A powerful voice for the people of rural Scotland

Emma Cooper, National Coordinator, Scottish Rural Action

In this guest blog, Emma Cooper tells us about the Scottish Rural Parliament and what you can expect at their event in Brechin, Angus next month.

I first heard about the Rural Parliament when I applied for the job of organising it back at the end of 2013. When I got the job I remember saying to my partner, "It’s either a really big job, or actually a really straight-forward one – it depends how you view it". After all, it’s just an event. 

Admittedly it is a three-day event, and one which we need to tell one million people about. And, of course, it has to result in significant change. And we’ve never done it in Scotland before. And no-one’s really heard of it or understands it. And we aren’t quite sure what it should look like or what the process of forming the agenda should be. And in fact, the event is only a part of it, the aim is really to build a rural movement. So, maybe it’s not ‘just an event…’ (Panic!)

Nearly three years on and the first Rural Parliament (and associated panic) feels like a distant memory as we lead into the second Rural Parliament (much more calmly and with sage words of wisdom for other event organisers, of course). 

The Rural Parliament happens only every two years. The aim is to ensure that rural communities thrive. That means that our voice needs to be heard by decision-makers so that we can be sure decision-making works for rural communities, and that we need to share knowledge and ideas and support each other. The event is our way of deciding collectively, as people from rural communities, what we should be saying to decision-makers, what we can be getting on and doing for ourselves, and reminding people that rural communities are about more than landscapes and agriculture – as much as we value both of these, there is more to rural Scotland. 

In Scotland we meet this year from 6 – 8 October in Brechin, in Angus (it is held somewhere different and rural each time). We have a programme of visits to local projects to share knowledge and ideas. Our opening ceremony aims to set the context and we hear from the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing, MSP. Workshops reflect the themes from our draft Manifesto for rural Scotland – which launched earlier this week – and then the fringe programme is run by participants, for participants.

The next morning sees the open space workshop, where participants set the agenda. The final of the key theme workshops takes place, and then we agree on our Manifesto. A celebratory dinner and dance rounds off the day. On the following morning – which is open to the general public as well as participants in the full Parliament event – we debate this year’s hottest topic: Brexit: what will this mean for rural Scotland?

A final selection of visits, chance to view the exhibition and a day of fringe events rounds off the event by the end of Saturday, and we all look forward to a very early night!

At the end of all that, we have a Manifesto which is agreed by rural communities the length and breadth of the country, which people will view as valid and important, and the bones of an Action Plan which will outline what items in the Manifesto will be take forward by whom. And more importantly, we take another step towards forming a collective, a group of people who want to progress rural matters together. A rural movement if you like. And together, we are powerful.

Registration is open for the second Scottish Rural Parliament in Brechin, Angus. Visit the Scottish Rura Parliament website for more information.