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November 6, 2019

A Remote Rural Bill?

After extensive consultation with island communities, the Islands (Scotland) Act was passed last year. One of the MSPs who sat on the Committee that steered the Bill through Parliament represents the remote rural constituency of Caithness, Sutherland and Ross. Gail Ross MSP listened to the evidence of the challenges of island life and recognised that many applied equally to communities in her constituency. Consequently she is now proposing that similar legislation to the Islands Act should apply to remote rural Scotland as well. A consultation has been launched. Responses need to be in by end of January.

Scottish Parliament

To read full consultation – click here

Protection for our remote rural communities has never been more vital. Recent conversations in rural Scotland have focussed around replacement of funds after we leave the European Union, agriculture, food security, keeping and housing our young people, jobs and tourism amongst others.

Despite increased focus on our remote rural communities, the feelings of isolation and being left

behind urban centres of population are still prevalent, as demonstrated by Voluntary Health Scotland in its paper ‘Mental Wellbeing, Social Isolation and Loneliness in Rural Scotland’.  NHS

Highland also has a focus on rural loneliness and have launched a campaign ‘Reach out’2

to try and tackle it in the Highlands and Argyll and Bute.

The latest update of the Highland Council’s Corporate Plan 2019-20223 contains the prediction that the population of Caithness is due to fall by 21.1%, that of Sutherland by 11.9% and Skye and Lochalsh by 11.8%. These figures are estimates based on no work being done to stop the decline.

This consultation aims to get the views of the whole of Scotland, to gauge whether this fall can be reversed and to encourage public bodies to take impacts on remote rural communities into account when making policy. Scottish Rural Action recently produced a document titled ‘21st Century Clearances – What does Brexit mean for Rural Scotland’4 and whilst this document focusses on the

implications of leaving the EU, it also throws up a lot of questions and challenges that need to be faced regardless.

The introduction of an Act to take into account remote rural areas will further complement other pieces of legislation such as the Islands Act, the Community Empowerment Act, the Land Reform Act and the recently passed South of Scotland Enterprise Agency Act.

Together, they will promote and protect our remote rural communities and allow them to grow and flourish.

Gail Ross MSP

Caithness, Sutherland and Ross

To read full consultation – click here