LEADER: Past, Present and Future | Event Report

Mairi Gougeon delivering her keynote speech
Lorraine Lowrie

A celebration of the LEADER approach in Scotland was held last night (February 27th) at the Scottish Parliament. Bruce Crawford MSP hosted the Parliamentary Reception, which was organised collaboratively between Scottish Rural Network (SRN) and the Scottish Local Action Group (LAG) Chairs committee, with input and support from a wide variety of stakeholders.  

LEADER is an EU funded rural grant programme designed to support local enterprises and projects that support and develop the rural economy.  

‘LEADER – Past, Present and Future, brought together people from across Scotland who have had involvement in the various LEADER programmes including beneficiaries, LEADER programme staff, LAG representatives, Scottish Government stakeholders and gave a unique opportunity for them to engage directly with MSPs and the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon.  

Bruce Crawford MSP opened the event and introduced Mairi Gougeon who gave a passionate and articulate keynote speech about the benefits and legacy of LEADER in Scotland. Coming from Angus and having seen the many benefits LEADER has had in the communities there, the minister spoke knowledgeably and enthusiastically about a number of projects from her and Graeme Dey MSP’s constituency areas. She also reiterated her invite to Bonfest to Fergus Ewing MSP!   

"It's not just about LEADER funding a whole project, it's about what that enables groups to do and what it kickstarts in communities that can be really fantastic." - Mairi Gougeon, MSP

Ms Gougeon drew her speech to a close but not before delivering some exciting news from the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) Rural Inspiration awards (more details to follow on the SRN website/social media channels in due course).  

Guests were shown two videos produced by Scottish Rural Network which showcased an exciting selection of LEADER funded projects from across the years.  

LEADER: Past, Present and Future: Compilation video 1 from ScottishRuralNetwork on Vimeo.

LEADER: Past, Present and Future - Compilation 2 from ScottishRuralNetwork on Vimeo.

We then heard from Peter Ross, Volunteer Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Local Action Group (amongst the many other roles he holds!) who spoke about the effectiveness of the LEADER approach and working in partnership with rural communities.  

"The LEADER approach can help government fulfil its ambitions, policies and agenda, be a viable delivery method of providing community development and provide a partnership framework in any situation - rural, coastal or urban, where people and organisations have a sense of place." - Peter Ross, Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Local Action Group

Peter introduced Abi Carrol from the River Annan Trust who then spoke about one the showcased projects from the video, ‘Eels in the Classroom’ and the wider work of the Trust.  

The final speaker of the evening was John Grieve from the ENRD. John was a co-ordinator for one of the LAG during the LEADER 2 Programme and has been working in rural development for many years. He spoke about LEADER across the EU and how countries looking to join the EU are quick to adopt the LEADER approach. John advised there are approximately 3000 Local Action Groups at work across the EU, delivering 10 billion Euros worth of projects demonstrating the sheer scale of this funding and how it is in no way insignificant.  

Over the years in Scotland, LEADER has delivered over £152.4m in funding to our rural communities and supported over 3700 projects. The opportunity to celebrate this huge contribution to rural Scotland was timely and hopefully this event has gone some way to showing those who could potentially influence the future of rural funding and development in Scotland, the importance of LEADER and its legacy.  

Many thanks to all the LAG members, Co-ord’s and SG colleagues, including LEADER Delivery team, who helped make this a great event.

If you want to find out more about what LEADER funding has supported over the years, check out our case studies on https://www.ruralnetwork.scot/funding/leader.