The SNP is committed to supporting rural communities across Scotland. Here’s just some of the action we’re taking.
Investing in affordable homes
We know building affordable housing in rural areas presents different challenges compared to urban areas. That’s why the SNP Government has established the £25 million Rural Housing Fund, which will provide around 500 new affordable homes in rural areas and fund the refurbishment of existing buildings too.
Cutting ferry and air fares for islands communities
Our ferry services make a big contribution to the social, cultural and economic wellbeing of our islands, and we’re committed to keeping fares affordable. In government we have put in place a freeze for all lifeline ferry fares - covering passengers, cars and commercial vehicles - until 2017.
We’ve also put in place the Air Discount Scheme, which means residents of Caithness and north-west Sutherland, Colonsay, Islay, Jura, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles are eligible for a 50 per cent discount on air fares.
Improving transport connections to Scotland’s rural communities
We’re committed to ensuring all parts of Scotland are well connected to the transport network. That’s why we’re making major investments in rural infrastructure. The Borders railway has now been completed and we have started work on the dualling of the A9. We’re dualling the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness, and improving rail services between the two cities to bring down journey times too.
Extending superfast broadband to Scotland’s rural communities
In government we’re investing in the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme to extend superfast broadband into areas which are not being reached by the market alone - particularly rural and remote parts Scotland.
Our £410m Digital Broadband Scotland programme has already delivered broadband to 85 per cent of premises in Scotland, and is on track to ensure 95 per cent of premises – both homes and businesses – have access to broadband by the end of 2017.
A re-elected SNP Government will use innovative schemes, new technologies and provide financial backing to deliver broadband to the remaining 5 per cent of homes and businesses over the next Parliament.
Addressing rural fuel poverty
In government we’ve established the Scottish Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force to tackle fuel poverty in rural and remote communities in Scotland. The Task Force will come up with a range of specific proposals tailored towards helping people in remote parts of Scotland to reduce their fuel costs and keep their homes warm.
Pushing for fair delivery charges
It’s not fair that rural households and businesses continue to be charged an excessive amount when ordering the same items as people in other areas of Scotland and the UK. It’s clear that the current UK legislation to protect online consumers isn’t working. That’s why Drew Hendry MP has introduced the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling Delivery Charges) Bill to the House of Commons. If passed by Parliament, the Bill would require distance sellers to provide purchasers with the lowest available delivery cost option.
Tackling the rural gender employment gap
The SNP have recently launched a new campaign aimed at tackling the gender gap in employment in rural areas, which is more pronounced across rural local authority areas.
We want to ensure people can progress and develop a career in rural, remote and island communities, which is why we are encouraging businesses in rural Scotland to do what they can to improve women’s employment, and to sign up to the Scottish Government’s Partnership for Change or Business Pledge - committing them to having more women in leadership roles.
Increasing community ownership
In government we are taking action to ensure that one million acres of land are in community ownership by 2020.
We are trebling the size of the Scottish Land Fund to £10 million this year. The Fund supports community buyouts, and has already helped 52 communities across Scotland purchase land in the last three years. Over 500,000 acres are already in community ownership - benefitting 71,000 people.
And, we’ve also introduced a radical and ambitious Land Reform Bill to transform rules around the ownership, accessibility and benefits of land in Scotland.