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Informing rural policy in Scotland

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This blog was written jointly with Jane Atterton from the Rural Policy Centre of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). We reflect on current goals in rural development and the implications for how these may be tackled and researched.

This is an interesting time to do research about rural development. At the international level, this is illustrated by recent OECD work on the topic, most notably, the newly launched OECD Regional Outlook 2016, which has a special focus on rural development and describes in detail the new policy framework - Rural Policy 3.0 - designed to help governments implement a ‘New Rural Paradigm’ endorsed by OECD countries in 2006. The table below summarises the main features of the New Rural Paradigm and Rural Policy 3.0. As you can see, crucial features include defining well-being in a multi-dimensional manner encompassing material living conditions as well as more subjective indicators of quality of life; encouraging cross-sectoral involvement (private, public, and third sectors) and multi-level governance (i.e. national and local). In 2012 the Rural Policy Centre wrote a policy briefing “Building on the New Rural Paradigm: A view from the UK ”, in which it argued the need for more details on how to implement and evaluate the new rural paradigm. Rural Policy 3.0 provides an answer to this by proposing specific mechanisms that national governments can use to implement the New Rural Paradigm and support rural well-being.

Source: Table 4.1 Rural Policy 3.0. In: “OECD Regional Outlook 2016 - Productive Regions for Inclusive Societies”, pp.182.

Another distinctive feature of the New Rural Paradigm, emphasised rather clearly in Rural Policy 3.0, is the importance of rural-urban interactions in defining rural regions, particularly the degree of integration in nearby functional areas or city-regions. Three types of rural areas are proposed: (i) rural areas within a functional urban area (FUA), where the rural area is an essential part of the wider city-region; (ii) rural areas close to a FUA, where the rural area has strong linkages to the neighbouring FUA but is not part of its labour market; (iii) remote rural regions, where the rural area has very little connections or no connections to a FUA. The Scottish Government uses a similar approach, which classifies rural areas (and small towns) as accessible or remote according to drive time accessibility to the nearest urban area (see SG urban-rural classification ). However, the Government’s classification does not provide information (explicitly) about the degree of interaction between rural and urban areas, which is likely to differ across both accessible and remote rural areas, which in turn can affect the implementation of rural policies and practices.

Source: Figure 3.3. Three types of rural regions. In: “OECD Regional Outlook 2016 - Productive Regions for Inclusive Societies”, pp.146.

Although Scotland does not have a clear, over-arching rural strategy or vision, particular policy domains or agendas have been recently developed - including land reform (e.g. Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016), community empowerment and stronger local democratic and governance structures (e.g. Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015) - which will clearly impact on rural Scotland. The Scottish Government has demonstrated its commitment to the Scottish Rural Network and the Scottish Rural Parliament. Both initiatives are supported through the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP), which seems to have become the closest thing to a rural development policy in Scotland.  The SRDP delivers pillar 2 of the Common Agriculture Policy and consists of a range of grant schemes aimed at targeting individuals, businesses and other groups in rural economies. However, it retains a particular focus on farming, forestry, land management, food processing. In contrast, the funding available to deliver community-led rural development, through the ‘LEADER’ programme, accounts only for a minor share (about 5%) of the total SRDP allocation.

During the recent second meeting of the Scottish Rural Parliament, held in Brechin between the 6th and 8th October 2016, many of the issues above - rural wellbeing, stronger local democratic structures, community empowerment, etc. - were discussed by a mixed audience including public sector, third sector, and private sector representatives. Some related issues were also discussed at the first Parliament meeting (see this 2014 blog post for a description of the Parliament and its first meeting). The debates and workshops held during the Parliament meeting demonstrated that there are many opportunities for rural communities, which can be used to help overcome some of the main threats and challenges faced by rural areas in Scotland. Thus the view of groups such as Scottish Rural Action and the Scottish Rural Network is that success can only be achieved when local (rural) communities are actively involved in the process of designing and implementing rural policies and practices.

This community-led and community-centred approach to policy design and delivery is well aligned with the current understanding of place-based approaches in Scotland. Although the term place-based approaches is far from unambiguous, in Scotland its use generally denotes a holistic localised approach to planning and implementing local policies, and practices that involve multi-level governance structures (e.g. national and local level) and multi-sector partners (e.g. public, third , and private sectors), as well as some form of spatial targeting (e.g. deprived areas). Although not necessarily rural per se, these approaches may be a suitable means to enable rural development in Scotland, as they stress the importance of community empowerment and involvement through partnership working at the local level. From a research point of view this raises many interesting angles for investigation, including local community involvement in place-based policies at local level, community resilience and wellbeing, rural-urban linkages, and other issues affecting rural development. All of these aspects are being explored jointly by researchers in the SEGS group at the James Hutton Institute and the Rural Policy Centre at SRUC through ‘Work Package 3.4: Communities and Wellbeing’ of the Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme (SRP) 2016-2021.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the views of the author(s), and not an official position of the institute or funder.



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Printed from /blogs/informing-rural-policy-scotland on 29/11/23 08:33:59 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.