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Breathing new life into rural Scotland

25/09/2009

Further benefits to the rural economy were announced today at Scotland's first-ever Rural Gathering.

The Scottish Government intends to fund up to ninety per cent of projects in rural communities, such as small businesses, renewable energy projects and community gardens and festivals through the LEADER programme.

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Rural Gathering

Currently LEADER provides up to a maximum of 50 per cent of funding for local projects with the rest having to be found elsewhere.

The announcement coincides with new figures which show life in rural Scotland is thriving: people have longer life expectancy, higher employment and a greater sense of safety in their neighbourhoods than those living in urban areas.

Addressing delegates at the Rural Gathering, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead said:

"A thriving future for rural Scotland is vital to the social and economic fabric of the whole country. Grassroots community development will help deliver sustainable economic growth in every corner of Scotland.

"Government funding is available for local projects but in the current economic climate communities have found it difficult to find other sources of funding.

"Increasing funding up to 90 per cent will also provide extra help for small rural businesses and rural jobs."

The Rural Gathering aims to celebrate all rural Scotland offers and support the rural economy. The event gives delegates a chance to network and share best practice. Two pioneering examples in the rural sector featuring at the event were:

Fintry Development Trust

Gordon Cowtan spoke at the Rural Gathering as one of the four trust members who negotiated for the inclusion of an extra turbine for the community in a wind farm development to reduce the village's carbon-based energy use. This was the first time this had been done in Scotland. The project came top in the Scotsman's recent Green List.

Here We Are, Cairndow

This innovative community empowerment project established in 1998 was discussed. HWA's custom-built visitor centre next to the popular Loch Fyne Oyster Bar in Cairndow explains how a rural community can make its way in the modern world while staying true to its roots. The centre helps to foster a sense of pride in the community and provides employment for eight people on a full and part-time basis.

LEADER is part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP). LEADER is worth £58 million over the six year lifetime of the project and is aimed at promoting economic and community development within rural areas. The programme is a bottom-up method of delivering support for rural development through improved facilities and help for rural business. Funding is awarded to Local Actions Groups (LAGs) to take decisions on projects which are community driven and have a wide community benefit.

To date LEADER provides up to 50 per cent of funding, with projects having to find match funding from other sources. This is proving increasingly difficult in the current economic climate so the Scottish Government aims to increase funding to 90 per cent. This will help more projects get off the ground. Details of LEADER projects can be found on the Scottish National Rural Network website.

Rural Scotland Key Facts 2009 were published today.

Examples of the main findings are:

Rural areas have:

  • Higher employment, higher wages and lower income deprivation.
  • Higher life expectancy, fewer emergency admissions and a lower proportion of smokers.
  • Better school results and more school leavers in work, education or training.
  • More people who feel very safe at home at night.

The Rural Gathering was chaired by Ken Rundle of the Scottish Agricultural College and Richard Wakeford, Director General, Rural Futures. It was attended by Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead, Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham and a broad cross-section of people from across rural Scotland.