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.


9.1 Based on our conclusions, we have identified a number of options for the way forward, with the objective of ensuring that community groups in rural and coastal areas have a clear, accessible and professional source of advice and information on the funding of community projects.

9.2 There are a number of ways in which our conclusions could be converted into practice at the national level:

  • End Rural Direct without replacement, accepting that this will reduce accessibility of funding to some groups and may mean that TSIs/local partnerships find it difficult to respond to the displaced demand.
  • Maintain a national source of advice and information that is able to complement and support the role of TSIs/local partnerships as the local source of support. In other words, while it should remain accessible to community members, its main purpose would be to support the work of advisers.
  • Create a funded 'demand led' approach by developing a very accessible micro grant fund for capacity building (e.g. grants up to £2,000 to help idea development, bid development or bring in people with expertise and experience). Most groups are aware of, apply for, and received BIG A4A grants. A similar pot designed for capacity building with very light touch application and eligibility requirements could allow groups to get the support they need directly themselves. Care should be taken about how to brand and administer this as awareness is the key. This could be operated through local partnerships, BIG or a continued Rural Direct (even though it has low awareness among potential beneficiaries).
  • Provide funding to funders to allow them to offer more holistic funding advice including more effective referrals to alternate funders. For example, this could be about:
  • Reducing the lack of incentive financial funders have to take time to make informed referrals to an alternate, better suited funder
  • Providing funding officer time to support idea development
  • Providing funding officer time to advise on matters such as governance arrangements before applications are made.
  • Build on existing alternative sources of information and advice on funding by working with other providers (such as open4communities) to provide a nationally available service which meets the needs of rural communities in Scotland.
  • Develop and implement a quality assurance programme for advisory staff in local partnerships.
  • Continue Rural Direct in a similar form, but place much more emphasis on signposting to local provision (e.g. Third Sector Interfaces/LA/LEADER) or specialist provision and awareness. It could also flexibly seek to offer services where there was a temporary gap in the market (e.g. around peer to peer support or a specialist topic such as community share offers).

9.3 The options we have identified are, at the local level:

  • Ensuring, through effective partnership action, clear ways into information and advice on project funding for rural communities.
  • Provide funding for existing local providers (i.e. Third Sector Interfaces/LEADER/LAs) to enhance their capacity to provide local support to groups.
  • Support the creation of brokerage capacity in TSIs/local partnerships to help experienced communities support less experienced communities and encourage peer to peer work through the payment of expenses for inter-community travel and associated costs. This could be complemented by a small national support service to broker wider relationships - together with expenses support to enable peer to peer community support.

Over the next two pages (Figures 31 and 32) we appraise these options against five criteria:

  • Consistency with our findings
  • Meeting the expressed needs of communities
  • Building on what already exists
  • Consistency with policy
  • Cost effectiveness.

The colour code for these two Figures is as follows:

Red - weak score against criteria
Yellow - medium score against criteria
Green - scores strongly against criteria

Figure 31: National service options

Figure 31:  National service options

Figure 32: Local service options

Figure 32: Local service options

In assessing these local options it is important to recognise:

  • The creation of a clear and agreed local 'first port of call' will require close partnership working between TSIs, Local Authorities, and other local partners.
  • The development of a brokerage service to support peer to peer working will also need a partnership approach, as it is a feature of some of the latest LEADER Local Development Strategies, and will be a focus for the new Village SOS programme in Scotland.


Email: Liz Hawkins

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