Future Support and Advice to Rural Communities

This report explores the nature and level of existing support and advice available to rural communities in Scotland.


7.1 For a view on future options for a national source of advice on funding, all advice providers were given a brief outline of what Rural Direct is and asked to comment on whether they thought that, if Rural Direct were to continue in this vein, it would duplicate the services that they provide. Specifically, we said:

"Rural Direct is a service designed to help rural community organisations to access funding from a range of sources including the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP). Rural Direct is a national service delivered locally by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO). If Rural Direct, as described above, continues, to what extent will this duplicate work you are already doing?"

7.2 Qualitative responses were collated and explored. Responses varied: from those who identified a problem with duplication, for example:

"It duplicates our work locally, and confuses stakeholders." - TSI / TSI Partner

"This seems a complete duplication of the TSI structure in Scotland. I'm not sure why you would fund SCVO to undertake work which would be better suited to delivery through this network." - TSI / TSI Partner

"Substantial duplication" - Local Authority,

…to those who felt that the service is complementary and adds value to what they can provide, for example:

"Complementary - Rural Direct reaches a particular client group" - Local Authority

"Will only add value to what the BID is doing" - Business Improvement District (Other Local Support Organisation)

Generally, responses indicated that the service needed to be better integrated with local delivery and understand local gaps in delivery:

"If Rural Direct continues then it needs to talk openly to other funding advice providers in the areas to see where it can be of most benefit. It also needs to keep its lines of communication open."

7.3 Overall, there appeared to be a marked difference in responses from different types of organisation. We therefore cross-referenced responses against organisation type of respondent and found a clear distinction. Most notably, it was primarily Third Sector Interfaces or their partners who noted a duplication in the remit, whereas Local Authorities were far more likely to say that the service would be complementary or add value to their provision (Figure 29).

Figure 29: Different types of advice providers' view on whether Rural Direct would duplicate the services they are providing

Figure 29: Different types of advice providers’ view on whether Rural Direct would duplicate the services they are providing

7.4 We asked advice providers (online survey, one to one interviews):

"What role might a national funding advice service for rural and coastal communities play?"

Open responses were collated and categorised into broad groups. There was a wide array of responses, with no common consensus. However, the most common categories (those with 5 or more respondents) are shown in Figure 30 below.

7.5 There was a high degree of interest in a national source of advice on all available funders, giving advice on what funds are available and dates for applications etc. Some respondents would not have been aware of SCVO's Funding Scotland website, which may now be filling this gap. One respondent who was aware of Funding Scotland suggested that it should be bespoked for rural and coastal groups.

Figure 30: Advice providers' views (collated and categorised from open responses) on the possible roles for a national funding advice service.

Figure 30: Advice providers’ views (collated and categorised from open responses) on the possible roles for a national funding advice service.

7.6 There was an expressed need for the service to either work closely with existing local organisations, or for the service to be delivered by these local organisations (such as Third Sector Interfaces). Some respondents suggested that the service could support or train local advisers; some respondents suggested that the service could provide additional specific knowledge around specialist areas, such as SRDP.

"SRDP advice is very specialist and giving really strong, specialist support is essential."

7.7 There was also an identified need for a role in information sharing and networking, and a need to "join things up", for example:

"If they facilitated exchange of good/bad practice across the whole of Scotland (not just regionally) that would be useful. Organised, themed rural conferences/exhibitions for example."

"Most important is local resource and there is a need to join more things up."

7.8 We note that there was a small number of respondents who suggested that the service should provide one to one support to community groups in terms of funding applications. Others echoed this by saying the service should add capacity to other local delivery.

7.9 Other notable comments were about the importance of peer support, cited by three respondents, for example:

"Communities empowered to do things themselves - peer support most useful."

…and also the importance and value of roadshows.

7.10 The advice providers' workshops identified the need for a national service to have a small number of important functions:

  • Promoting the TSIs as the local 'first port of call' for communities seeking advice on funding.
  • Enhancing and assuring the quality of local advice service by developing and promoting a quality assurance programme for advice staff - notably of TSIs which were seen as the obvious local first port of call.
  • Maintaining a central database of information about sources of funding which could be drawn on by these front line advisers.
  • Ensuring that the network of specialist national providers (such as Community Energy Scotland and the Community Woodlands Association) are effectively promoted through the TSI network.

7.11 This was complemented by support for a local service which was built around TSIs in each Local Authority area, and specifically their role in promoting and brokering peer to peer support.

7.12 The issue was raised about whether there needed to be a distinctive funding advisory service for rural areas - in other words, with the needs of communities in terms of advice and support differing little between rural and urban areas, should there not just be a similar service available across the whole of Scotland. In general, there was an anxiety that 'a service for all' would end up being dominated by demand from urban projects and groups, and so there was a need for a dedicated service for rural communities if they were to be a focus for support. We consider this in developing our recommendations in chapter 9.


Email: Liz Hawkins

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