A Rural Parliament for Scotland?
20 August 2012

ERCA support for a new initiative in Scotland

This is the big question that Scotland began to address at the start of this year, prompted by a commitment of the Scottish Government to investigate the possibility of a Scottish Rural Parliament. Since 2002 we have been trying to spread the word and mobilise support to begin a new rural movement in Scotland, following the demise of our previous one in 1999. During this time we have presented information about the European rural movements across Scotland, and enabled several Scottish delegates to attend the Swedish Rural Parliament. Now, with support from the Scottish Government, we are in a position to take serious steps.

Substantial progress has been made. We established an initial stakeholder group in March this year to help shape the first steps. On May 29, we organised a large seminar, involving over 100 representatives from across rural Scotland, including communities, NGOs and Government. We invited representatives from the Swedish, Estonian, Dutch and Slovenian Rural Parliaments, to tell us what they do. We also had representatives from England, who are co-incidentally also developing the first English Rural Parliament. Follow-up surveys and reports were completed, and are all available on-line on the Scottish National Rural Network website: www.ruralgateway.org.uk

The outcome is agreement that the results of the seminar and follow-up surveys have given a legitimacy and mandate to progress with the development of a first Rural Parliament for Scotland. The questions that now need to be addressed are focussed on how this should happen, including issues of governance and implementation. We are now discussing these questions with key stakeholders, and a workshop in late August will confirm how we will move forward into the action stage!

The main views expressed through the process to date are that the Rural Paliament should be: A voice for rural communities to influence policy; for networking and to overcome fragmentation; to broaden the range of rural voices being represented and heard; to help rural Scotland and to present evidence on rural issues. We want it to be rooted in the rural communities.

The intention is that the first Rural Parliament will take place in September 2013, as a pilot, during which we will test the idea and decide if it should become a permanent process. We will be very happy to share our learning experience with ERCA members and others.

It is important to give credit to the wonderful work of Hela Sverige skal leva, who pioneered the Rural Parliament model, and have inspired many other nations, including Scotland. The next Swedish Rural Parliament will be held on Sept. 6-9, 2012 in Ronneby, Sweden. If you have not already booked your place to attend, do so now!! It is an event not to be missed.  You will also meet the Scottish delegation there!
See the Rural Parliament website: http://lbrd.helasverige.se/english/

Vanessa Halhead
ERCA Board Member and Rural Parliament Adviser to the Scottish Government

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