Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) 2014-2020 Stage 2: Final Proposals

Stage 2 document setting out the final proposals for the new rural development programme period (2014-2020).

Section 17: Scottish Rural Network

What is a Rural Network?

338. The success of any rural development policy is not only based on the availability of funding and well-designed programmes and measures. Policies also rely on good ideas and experience and on their dissemination. Rural Networks are a tool for supporting and promoting sustainable rural development by helping people to share ideas and good practice.

339. Each Member State is required to establish a National Rural Network (NRN). Although the objectives and expected activities of Rural Networks will be set out in the RDR, Member States have the flexibility to establish national and/or regional Rural Networks in a way that is most effective for the country or area it covers, with a clear focus on helping to address the rural development challenges faced by that area.

340. Scotland established a NRN in 2008 under the current SRDP. The existing NRN provides a website[15] and an annual programme of networking events and project visits. The website provides information about: funding and support; case studies; reports, photographs and videos from relevant events; and a weekly newsletter. But it is more than just a one-way information point as it enables interaction through various social media platforms (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) and users can upload their own news, questions and examples of good practice.

341. Examples showcasing the added value of networking are available on the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) website, including four examples from Scotland.

Requirements for SRDP 2014 - 2020

342. Article 55 of the proposed RDR requires every Member State to establish a NRN and a Network Support Unit (NSU). The proposed objectives of NRNs are to:

  • Increase the involvement of stakeholders in the implementation of rural development;
  • improve the quality of implementation of rural development programmes;
  • inform the broader public and potential beneficiaries on rural development policy and funding opportunities; and
  • Foster innovation in agriculture, food production, forestry and rural areas.

343. The proposed Regulations also list the main tasks to be undertaken with the support of the NSU. Funding for NRNs and NSUs is provided through Technical Assistance, but this can be supplemented by other funding sources.

Future role of the Scottish Rural Network

344. The Scottish Government plans to launch a new SRN in 2014 with a stronger identity, a clearer remit and greater stakeholder input. The NSU, comprised of Scottish Government staff, will be established in time to support the launch and roll-out of the new SRDP in 2015.

345. Key findings from a recent evaluation of the existing Rural Network in Scotland[16] included a need for the Rural Network to engage more effectively across the full range of rural constituents (i.e. not just with community groups), promote good practice in rural development in more interactive ways (particularly peer-to-peer learning, good practice events and co-operative projects) and enhance its role in strengthening SRDP communications.

346. Based on the mandatory tasks required by the EC and the findings from the evaluation, we think the areas that the SRN could add greatest value to the successful implementation of the SRDP are around coordination and facilitation and communicating information.

Coordination and facilitation

347. This is about creating effective forums for organisations and individuals to share knowledge and experience with each other; involving stakeholders and the people who live and work in rural areas in the decisions and planning about rural development; and supporting co-operation and joint actions. The key tasks proposed for the SRN in 2014 - 2020 are:

  • Project visits to encourage co-operation and the sharing of knowledge and experience.
  • Promoting best practice in rural development through, for example: the use of case studies; running best practice competitions/awards in recognition of projects with particularly successful outcomes; and peer-to-peer learning.
  • Supporting national and transnational co-operation projects between LAGs by bringing potential applicants together to share ideas, identify common interests/objectives, develop proposals and agree roles. The SRN will act as an enabler for LEADER co-operation projects at the pre-application stage. This may also include the arrangement of study visits and staff exchanges to share knowledge, experiences and good practice.
  • Management of a national network for LEADER LAGs (see section 14 for information on LEADER). This will include networking (e.g. conferences, meetings, workshops and online forums) and training support (e.g. online resources, webinars and face-to-face modules) to improve delivery, outcomes and exchanges of good practices for LEADER.
  • Establishing and coordinating thematic working groups (see paragraphs 349 - 351).
  • Establishing and maintaining a central "network of networks" relating to rural development (see paragraph 352)
  • Networking activities between LAGs to foster innovation in local communities, including using outputs from the European Innovation Patnership's work.

Communicating information

348. The SRN will also have a key role in communicating information about the SRDP and wider rural development policy to stakeholders and members of the public. A communication plan specifically for the SRN will be developed as part of the wider Communication Plan for the SRDP (see section 18). The SRDP Communication Plan will set out the division of responsibilities, but at this stage it is proposed that the SRN will be responsible for the following:

  • Provision of a new or refreshed SRN website.
  • Gathering of information, photos and videos showing good examples of projects funded through the SRDP.
  • Disseminating relevant information to the public e.g. though newsletters, website articles, videos, social media and public events.
  • Organisation and facilitation of national, regional and local events related to the programme and wider rural policy.

