Birnam hosts Rural Movement Event

Rural Movement Event
Katharine Johnston

Over 70 people and rural representatives from Scotland gathered online and in Birnam on Tuesday 8th November to agree actions to support Scotland’s Rural Movement.

The Scottish Government recognises the rural movement as a driver for rural and island policy in Scotland and its Programme for Government 2019-20 pledged to support “the development of a rural movement that will engage with communities between rural parliaments to include a more diverse range of voices, including those in disadvantaged communities.”

Research to identify learning to strengthen the Scottish approach, ‘Learning from European Rural Movements: Research to Inform a Scottish Approach’ was published in August 2022. The research found that these movements take time to build. Some countries like Finland have highly organised ‘village movements’ with specific organisations at grassroots and regional levels and a single, unifying organisation to provide national advocacy. Others, like Scotland, have a more decentralised, networked approach where multiple actors at grassroots, regional and national level converge and collaborate at distinct times, e.g. around government consultations, thematic collaboration or Rural Parliaments.

A key recommendation for Scotland’s rural movement was to engage the full range of factors to identify ways of strengthening collaboration on rural and island policy development. Other recommendations included building robust processes for knowledge exchange and the use of evidence (academic, community) in the rural movement; and skilling up communities, through networks like Community-Led Local Development, to participate in the rural movement. SRUC launched the Rural Exchange to reach lived experience and help amplify rural voices and experiences.

The workshop on 8 November 2022 had representatives from over 80 organisations across Scotland, including under-represented groups. It was supported by an opening speech from Cabinet Secretary for Rural and the Islands, Ms. Gougeon, who spoke of the importance of local networking and solutions to tackle both the challenges and opportunities ahead.  The video of Ms. Gougeon's speech can be viewed here

There was keen energy both online and in the room, with many attendees noting the level of excitement to strengthen the rural movement in Scotland and how important it was to have a hybrid event that worked well for those joining in rural and island areas.

The working group that organised the event, including Scottish Rural Action, Scottish Rural Network, SRUC and the Scottish Government, will collate much of the feedback from the day and will disseminate to attendees. Much of these findings will inform the next Scottish Rural Parliament, scheduled for early November 2023.