Together we can, together we will: consultation

Consultation by National Consultation of Rural Advisers (NCRA) to help inform recommendations for Scottish Government on future policy direction for the rural economy.

A Shared Future – Shaping it the rural Way

How is the NCRA different?

It is important to acknowledge that ambitious policy making for rural Scotland is not a new concept. We have been here before.

There are many existing policy drivers and initiatives dating back over 25 years - from 'People, Prospects and Partnership' in 1995 to 'Better Still Naturally' in 2007. These documents have gone a considerable way towards putting rural issues on the agenda. It is time now to build upon these and consider how we operate, think, and act strategically.

In considering the rural economy in its entirety, the NCRA offers an alternative. We recognise that one size does not fit all our rural economic regions, but are also ambitious in our view that success is based upon conceptualising industry sectors as inter-connected. We believe that collaborative working and shared aims are the key to growth.

We realise that we still face many of the same issues and challenges identified by previous policy processes. Nevertheless, we understand that now we have a unique opportunity to influence and shape the rural economy as never before. This is because:

  • A new image and public perception is emerging of our – the rural economy's - potential. We can use it to create an understanding of the supportive relationship that exists between urban and rural areas.
  • The mindset and behaviour of rural people, businesses and communities has evolved with changing economic circumstances. We recognise the need for change and want to be part of shaping it.
  • Brexit presents significant challenges for rural Scotland – particularly for those in receipt of EU funding. It is therefore vital that we have meaningful discussion on the transition from leaving the EU to life thereafter, and remain committed to a positive rural vision beyond Brexit.
  • The Scottish Government has acknowledged the need for change, and the initiation of the NCRA emphasises the view that rural issues must be better integrated within policy making across government.
  • The Agricultural Champions published their report in May 2018 setting out their vision for the future of agriculture, marking a step change in Scotland's relationship with one of primary rural industries (some of the members of the NCRA are also Agricultural Champions and our recommendations should be read alongside theirs).

Rural Thinking workshops

The NCRA have a powerful message for decision makers centred on removing barriers and creating opportunities. To build this future we must foster a sense of ownership and confidence in our future.

This discussion document is the culmination of a series of 11 'Rural Thinks' workshops which took place in 2018. They comprised 127 individuals across Scotland [5] . Participants included representatives and locals from small and medium sized enterprises, agriculture, social enterprises, fisheries, farmers, forestry, renewable energy organisations, government organisations and many more.

We also held a membership stakeholders workshop, presented questions at an Agricultural and Rural Development stakeholder's workshop and engaged with organisations at the National Economic Forum on 16 th May 2018.

The 'Rural Thinks' workshops revolved around three key themes:

  • Vision – the narrative of rural Scotland.
  • People – investing in talent and creating opportunity.
  • Infrastructure – enabling success.

NCRA group expertise ranges from agriculture, social enterprise and microbusiness through to financial services.

Whilst we understand that economic outputs are primary, it was the inputs that were our focus. We understood that at the heart of our rural economy were communities, people, small businesses - and the environments within which they operated. To create a compelling narrative for the future, we would need to inspire a new vision and work with others to create it.

Through working with external facilitators to refine our thinking on what the rural economy meant, we arrived at this set of three themes for exploration. We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and expertise of participants. They were the source of inspiration in drafting this discussion document and their outputs are visualised creatively overleaf [6] .

The following chapters explore each theme followed by preliminary recommendations. We hope these offer everyone the opportunity to co-create a vision for rural Scotland alongside us.

Rural thinking



Back to top