Question 32

Do you think the tasks set out above are the most appropriate ways for the SRN to add value to the implementation of the SRDP? Please tick the appropriate box in the online questionnaire.

Are there other activities or services you would like to see the SRN provide? Please specify (in the space given in the online questionnaire).

Thematic Working Groups

349. The SRN will focus on key areas that its members identify as being particular challenges or opportunities facing rural areas. There are a number of ways that networks can do this, but one successful approach developed by the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) and adopted by a number of Rural Networks across Europe is 'Thematic Working'. It is proposed the Scottish Rural Network will adopt a Thematic Working approach under the SRDP 2014 - 2020.

350. Thematic Working Groups bring people together in small groups around specific, focused areas of interest. The aim is to improve the effective delivery of the Rural Development Programme, by analysing the issues, exploring ideas and identifying solutions related to the theme. These groups can help support ideas for co-operative action to address the challenges identified by encouraging such projects to come forward and bringing interested actors together for discussion. They may also form into operational groups under the structure of the EIP.

351. Thematic Working Groups run for a period of time that is appropriate to deliver the objectives agreed for the particular theme/topic. This can obviously vary from issue to issue. The themes will be identified by the SRN Advisory Board, although they will also be aligned with the priorities of the SRDP (see section 2), including the priorities identified for the Support for Co-operative Action.

Question 33

Do you agree with the proposal to establish thematic working groups as an approach to supporting the Rural Development Programme priorities? Yes/No/No opinion

Please tick the appropriate box in the online questionnaire.

If No please explain your reasons (in the space given in the online questionnaire).

A central 'network of networks'

352. A number of networks and membership organisations already exist in Scotland with a focus on topics of relevance to rural development. The SRN should add value to these existing networks and act as a 'network of networks' with a very wide reach to people, businesses and communities in rural areas. Once established, the NSU will undertake a stakeholder mapping exercise to identify existing networks and membership organisations as potential partners to work with.

Governance and delivery of the SRN

353. An Action Plan is required to set out planned activities for the SRN. The Action Plan should take account of the needs of the people, businesses and other organisations from rural Scotland and it will need to be flexible in order to react to emerging needs.

354. It is envisaged that the following features will result in a more effective NRN:

  • The Network will be a partnership of member organisations and administrations, open to all parties with an interest in rural development, and will include those signed up to the 'Partnership Agreement' outlined at section 2 of this consultation document.
  • An Advisory Board will be established to help identify priorities and design, agree and review the Action Plan. The Board members would be nominated and selected by a range of NGOs, public bodies, businesses and community groups with an interest in rural development.
  • A ring-fenced NSU will be set up in Scottish Government to provide a dedicated staff resource for the successful delivery of individual activities and the Action Plan as a whole. The NSU will also be responsible for following up individual activities to ensure they have a lasting positive impact.
  • A separate unit in Scottish Government will operate as the Managing Authority, with responsibility for monitoring the successful delivery of the SRN. The NSU will report to the Managing Authority.
  • A flexible resourcing policy to enable specialists to be contracted in or seconded, as needed.
  • The SRN will be an active participant and contributor to the work of the ENRD, the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) Network, the European Evaluation Network for Rural Development and the EC. In addition to strengthening relationships with other countries, benefits of working at a European level include: sharing experience and knowledge; identifying opportunities for transnational co-operation; and pooling resources.
  • The SRN will have a regular exchange of information with the other Rural Networks in the UK and will aim to coordinate activities and work on collaborative projects, where there are benefits to doing so.
  • The SRN will have strong links to the Advisory Service, coordinating joint working, where appropriate (see section 16).

Diagram E - Proposed Governance and Delivery Model for SRN 2014-20:

Diagram E - Proposed Governance and Delivery Model for SRN 2014-20

Question 34

How would you rate your broad satisfaction with the proposals for the Scottish National Rural Network? Please tick the appropriate box in the online questionnaire.

Very satisfied
Quite satisfied
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
Quite dissatisfied
Very dissatisfied

If you are dissatisfied please briefly outline your reasons (in the space given in the online questionnaire).


Email: Julie Brown

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