Rural Communities and their residents
Brexit, and in particular a no-deal exit from the EU would mean that rural communities will face a number of significant and serious challenges. Rural communities tend to be at the end of supply chains and therefore face higher costs of living. Many rural communities have businesses which received support through European rural development spending and there are concerns that this support will not be replaced. The decision to leave the EU will undoubtedly exacerbate already existing issues within rural communities and could lead to further problems with population stability.
Scottish Rural Action – What does Brexit mean for you?
This project aimed to open a dialogue between people in rural communities – particularly those living in the more remote rural parts of Scotland, and those in rural areas who are less well heard in policy and decision-making at present about the implications of leaving the EU. Scottish Rural Action wanted to support this dialogue by encouraging people in rural communities to consider the wider implications of leaving the EU, what they want to say to people making decisions about matters affecting them, and coordinate responses from rural communities to decision-makers.
Scottish Rural Action wanted to pay particular attention to those voices that are not heard as often in rural Scotland. They were interested in hearing from people living in the remotest parts of Scotland, young people, crofters and smallholders, women and rural homeless persons.
Scottish Rural Action held 17 events in rural Scotland engaging the biennial meeting of the Rural Parliament in November 2018 and had 1,500 people participating online and 284 people having face-to-face discussions.
Key findings that emerged from the report were:
- Depopulation: a fear that the loss of freedom of movement will result in some communities becoming unviable;
- Future of rural funding: expectations are low within rural communities that existing funding will be replaced post-Brexit by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund;
- The democratic deficit: frustration that Scotland is being forced to leave when a majority of the people in Scotland voted to remain in the EU; and
- Policy post-2020 in rural Scotland: fear that rural communities needs will not be met in recognising the long history of support from the EU for peripheral rural and island areas.
The report concluded that overall there was grave concern within the rural communities in Scotland, that leaving the EU would be the final straw for the already fragile communities. There is a call for strong leadership to provide clarity over the decision to leave the EU and that the UK Government should commit to working with devolved governments to enable a smooth transition. Fundamentally rural communities want assurances that their voices are being heard and that the impact of Brexit on already fragile communities will be recognised and addressed.
Scottish Islands Federation – Island Communities and Brexit
Scottish Islands Federation used their funding to better help ensure that island communities have the opportunity to contribute their views to influence future policy and developments around the UK’s exit from the EU and to help understanding around the long-term implications faced by these communities
The funding enabled the Scottish Island Federation to bring island community groups together to openly discuss, research and present the implications of Brexit, for island communities and for the Scottish Island Federation as their representative body. In particular, their membership and chairmanship of the European Small Islands Federation (ESIN) and the EU Clean Energy EU Islands programme which was recently launched to facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy was felt to be relevant.
Through their consultation work the Scottish Islands Federation identified a number of key concerns;
- Concern that less funding will be available and is becoming more centralised therefore less distribution to island communities;
- Increases in the cost of living; and
- Impact on tourism through increased costs to travel to island communities.
"How do we replace our European Workforce?"
Island communities working together to accelerate sustainable development, empowerment and innovation underpins the goals and objectives of Scottish Island Federation. The discussions, consultation and reporting that the Scottish Government funding has enabled has formed firm foundations to some of their work in the longer-term including:
- Better understanding the implications of Brexit on island communities in Scotland;
- Developing a collective and more effective island voice to inform and influence policy developments and in particular promoting the need for a replacement European Territorial Cohesion policy; and
- Finding a successful model that will enable the Scottish Government to continue to strengthen collaboration with our European partners and play a role in island-specific policy, research and investment.
Scottish Government response to the issues raised
The Scottish Government recognises the importance of our rural communities and the value they add to our society, not only economically but culturally. Given the potential negative consequences posed by exit from the EU, it is important that crofters, farmers and rural businesses have a continued period of stability and certainty and are allowed a period to adjust to future agricultural policies. The Scottish Government has put robust contingencies in place to ensure that there is a legal basis for CAP payments to continue to be made post-EU exit and will bring forward a Scottish Rural Financial Support Bill to implement the proposals set out in its “Stability and Simplicity” consultation.