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10 April 2006

MSP Highlights Need For 'Cross-Cutting Agenda' Across Government Departments

STEVENSON RESPONDS TO CONSULTATION ON RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has called for a cross-cutting agenda across the Scottish Executive in order to tackle the needs of the countryside.

The SNP MSP made the call to Ross Finnie in his response to the Scottish Executive’s consultation on the Strategic Plan for the Rural Development Programme.

Among the key changes called for by Mr Stevenson to sustain and develop rural areas are:

  • A new entrants scheme for young farmers

  • A new approach to public sector procurement with the emphasis on local produce

  • A presumption against rural school closures

  • An overhaul of the planning system relating to rural business development and rural housing

Mr Stevenson said:

Rural Scotland has faced a range of pressures in the last decade or so which have been unprecedented in recent history. These are most obvious in terms of the drift away from the countryside of basic services such as shops, Post Offices, banks, petrol stations and so on.

But other less obvious pressures are also building. The average age of those involved in farming for example is a concern and this needs to be addressed. Northern Ireland, for example, has a scheme in place to provide support for new entrants into farming and we should have the same support from our Government in Scotland for young farmers.

If we are able to retain and attract young people into farming and therefore into the countryside, it follows that they will often have young families and this in turn supports the local school and local services.

I welcome this consultation from the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD), but one department working in isolation cannot deliver for Scotland’s rural areas. The clear message that I am sending to the Scottish Executive is that the support and investment in our rural infrastructure has to be delivered across all Government departments working together.

For example, inward investors will not be attracted to an area where they know that they may have difficulty recruiting employees because people will be reluctant to move to an area where there is no NHS dentist or basic health services for example.

The Government’s Strategic Plan for Rural Development needs a cross-cutting approach across all departments in order to deliver for Scotland’s rural areas. I hope that the Scottish Government will take that on board and start to deliver for rural Scotland.”

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