Development of a Scottish Rural Delivery Plan for publication by 2026 underway

Development of a Scottish Rural Delivery Plan for publication by 2026 underway

Extract from front cover of ‘Equality, opportunity, community. New leadership – A fresh start’ publication
Alan Robertson

Yesterday (18 April) saw the launch and publication of new policy prospectus by First Minister Humza Yousaf, setting out what the government will deliver for Scotland over the next three years

The ‘Equality, opportunity, community. New leadership – A fresh start’ publication sets out Ministerial priorities to be delivered by 2026 and describes what the Scottish Government aim to achieve, which when taken together will deliver upon the three key missions:

  • Equality: Tackling poverty and protecting people from harm
  • Opportunity: A fair, green and growing economy
  • Community: Prioritising our public services

Support for Rural and Island communities and stakeholders feature throughout the prospectus with various Ministerial commitments to address issues such as housing, economy, agriculture, climate change, transport, green skills and a range of other priorities, including the publication of a Rural Delivery Plan.  

Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Shona Robison MSP said:

“Reforming public services will mean that, by 2026, in partnership with Local Government, trade unions and the third sector, amongst others, I will have published a Rural Delivery Plan, showing how all parts of the Scottish Government are delivering for rural Scotland. As well as policies on agriculture, land reform,  marine, and our Islands Plan, this will cover areas such as transport, housing, social justice, repopulation, digital connectivity and economic development”.

The need for affordable housing in rural and island communities was also recognised.

Actions set out by the First Minister and the prospectus document include an investment of up to £25 million to convert suitable properties into affordable homes for key workers and others as part of an action plan to increase housing in remote, rural and island areas.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP said:

“As the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, working with my Cabinet colleagues, I commit that by 2026 I will have published a Remote, Rural and Island Housing Action Plan; setting out our approach to rural housing delivery, including support for community housing trusts, and actions to allow suitable properties, including empty homes, to be purchased, or long leased, and turned into affordable housing for those who need them in rural areas, including key workers”. 

She also promised to continue to press the UK Government regarding further powers for the Scottish Parliament including a commitment:

“to provide further powers to the Scottish Parliament so we can tackle poverty, and make the vital immigration reforms required to meet Scotland’s needs, including making the strongest case possible for tailored migration solutions such as a Rural Visa Pilot”.

Crucially to rural and island stakeholders, there are 11 specific comments across the Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands led by Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon MSP. 

These include :

  • Increased conditions on Direct Payments. To better incentivise sustainable and regenerative practice, on-farm nature restoration and climate mitigation and adaptation efforts
  • Introduced Land Reform legislation to further improve transparency of land ownership, helped ensure large scale land holdings deliver in the public interest, and empowered communities by providing more opportunities to own land and have more say in how land in their area is used.
  • Created new crofting opportunities through delivery of the National Development Plan for Crofting and reformed the law, subject to agreement by parliament, to support the future of crofting.
  • Continued to support six Scottish Islands – Hoy, Islay, Great Cumbrae, Raasay, Barra and Yell – to become carbon neutral by 2040, and shared good practice and lessons learned from this work with all other Scottish islands. 
  • Published and started to implement Scotland’s national Good Food Nation plan, which will set out the main outcomes to be achieved on food-related issues, the policies needed to do so and the measures that will be used to assess progress; and established the Scottish Food Commission
  • Published our response to the 2023 Land Based Learning Review, aiming to help create employment opportunities in land based and aquaculture sectors to promote rural development and sustainable communities.
  • Implemented the recommendations of the Werritty Review to license grouse moor management and muirburn, ensuring management of grouse moors and related activities are undertaken in an environmentally sustainable manner – subject to the passage of the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill.
  • Established Scotland as an international leader in the use of technology for responsible fisheries management through the introduction of remote electronic monitoring to key parts of the fishing fleet, further enhancing our brand for world class sustainable fish. Improved our policy and regulatory framework for sustainable aquaculture in Scotland, protecting the environment and supporting a global export worth more than £1 billion to the Scottish economy.
  • Taken steps to further protect and restore our iconic Atlantic rainforests and ancient Caledonian pinewoods, and increased woodland creation in Scotland to 18,000 hectares per year, sequestering carbon for decades to come, delivering biodiversity gains and ensuring a reliable supply of raw material for the timber processing sector.
  • Maximised the power of our land and forests to help tackle climate change, protect nature and provide good green jobs, by delivering up to 110,000 hectares of restored peatland – four times the size of the Edinburgh City Council area – with 10,700 hectares in 2023-24, an increase of 40% on 2022-23.

The full prospectus can be read here