1.1 The Rural Development Council (referred to in the consultation documents as the Council but by many respondents as RDC) was set up in 2008 by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead. The Council is an independent forum which brings a broad range of expertise on rural matters to bear on strategic discussion to shape the development of rural policy and practice in Scotland.
1.2 In 2009, the Cabinet Secretary asked the Council for specific advice on how rural Scotland could best contribute to the creation of a more successful country through sustainable economic growth, and how to face up to the challenges of the 21st century.
1.3 The consultation document 'Speak Up for Rural Scotland' set out the Council's response and contained their vision for a prosperous rural Scotland. The four strands of this vision, which will combine to form 'an international shop window for all of Scotland' are:
- Active and confident communities;
- The best connected place;
- Competitive enterprises creating employment opportunities;
- World-rated natural and built environments.
1.4 The report focused on 7 overarching themes and suggested 37 Step Changes designed to generate innovation and activity and to stimulate individuals and enterprises to work together to bring about a prosperous rural Scotland. A complete list of the unabridged Step Changes can be seen in Appendix 3. The consultation document was accompanied by 6 questions and respondents were invited to give their views on the Council's advice; to comment on and suggest the prioritisation of the proposed Step Changes; and to identify any gaps. Analysis of responses to this consultation will feed into future Scottish Government policy direction.
1.5 The public consultation ran between 2 August and 25 October 2010. In order to gather the views of as many people as possible with an interest in rural Scotland, the Scottish Government published 'Speak Up' on its consultation website; publicised the paper widely, including through newspaper advertisements; and distributed around 5,000 copies of the paper across Scotland. The Scottish Government also arranged an online forum on the Scottish National Rural Network ( SNRN) webpage and held a number of consultation events:
- Four regional consultation events (in Oban, Inverness, Perth and Dumfries) to provide opportunities for people to participate in facilitated group discussion of the document. Those attending these events were also provided with voting forms which allowed them to identify the 5 Step Changes they see as most important. Eighty-nine people attended across the 4 events.
- A Youth Parliament workshop event.
- A High School debate held on Benbecula.
- Two Scottish Enterprise discussion events, similar to the regional events, although these were attended by business people who were invited via rural leadership schemes.
- A discussion with the Older People's Forum.
1.6 Notes of the discussions were taken at all these events and the notes are included in the analysis.
Aims and objectives
1.7 The aims of this project were to:
- conduct a transparent, rigorous and systematic analysis of the written responses submitted to the consultation;
- synthesise and present the analysis in a succinct, high quality and accessible report, and summary of the findings.
1.8 In order to achieve these aims, the objectives of the project were to:
- organise and summarise all written responses received to the consultation;
- produce a database of responses to facilitate analysis by question, theme and respondent type, as appropriate;
- analyse the responses, ensuring that the full range and nature of views submitted is considered and presented in a balanced way;
- identify types of respondent to the consultation and allocate them to sectoral categories agreed with the policy team;
- interpret and report findings from the consultation, drawing out themes, commonalities in the views of particular sectors, contradictions and anomalies that emerge in the analysis;
- summarise supplementary data gathered from consultation events and online comments on the consultation website.
Overview of respondents responding to the consultation paper
1.9 A total of 131 consultation responses were received, consisting of:
- those responding on behalf of an organisation (83);
- those responding as an individual (48).
1.10 A further breakdown by organisation type was applied to all organisational responses and, as can be seen in Table 1.1, the highest number of organisational responses came from the third (or voluntary) sector and the public sector.
Table 1.1: Respondent profile
1.11 Respondents were also profiled by geographical location and, as shown in the following table, most respondents were based in north or central Scotland.
Table 1.2: Geographical location
*This response came from the Scottish branch of a national organisation which does not have a physical base in Scotland.
**Does not add to 100% due to rounding.
1.12 Initially the responses were divided by geographic location, and analysis included a geographic dimension. However, this did not yield useful or meaningful data so these findings were not included in the report.
Types of responses
1.13 The consultation paper listed 6 questions (2 of which had a yes/ no response as well as a further open ended question) and invited respondents to answer some or all of these questions.
1.14 One hundred and ten of the responses addressed some or all of the questions using the questionnaire format provided, with 18 respondents providing additional comments or information.
1.15 Twenty-one respondents submitted responses in a free-flowing format and our team assigned relevant sections of these to appropriate questions before the text was applied to our analysis framework.
1.16 Excel was used for the bulk of the analysis; analysis of voting forms from the 4 regional consultation events was carried out using a statistical package ( SNAP).
Reporting and analysis
1.17 The following chapters document the substance of our analysis and present the main issues and views expressed in the responses and in feedback from the consultation events.
1.18 Appropriate verbatim comments were selected both to illustrate key themes and to provide extra detail for any specific areas of interest.
1.19 For those questions that invited a yes/ no response, we have produced a table showing levels of support. However, in light of the fact that, within each question, similar comments have been made by respondents who agreed and by those who disagreed, all comments have been analysed together.
1.20 Given the open nature of the questions, it should be remembered that although, in some cases, it has been possible to quantify where some respondents agree or disagree with specific proposals, no assumptions can be made about the remainder as there were those who chose not to answer or who gave more general, descriptive answers.
1.21 In addition, some respondents chose to submit information which related to other issues relevant to their interest or involvement in rural affairs. The points contained in these responses, while not directly addressing the consultation questions, have been summarised and are reported alongside analysis of the 'other comments' question in chapter 7.
1.22 Respondent classifications, as shown in Table 1.1 above, have been used in the report to indicate differences and/ or similarities emerging across or within respondent types. Where no differences have been included alongside themes this means that similar comments were noted across most respondent types.
1.23 The views presented in this analysis have not been vetted in any way for factual accuracy. The opinions and comments submitted to the consultation may be based on fact or, indeed, may be based on what respondents perceive to be accurate, but which others may interpret differently. It is important for the analysis to represent views from all perspectives. The report, therefore, may contain analysis of responses that may be factually inaccurate or based on misunderstanding or misinformation on the issues but nevertheless reflect strongly held views. In some instances, such inaccuracies and misunderstandings will be relevant findings in themselves.
Interpretation of findings
1.24 While the consultation exercise was intended to give all those who wished to comment an opportunity to do so, views may not be representative of the Scottish population. This has to be borne in mind in interpreting the findings presented in this report. Given the primarily self-selecting nature of any consultation exercise, it should be noted that any figures quoted here cannot be extrapolated to a wider population outwith the respondent group.
1.25 Further, some criticisms made in responses to the consultation may reflect a misunderstanding of the purpose and provenance of the 'Speak Up For Rural Scotland' document. For example, some respondents may not have a clear understanding that the document was produced by the Rural Development Council and is not intended to be a list of Scottish Government priorities. The findings should be read with this in mind.