Rural conference will focus on threats to rural Scotland post-Brexit

Caitlin Logan

Campaigners will plan for future of rural Scotland at annual event

SCOTTISH RURAL ACTION will hold their annual conference this week, which will focus on the future of rural development in light of challenges posed by Brexit.

The event in Dunfermline will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday and will bring together activists from rural communities across Scotland.

The conference will feature a range of guest speakers including journalist Lesley Riddoch, who will speak on the issue of “super-sized councils” and their impact for rural communities; Professor Sarah Skerratt of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) on a vision for rural Scotland; and representatives from Scottish Water, National Rural Mental Health Forum, Shelter, Rural Wisdom, Rural Dimensions, and Transport Scotland.

“Most [rural] land has “less-favoured” status for EU funding, resulting in a higher level of subsidy than other parts of the UK.” Amanda Burgauer, Scottish Rural Action

Amanda Burgauer (pictured), Chair of Scottish Rural Action will also speak at the event. Speaking to CommonSpace, Burgauer explained the focus of the conference: “Scottish Rural Action’s 2017 Conference is focused around one of the biggest issues facing us at the moment: the uncertainty and threats to rural communities in a post-Brexit Scotland.

“More than a million people live and work in rural Scotland, which makes up 90 per cent of the land.  Most of this land has “less-favoured” status for EU funding, resulting in a higher level of subsidy than that in other parts of the UK.

“These mainly agricultural subsidies don’t just benefit landowners, but are circulated across the rural economy, supporting other businesses such as farm suppliers, local shops and other enterprises. Subsidies also include funding directly input to rural communities, through programmes such as LEADER.

“We have to look at the mechanisms and funding that currently support our rural communities, assess what is working well and how this support can be continued and/or improved from 2020 onwards.”

The conference will involve participants in a series of workshops to support Scottish Rural Action’s plans to engage with upcoming Scottish and UK policy developments. The discussions at the event will inform the production of a position paper on the challenges and opportunities of Brexit, a submission to the National Council of Rural Advisors on the rural economy, and responses to the National Transport Strategy, Climate Change Bill, and Local Democracy Bill.

“We need to consider the impact of Brexit and take steps to maximise opportunities and minimise threats.” Emma Cooper, Scottish Rural Action

Burgauer highlighted the role of the conference in engaging rural communities in democracy: “The rural economy has been very successful over the last few years and, at our conference, we will seek ideas about how to expand on that success, ensuring that rural issues are highlighted to policy makers and giving the people who live and work in rural Scotland the opportunity to make their voices heard.”

Workshops will focus on developing and empowering rural leaders for the future, exploring the rural perspective on transport, the possibility of extending the Empty Homes Scheme to commercial properties to address the rural housing shortage, inclusiveness and wellbeing in rural Scotland, and addressing climate change.

Emma Cooper, Chief Executive of Scottish Rural Action said: “We look forward to hearing from our speakers, who will stimulate debate amongst delegates on the future vision for rural Scotland which Scottish Rural Action will use to influence top level decision making.
“As rural development becomes the focus of political discussions in the wake of Brexit, it is more important than ever that we are able to respond as rural communities. We need to consider the impact of Brexit and take steps to maximise opportunities and minimise threats. It is a unique opportunity for us to come together and consider our collective future.”

Ticket sales for the event end today.

Picture courtesy of Agriculture, Food and Rural communities

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