The Scottish Conservatives have launched a Rural Commission to be chaired by rural businessman, Hughie Campbell Adamson.
The Commission – which will be made up by a cross-section of respected stakeholders in the rural community - will examine all aspects of rural life, ranging from agriculture through to housing and environmental issues.
The first three commissioners to be announced are Robin Harper, former Green Party leader; Bertie Armstrong, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and Andrew Hamilton, a specialist in land management.
While the Commission will report to the Scottish Conservatives, the new body will have the freedom to operate independently of the party and will not be bound by past policies.
The Rural Commission will publish a consultation document over the summer, inviting written submissions from experts and ordinary members of the public from across Scotland.
These will be followed up by a series of oral sessions towards the end of the year, culminating in a final report with recommendations to be submitted by May 2013.
Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson MSP said:
“It is vitally important that Scotland’s rural communities have the environment, services, infrastructure and employment opportunities to sustain future generations.
“The Scottish Conservatives understand the importance of our rural communities and are committed to bringing forward policies which will help them thrive.
“I am pleased to be able to announce the establishment of the Rural Commission and welcome the announcement of our first three commissioners today. “Their independence and standing in their fields demonstrates my intention to have input from right across the political spectrum.
“It is crucial that we listen to as wide a range of views as possible and consider all of the Commission’s recommendations thoroughly and in detail no matter what they are.
“We want to listen, we want to discuss and we want to progress.
“I am confident Hughie and his team of expert and experienced commissioners can produce proposals of the highest quality and I look forward to them delivering their report.
Rural Commission Chairman Hughie Campbell Adamson said:
“I am pleased to be taking on this exciting task. Having lived in Angus for over 45 years I am passionate about rural Scotland and do understand the challenges faced by rural Scots.
“The team I am putting together is not only made up of leaders in their particular fields, but of people with differing political convictions.
“I am delighted to be joined today by Bertie Armstrong, a household name in the fishing industry, as well as Robin Harper, a former Green MSP and well-known environmental activist.
“I am also pleased to welcome Andrew Hamilton, a specialist in land management, on board.
“Our recommendations will be based on what we believe is best for rural Scotland, not party politics.
“We are approaching the subject with an open mind and are excited about consulting wider civic Scotland.
“We are guided by the desire to see the countryside as a vibrant, living, working place – attractive to residents and attractive to tourists.”
Rural Affairs and Environment spokesman Alex Fergusson MSP said:
“I’m delighted this Commission is being set up as it can play a vital role in putting forward policies our rural communities across Scotland more sustainable into the future.
“This strong team of commissioners will be tasked with coming up with a wide range of proposals on everything from agriculture to rural tourism to reinvigorate our countryside and make the most of Scotland’s bountiful natural resources.
They cannot be afraid of examining ideas that may be challenging, and that is why we are ensuring that they are free from party direction to put forward their ideas of what is best for Scotland.”