Rural Exchange

Informing Scotland's Rural Delivery Plan and Rural Lens

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Informing Scotland's Rural Delivery Plan and Rural Lens

In December 2022, Mairi Gougeon, (then) Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands and Kate Forbes (then) Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, committed to apply a rural lens to projects funded under the Scottish Government's National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) which was published earlier the same year. Applying this rural lens should ensure that all activities that are part of NSET take account of the specific circumstances of Scotland's rural communities.

In response to this announcement, SRUC Senior Lecturer Dr. Jane Atterton was successfully awarded SEFARI Gateway funding to set up a Specialist Advisory Group (SAG) to provide advice to rural policy officials in the Scottish Government on designing rural lens guidance for their policy colleagues across government. Five academics were chosen to be SAG members, all of whom have worked on various aspects of rural policies and policy-making, including rural proofing - an alternative term for applying a rural lens - in various countries. Members of the SAG were: Professor Lorna Philip, Emeritus Professor Mark Shucksmith, Dr. Mags Currie, Dr. Ana Vuin and Professor Sally Shortall.

The SAG's initial work focused on providing comments on early drafts of the rural lens guidance, based on their knowledge and experience of how rural proofing has been undertaken using similar tools in other countries, including Northern Ireland and England.

After this work started, now former First Minister Humza Yousaf announced in his policy prospectus in April 2023 that a Rural Delivery Plan would be published by 2026 demonstrating how all parts of the Scottish Government are delivering for rural Scotland. In response to this announcement and in discussion with Scottish Government colleagues, the work of the SAG shifted to focus more on sharing learning from the use of theories of change, data and evidence and indicators - these are the issues described in the SAG's recently published report.

We now have a new First Minister in Scotland, John Swinney, and Deputy First Minister, Kate Forbes, and this remains an interesting time for rural policy, with planning work continuing on the Rural Delivery Programme led by the Ministerial Working Group. There is also a commitment to publish a Rural Support Plan as part of the Agriculture and Rural Communities Bill which is currently progressing through the Scottish Parliament.

Scotland has a legislative commitment to undertake island proofing through the Islands Community Impact Assessments, and the application of rural proofing in other countries has had somewhat mixed success (some of which was discussed as part of the European Network for Rural Development's Thematic Group on Rural Proofing). SAG members will be watching these rural policy developments with interest to see how successful the application of the rural lens is in practice and how this success is measured, and how effectively the Rural Delivery Plan takes a truly holistic, joined up approach to acknowledging and addressing the challenges that rural Scotland is facing as well as supporting the many and significant opportunities. 

Read the full report here - Informing Scotland's Rural Delivery Plan and Rural Lens: Evidence, Indicators and Evaluation.

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