents identified a need for accountability when implementing the strategy and many went on to describe how they felt this could be achieved, expressing a demand for leadership, greater scrutiny, measurement and allocation of responsibility (see Appendix 1 for more detail). Some identified priorities for the Rural Economic Strategy, however a few questioned the approach. There were several suggestions about ways to ensure the Strategy accurately reflects rural needs, with an emphasis on consultation and some creative ideas about changes to policy development processes.
- Some respondents highlighted matters that they see as priorities for the Rural Economic Strategy. They asked that consideration be given to the unique nature of the rural economy, for example the prevalence of micro and small businesses and seasonal nature of economic activity. Key themes included consideration of workforce needs, making rural areas attractive and viable options for young people, families and migrant workers. Areas of potential growth were noted as opportunities for the Strategy to respond to including tourism, food, community-based provision of services and creative industries. Some respondents highlighted the potential for rural Scotland to become leaders in new and emerging industries, referring to the rural way of life as an incentive for people to relocate to rural areas.
- A small number of participants questioned the decision to pursue a Rural Economic Strategy, feeling that it could marginalise rural issues. They suggested that a national strategy which comprehensively reflects rural considerations could be more inclusive and effective.
- A common theme across responses was the importance of extensive consultation and collaboration in strategy and policy development. Numerous partners, sectors and organisations were mentioned as having the potential to contribute important insights, evidence and perspectives in consultation processes.
- Some innovative changes to policy making processes were also put forward; for example relocation of policy teams to rural areas and the creation of a government agency with rural affairs as its sole remit. These suggestions were typically explained as a means to address a perception that policy makers have an urban-centric focus. A few respondents noted approaches and learning from elsewhere that could be applied in Scotland.
Illustrative international examples that the NCRA were asked to take note of:
- "One approach which might be worth noting is that taken in
Northern Ireland through the Rural Needs Act. The Act states that
public authorities must report annually to the Department for
Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), while
DAERA must report annually to the Northern Ireland Assembly,
including through a ministerial statement, on its functions and
the work undertaken by others. The ministerial statement was
regarded as particularly important by some stakeholders who
argued that it provided an extra layer of accountability and
transparency to the process compared to, for example, simply
lodging a report in the Assembly library."
Scotland’s Rural College
- "The recently enacted Islands (Scotland) Bill 2018 Part 3
specifies that certain authorities have a duty to have regard to
island communities and that those authorities must carry out an
island communities impact assessment in relation to the
development of policies or strategies. This duty could also be
laid on certain authorities regarding strategies and policies for
rural areas and rural businesses in particular."
Bo rd na Ga idhlig
Rural Economic Strategy - illustrative quotes
There is a real need to call to account Scottish Government and
their agencies to ensure collaboration and actions to meet the
objectives of the Rural Economic Strategy.
Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers
By allocating actions from the Rural Economic Strategy to
public agencies and the private sector, lead organisations can be
called upon to outline outcomes and impact as well as any
differences in targets reached.
East Lothian Council
It is to be expected that the development of any national
strategy would be a collaborative and consultative process between
central government, local authorities, community planning partners,
other key agencies, and so on. That is a minimum requirement and
necessity in terms of developing a Rural Economic Strategy which
meets the disparate needs of regional and islands' economies.
Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership
Many people in rural areas operate more than one unregistered
micro business, frequently tourism-related… growing the
numbers of businesses across a variety of sectors should be a
strategic priority for the rural economic strategy.
Federation of Small Businesses
It is crucial that a rural economic strategy covers all aspects
of the rural economy and not just the land based economic sectors
… we do believe strongly that the rural economy will be
stifled if the non-land based economic sectors are not given a
focus or not identified as in need of support.
Name withheld (Organisation)
The vision for a becoming a ‘good food nation’
should be incorporated in any rural economic strategy…. The
protection and enhancement of natural capital stocks, already
recognised by the Scottish Government, should be acknowledged in a
future rural economic strategy.
Scottish Wildlife Trust
Addressing the challenge of retaining and attracting young
people and young families to rural Scotland should be a high
priority for the Rural Economic Strategy.