Lessons from the policy tour so far
This week, three of our policy team, Eleanor Kay, Marcelina Hamilton and Emma Steel, began their tour of the North East and Highland Regions. They talk us through what they have learnt about the issues of concern to our members living and working in these areas.
We are three days into our policy tour of the Highlands and North-East regions. Driving between the various estates, farms and businesses on our journey has amply demonstrated how isolated many parts of rural Scotland are and how vital it is that politicians recognise the issues that are important to people living and working in these areas.
We have already seen such a diverse selection of rural businesses; from estates and castles, to breweries and forestry businesses.
Each of these businesses are trying to maximise the different opportunities available to them but frequently the threats they face are the same. Below are some of the issues that have been raised by members on our trip so far;
The direction of future rural policy
Currently, businesses are unsure about where they should be targeting investment. Whilst businesses are eager to see the industry move to a climate change ready, post-Brexit system the uncertainty surrounding the direction of travel for future rural policy is hindering progress.
Rural repopulation & a strong local economy
The common theme amongst those we have visited is that they want diverse rural business which can utilise the landscape around them. They recognise that in remote areas of rural Scotland the provision of accommodation is a key criteria in attracting staff. Most are keen to move away from tied accommodation but are concerned about a general lack of affordable accommodation in their surrounding areas.
Viewpoints on deer management and changing regulation have been varied. Many felt that SNH have increased their pressure on the responsibilities of landowners and rural businesses to conduct robust surveys to support the sustainable management of deer populations. However, there were concerns that not enough support is being offered by SNH or the Scottish Government in order to support deer management groups in carrying out these surveys and gathering the relevant data.
We’ve learned a lot in a short space of time and have enjoyed meeting our members and learning about the various concerns they have. It is going to be an invaluable tool when we get back HQ and lobby politicians. We still have a number of members to visit as well as some round tables and we hope to see as many members as possible!