The very first Scottish Rural Parliament will be held in Oban later this year, it has been confirmed.
The three day event, which will take place over November 6-8, 2014, will bring together 400 people from rural communities, decision makers and organisations from across Scotland.
The event will develop and agree a way forward for rural Scotland whilst celebrating the strengths and achievements of rural Scottish communities. The themes or agenda for the event are yet to be announced.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
"The establishment of a Rural Parliament in Scotland has been a long-held ambition of mine, and I am delighted that the very first meeting will be held in Oban in November.
“Rural Parliaments work well in other European countries, giving our rural communities and businesses a stronger voice in policy making and an opportunity to celebrate all that is good about living and working in rural areas. I would urge everyone across rural Scotland to take advantage of the opportunity to be involved in shaping the content, remit, agenda and themes of our nation’s very first Rural Parliament and make it a success.”
Scottish Rural Action (SRA) is the organisation charged by Scottish Government with developing the Rural Parliament. Chair John Hutchison said:
“The Scottish Rural Parliament will be a community-led process of development culminating in an event every two years. Our aim is to give rural communities the opportunity to present a collective voice to Government. Encouraging discussion and debate over the next few months, leading up to November, will be an important part of that.”
A series of smaller events are planned across Scotland in the run up to the Rural Parliament which will feed into the discussion and debate at the event itself.
Coordinator Emma Cooper explained:
“The process of involvement, discussion and debate within and between rural communities prior to the event is as vital, if not more so, than the event itself. By engaging people in this manner and giving them a real voice in Scottish politics, it is hoped that this first Rural Parliament will kick-start a rural movement such as exists in other parts of Europe.”
The host town and the surrounding area of Argyll & Bute will have an opportunity to showcase their finest local produce, talent and community projects to the delegates. Scottish Rural Action have identified the community-led Atlantis Leisure Centre as the primary venue and are working with Argyll & Bute Council to secure Corran Halls as a secondary venue.
Notes to editors
The Rural Parliament will bring together the people of rural Scotland and policy makers to enable better understanding, improved policy and action to address rural issues. It will sit every two years.
The Rural Parliament is not a formal part of government nor a legislative or decision making body, but will make recommendations based on the priorities identified by rural communities. Its core principals require it to be ‘rooted in and empowering of rural communities’ and ‘independent and politically neutral’.
For more information about Rural Parliaments in Europe see: http://www.ruralgateway.org.uk/en/node/5428
Scottish Rural Action was formed late in 2013 to deliver the inaugural Scottish Rural Parliament. Although primarily funded by Scottish Government, SRA is an independent organisation. There are currently six Directors on the board of SRA who have an interest in the development of rural Scotland and whom hold a number of other positions in national organisations. John Hutchison, Chair of SRA, is currently also the chair of the John Muir Trust and Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust as well as a Director of Community Land Scotland.
SRA is seen as a temporary body formed in order to organise this first event, at which the rural community will determine the future governance arrangements of the Scottish Rural Parliament. SRA employs a Coordinator and Administrator. They can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about SRA see: http://www.scottishruralparliament.org.uk
Other local organisations including Oban Community Council, Argyll Voluntary Action and BID4Oban are included in the Oban Liaison Group which is tasked with assisting SRA in organising the event and associated activities.