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.

Annex 1: Background to NCRA and its work

Who are the National Council of Rural Advisers?

The NCRA was convened in June 2017, at the request of Mr Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy. Co-chaired by Alison Milne and Lorne Crerar, it brings together a further 12 independent members from across Scotland, with expertise ranging from agriculture, forestry, and microbusiness through to social enterprise and financial services. [6]

Our remit was:

Over the last year, we have been working hard to fulfil the second part of that remit – speaking to people and organisations across the length and breadth of Scotland, to understand the opportunities to support and improve the lives of people living in rural Scotland, and create an ambitious blueprint for the rural economy.

Our vision for the rural economy:

'A vibrant, sustainable and inclusive rural economy, recognised for its value and contribution, and effectively mainstreamed in all policy-making processes.'

We believe the rural economy is one of Scotland's greatest assets. Our rural industries feed and fuel homes and businesses across the country. Our rural landscapes attract tourists from across the world. Our rural communities are brimming with creativity, resilience and entrepreneurial spirit.

And according to the latest figures, our rural economy contributes over a quarter of the total value of the Scottish economy – £34.6bn in 2015, which was almost as much as Edinburgh and Glasgow combined (£38.1bn). [7]

Rural Scotland is well placed to deliver even more economic, social and environmental impacts that benefit the whole country. But without a cohesive vision and strategic support that recognises and grows the rural economy's substantial contribution, these opportunities will be missed.

We need decisions and structures that support rural businesses and communities, while recognising and growing the contribution of the rural economy.

It is clear from our consultation process that the Scottish Government's ambition to mainstream rural has not been effective in the eyes of rural Scotland. This must change. It is difficult to point to a piece of government policy that does not interact with rural so effective mainstreaming is absolutely critical.

Rural Scotland should be the first stop on the investment train.

Telling a new story about rural Scotland

Scotland is famous for its landscapes, but it is the people of rural Scotland who are its custodians. Rural communities are the lifeblood of many of Scotland's industries, but without offering young people, families and businesses the opportunities, infrastructure and services they need, we will fail to attract and retain a thriving population.

For too long, 'rural' has been synonymous with burdens and difficulties. The challenges are often complex and systemic, but there is also an abundance of diversity, innovation and economic opportunity – rural Scotland is a fantastic place to live and work, and it is time for a rebrand.

Therefore, we want this work to help tell a new story about rural Scotland, which starts with demonstrating the value of rural business, in terms of:

  • The economy – as noted, the rural economy contributed a quarter of the total value of the economy in 2015, and economic growth between 2007 and 2015 was strongest in mainly rural areas [8]
  • The environment – rural businesses protect our landscapes, wildlife and natural resources. Our natural environment is worth more than £20bn per annum and supports more than 60,000 direct jobs – forestry alone contributes £1bn per year. Three of Scotland's key growth sectors (food and drink, energy and tourism) are sustained by Scotland's natural assets
  • Our society and culture – rural businesses sustain local communities, contribute to population wellbeing, and provide the backdrop for our world-famous national brand

It is time to recognise the true value of the rural economy.

Our approach

The future of the rural economy should be shaped by those who live and work within it. Our recommendations have been developed in conversation with the people of rural Scotland, through the following channels:

  • Co-Chair, Alison Milne, chaired 11 'Rural Thinks' workshops across Scotland, to gather views from both rural and urban communities around the themes of vision, people and infrastructure. 127 individuals participated, including representatives and locals from a wide range of backgrounds and interests
  • Following the stakeholder workshops, we launched a public consultation, 'A Rural Conversation: Together We Can, Together We Will', to give the wider community the opportunity to contribute to the discussion. The consultation ran from 12 June 2018 to 24 July 2018. A total of 130 responses were received, including 63 from individuals and 67 from organisations
  • We led discussions at a membership stakeholders' workshop, an Agricultural and Rural Development stakeholders' workshop, and with organisations at the National Economic Forum in May 2018. Two specific workshops on 'A Rural Economic Strategy' and 'Our Future, Our People' focused on the business support and training environment
  • We ran a session to listen to the views of the Scottish Local Authorities Economic Development Group ( SLAED). The group focuses on excellence in delivery of local economic development services by local authorities across Scotland. Their views helped to inform our recommendations
  • We consulted young people and equalities groups, and linked with the Rural Youth Project survey, which reached thousands of young people, to ensure we captured the voice of rural young people in the process
  • In our regular meetings over the last year, we heard from a range of experts in rural economic policy and inclusive growth, and delved into the wealth of academic research on the topic
  • And finally, we have drawn on our own lived experience of the rural economy, as well as gathering insights and ideas from our broader networks

We now have a huge body of evidence for policy-makers to draw on as they develop the Rural Economy Action Plan. We urge those leading that work to continue to listen to rural voices, and keep the conversation going.



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