From Wick to Wigtown, we are committed to delivering progress in every part of Scotland. In rural Scotland, as elsewhere, that means supporting jobs, delivering quality public services and investing in infrastructure.
Here’s how we’re delivering progress for rural Scotland.
Supporting businesses and jobs
We have begun work towards establishing a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency by 2020 to support businesses, jobs and skills in the region.
We will produce a Rural Skills Action Plan to enhance employment opportunities for young people in rural communities.
We continue to make the case for the UK to stay in the European Single Market and the Customs Union, ensuring our vital food and drink sector has full access to a market eight times bigger than the UK alone.
We will publish proposals to ensure a smooth transition in farming support after Brexit.
Delivering vital infrastructure
As part of our commitment to delivering 50,000 affordable homes in this Parliament, we have established a £20 million Rural Housing Fund and a £5 million Island Housing Fund.
We have delivered fibre broadband to 95 per cent of premises in Scotland. We have now committed £600 million to deliver superfast broadband to all homes and premises by 2021, with the first phase focusing on rural and island communities.
We have begun work towards dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness, with the first section opening last year. We are also committed to dualling the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen by 2030. And we are investing £30 million to deliver the Maybole bypass between Stranraer and Ayr.
We are investing £6 million in a Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, with the first funding confirmed for three sites on Skye and Orkney.
Delivering quality public services
We are providing additional funding to increase GP numbers by 800 over the next decade, with more support to recruit and retain GPs in rural areas.
The new £275 million Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary was opened in December 2017. And NHS Orkney’s £77.4 million New Hospital and Healthcare Facilities project is underway – the biggest in the board’s history.
We have put in place, and continue to apply, a presumption against rural school closures.
Listening and responding to the concerns of rural Scotland
We have established a Scottish Rural Parliament so people who live and work in rural Scotland can influence decision makers on the issues that matter to them.
A National Council of Rural Advisers was established in 2017 to advise government on the implications of Brexit for rural Scotland and to recommend actions to support the rural economy.
We have introduced an Islands Bill that will ensure future laws and public sector policies are ‘island-proof’ and reflect the interests of islanders.