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April 4, 2012

Effective rural voice


The experience of rural parliaments in Sweden, Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands and elsewhere has been that it creates a highly effective voice for rural communities which is heard at the highest levels of government. The European experience also tells us that in each country where rural parliaments have evolved, they have evolved in different ways and very much according to local context. All this experience has been captured in a fascinating new report by the Rural Policy Centre at Scottish Agricultural College.




For copy of SAC Report click here 

Scotland is a step closer to having its own rural parliament to empower rural communities and give them a greater opportunity to influence decision-making, network and share expertise.

A report, published today, highlights the experiences of countries which already have rural parliaments, including the benefits and potential pitfalls, success stories and the various formats used.

And an initial meeting took place earlier this month to consider what Scotland’s rural parliament could look like and ensure it provides meaningful engagement for people living in rural communities.

The next step will be a meeting in May with representatives from existing European rural parliaments.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“Scotland’s rural areas have a vibrant and dynamic community spirit borne from a strong sense of place. Surrounded by the magnificent landscape for which our nation is famous and with so much of our world-renowned natural larder on the doorstep, there are many benefits to living in Scotland’s more rural areas.

“But the distances involved bring with them different challenges from those faced in less remote parts of the country. Scotland’s Rural Parliament will empower our rural communities, giving them a stronger voice and genuine access to decision-making. By doing this I am confident that our resilient and entrepreneurial rural communities will get the support and opportunities they need to flourish and grow.”

The Rural Parliaments in Europe report was produced for the Scottish Government by the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) Rural Policy Centre. 

Dr Mike Woolvin, researcher with the Rural Policy Centre, said:  

“Our study found that Government involvement and commitment to setting up a Scottish Rural Parliament is important but that it must be done in partnership with others. Enthusiasm, engagement and drive from the grassroots is vital, as a Rural Parliament cannot be imposed from the top-down.  It is particularly vital that the Parliament is well resourced from a variety of sources and that recommendations are quickly translated into actions by policy-makers and politicians. There is great willingness from others involved in Rural Parliaments in Europe to share expertise.”

Welcoming the initiative, Vanessa Halhead, Director of the European Rural Community Association (ERCA) said:

“Rural Parliaments have proved themselves to be an excellent vehicle for giving the rural communities a strong presence and voice on the national stage.  For rural Scotland, this is the start of a very exciting initiative, and will have full support from ERCA.”


The Rural Parliaments in Europe report by the Rural Policy Centre is available here: or for a PDF please call Chris Keddie on 0131 244 2598. The report looks at Rural Parliaments in six countries – Sweden, the Netherlands, Estonia, Finland, Hungary and Slovakia.  

The creation of a Rural Parliament for Scotland was included in the 2011-12 Programme for Government. A Rural Parliament is a facilitation process that will bring Government closer to rural Scotland, it is not the introduction of a further layer of Government.’

Organisations who attended the initial meeting to discuss the creation of a Scottish Rural Parliament included: Association of Scottish Community Councils, Development Trusts Association Scotland, Community Energy Scotland, Community Land Scotland, Community Woodlands Association, Scottish Community Alliance, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Southern Uplands Partnership, Carnegie UK, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise, COSLA, NFUS, Scottish Youth Parliament, Rural Policy Centre.  The second meeting will take place on May 29, 2012 and will also include representatives from existing European rural parliaments.

The European Rural Community Association (ERCA) is the network for the 23 national rural movements of Europe, who pioneered the Rural Parliaments. Sweden developed the Rural Parliament model in 1989, and its success has inspired many other countries.