6 Conclusion and Recommendations
As stated at the beginning of the report, this research aimed to:
a) Understand the rural experiences of four disadvantaged groups in Scotland;
b) Understand the barriers to participation these groups face in relation to rural policy and decision-making; and
c) Understand how these barriers to participation may be addressed.
The findings of this research suggest that the rural experiences of the communities of interest in Scotland often constitute barriers to participation in society more generally. These barriers to participation in society include:
- geographic isolation or being on the social periphery of a geographic community;
- a lack of appropriate and accessible services or infrastructure;
- a lack of social opportunities;
- the experience of “minority stress” and the historical continuation of marginalisation, prejudice and negative attitudes;
- the broader economic and social realities of rural life; and
- the lack of representation with regards to decision bodies.
In turn, it would seem that these barriers to participation in society feed into, and form the basis of, the barriers these communities of interest may face in relation to participation in rural policy and decision-making. The lack of participation in decision-making can have the unintended effect of reinforcing already existing barriers.
Stakeholders highlighted that, in their view, overcoming barriers to participation requires the initiative to be taken by those in positions of power, and should not fall on the shoulders of the disadvantaged groups themselves. This may be achieved through an active inclusion of groups in decision-making bodies or including the lived experience of these disadvantaged groups. However, as was noted by a stakeholder, economic participation is also critical, and wider policy mechanisms may be required to address these barriers.
This report has identified a range of ways in which communities of interest may face barriers to participation in rural Scotland, and how rurality itself may contribute to members of such communities feeling isolated. The broader context of this report is concerned with informing Scotland’s rural movement and is supporting the ongoing work of Rural Economic and Community Development (RECD) and Scottish Rural Action to make the rural parliament and rural movement more inclusive.
In order to support this work that will be delivered through policy leads in Rural Community Policy Team, this report recommends exploring options for supporting communities of interest in rural communities. There may be a range of ways in which this work could proceed, either building on the existing work of the Scottish Rural Network (SRN) and Equality Network, or via the development of a more specific network that focuses on rural equalities.
In turn, this would seek to support the articulation of the requirements of these communities in contexts where these voices need to be heard. This could include but not be limited to the Rural Parliament, and could also include consultations, participation in community budgeting efforts and other appropriate forums.
Critically, to determine the values and focus of the network, subsequent work would need to be driven by communities and those closest to the lived experience and delivered in collaboration with others. Rural Community Policy Team have liaised with Equality Unit on this and several wider initiatives, and will provide further policy advice and options after the Rural Parliament in March.
It is crucial that any future network should be appropriately targeted at community need and inclusive of community interests and existing effort. Therefore, further development of this idea should be a participatory project. Policy options and any costings on the above will be presented for consideration after further testing of the market and agreed buy in from others.
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