New blueprint for Scotland's rural economy: recommendations to Scottish Ministers

The National Council of Rural Advisers' report detailing their final recommendations to Scottish Ministers.

How To Make It Happen

As noted, we do not want these recommendations to end up gathering dust on a shelf. There is momentum behind this work. The many people we have spoken to over the last year share an eagerness about the prospect of real change and an excitement about helping to shape what comes next.

Our intention from the outset was to create a set of recommendations that were ambitious and radical, but also practical and action-focused. For that reason, here we supplement our recommendation for a Rural Economy Framework with some key actions which we see as the foundations for its implementation. We believe these will allow the action group to get off to a strong start and see early success.

These actions have been identified through our comprehensive engagement process, academic and policy research and through an analysis of existing government commitments. The sheer volume of policies, strategies and stakeholder positions that shape and interact with the rural economy make it impossible to have complete and comprehensive actions - this will be the role of the REAG.

Outcome 1. To have the rural economy embedded in the National Performance Framework and given equal importance in policy-making and investment decisions across government
Actions 1A. Rural representation on the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board is needed to ensure they call to account the Scottish Government and its agencies to deliver our recommended outcomes, indicators and actions

1B. To create a Rural Economy Action Group to develop and deliver the Rural Economy Framework

1C. To develop a new approach to delivering rural financial support and investment, aligned to the National Performance Framework
Outcome 2. To have national economic plans and industry-led strategies that are joined up and demonstrate a supportive and integrated approach
Actions 2A. All government Ministers and officials to ensure new policies and strategies deliver for rural economic interests and contributions, supported by the REAG
Outcome 3. To communicate an ambitious and confident narrative about the rural economy
Actions 3A. Develop an education and communications plan to tell the positive story of Scotland's rural economy to attract young people and new businesses

3B. Engage and influence media channels to develop positive rural messages, reflecting the diversity of the rural economy
Outcome 4. To have diversity and potential for growth in the rural economy, realised through targeted support and the development of credible finance models
Actions 4A. Scottish Centre for Inclusive Growth must assess the credibility of measurement tools for identifying small/micro business activity in the rural economy

4B. Ensure equitable access to finance for rural communities and businesses, including a simplified grants system

4C. A Rural Challenge Fund for communities and small/micro-enterprises to be established in 2019, to ensure no hiatus in LEADER, EMFF and other Rural Development Programme funding

4D. The National Investment Bank Strategy and Implementation Plan must consider the REF outcomes, ensuring an accessible offering for rural businesses, particularly small and micro-enterprises

4E. Inward investment plans must encourage sectoral diversity, recognising the opportunities for growth in non-traditional rural industries

4F. Address the rural gender pay gap by providing female-focused enterprise programmes and support for women returning to the workforce

4G. Develop a strong and adequately financed policy and delivery framework to ensure a sustainable funding position post Brexit. Refer to the NCRA's paper on the implications of Brexit for the rural economy, for further details
Outcome 5. To value our natural assets and the people who work with them
Actions 5A. Review existing data to develop improved measurement of rural economy and inclusive growth, and provide evidence base for targeted investment and improved data sets, including migration patterns

(also contributes to outcome 4)

5B. Better use of support mechanisms for local leadership, such as community plans, collaborative working, collective purchasing and supporting community access to funding

5C. Recognise the value of Community-Led Local Development ( CLLD) principles espoused in LEADER and other programmes

5D. The REAG to support the National Rural Mental Health Forum in developing a campaign on rural mental health. Support the development of a policy programme that influences policy makers and decision makers to increase and channel resources in ways that bring change
Outcome 6. To have highly valued, flexible, adaptive and skilled people
Actions 6A. Create rural skills work experience opportunities

6B. Promote rural areas as centres of excellence for 'non-traditional' rural sectors such as advanced manufacturing, digital technologies, and e-commerce, as part of a wider Economic Strategy

6C. Encourage future entrepreneurship by ensuring the Scottish Government's rural skills action plan meets the needs of the rural economy

6D. Promote innovative recruitment strategies and create a rural talent attraction programme

6E. Develop a rural-skills careers and opportunities plan for schools with REAG support
Outcome 7. To have a sustainable and profitable primary production and added value sector
Actions 7A. Work with all primary production sectors across all farming enterprises and major sectors such as forestry, aquaculture and energy. Work in conjunction with their respective industry bodies and the Enterprise networks to present and promote the diverse and resilient nature of the Scottish rural economy

7B. Create communities of interest (hubs, digital and/or physical) where collaborative and cooperative endeavours can be encouraged and supported by government agencies. These should be used to incubate and promote new start-ups

7C. Develop sectoral plans that identify opportunities for the improved productivity, profitability and competitiveness of our primary producers

7D. Consistent with sectoral plans, develop eco system services and climate change mitigation actions that reflect best land-use practice

7E. Government to ensure Scottish Agriculture and Scotland's rural network receive all post- CAP transition funds they are entitled to
Outcome 8. To have a supportive enterprise environment for the development and growth of our rural businesses
Actions 8A. Work with business stakeholders to present the business case for what rural Scotland has to offer to start-ups and growing businesses

8B. Ensure small and micro-enterprises have access to appropriate business support, including targeted support for women and young people

8C. Create communities of interest, both digital and physical, where businesses and people can come together to solve problems, share ideas and understand opportunities. Create business hubs and incubators and promote opportunities to work remotely

8D. Develop opportunities for the businesses of urban and rural Scotland to share ideas and work together

8E. Each local authority should develop a localised rural economic strategy, encouraging inward investment and regional collaborations

8F. Recognise and support new and developing sectors in the rural economy such as creative services and social care & wellbeing
Outcome 9. To have an improved and inclusive access to rural housing solutions
Actions 9A. Address restrictive regulations that affect housing (such as retirement options for tenant famers without capital) and remove regulatory barriers to collaborative planning

9B. Work with rural housing developers and Housing Associations to improve standards and availability of new builds

9C. Ensure Rural and Islands Housing Funds are delivered in line with REF outcomes

9D. Explore options to improve energy efficiency in housing to mitigate fuel costs for families and individuals

9E. Government to seek VAT exemption on rural housing renovation/restoration projects that can effectively demonstrate, consistent with Local Structure Plans and National Planning Guidelines ( NPG) that they can return poor housing stock to habitable condition

9F. Improve transport links and public transport to match evolving seasonal demand

9G. Collaborate with Local Authorities, residents, their families and key stakeholders, to find innovative housing solutions to adapt housing that meets the needs of the ageing, and the young, rural population
Outcome 10. To have a robust infrastructure, with improved and inclusive access to services, mobility and connectivity
Actions 10A. Improve broadband services and digital connectivity

10B. Improve transport links and public transport 10C. Prioritisation of R100 in rural areas, and focus on enhancing and improving digital skills within rural communities 10D. City and Region deals must consider and reflect REF outcomes

10E. Align rural low carbon infrastructure opportunities to NPF3 targets and UN sustainable goals

10F. Demonstrate broader economic benefits of rural infrastructure investment (such as transport and harbours), for example through tourism

10G. Ensure local communities benefit from investment in tourist attractions, for example through improved transport links

10H. Increase usage of the Growth Accelerator model for rural infrastructure investment

10I. Launch the rural electrical charging plan, based on a social enterprise model where spend is retained in community

10J. Replicate the Scottish Cities Alliance model for rural economy, to bring together rural interests to grow, promote and encourage investment in Scotland's rural economy

10K. Extend and support the currently embryonic automated rural filling station network, centred on community hubs servicing local demand and seasonal tourist influxes. E.g. Gairloch, Birnam



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