We’re making major investments in rural infrastructure. The Borders railway has now been completed and we have started work on the dualing of the A9 which will bring major economic benefits across the north of Scotland.
We will work with regional transport partnerships to reinstate or develop new railway branch lines across rural Scotland, delivering enormous benefits to communities and the regional economy in terms of sustainable tourism and meeting our green travel objective.
We will renew the Community Empowerment Act, and introduce new Land Reform Legislation with a presumption in favour of community buy-outs.
To breathe new life into the economies of rural Scotland we will create a new, £20 million Rural Entrepreneur Fund – this will provide grants of up to £10,000 to support the creation of 2,000 new businesses.
We will maintain investment of £6.2 million per year in the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund to alleviate some of the pressure that tourism can have on local rural communities and invest a further £1 million in a Seasonal Ranger scheme to help support responsible tourism in our rural and remote areas.
To stop depopulation and support our communities, we will give local authorities the powers to manage the numbers of second homes in their area and will work with Community Land Scotland so we can find the right land to deliver more housing in our rural areas.
We will also work with local authorities to develop a Rural Visa Pilot as a rural and remote migration initiative.
We will create a new centre of excellence for rural and remote medicine and social care to provide expertise and advice on the delivery of care in different rural, island, and remote settings in Scotland and invest in our rural general hospitals.
Recognising how reliant the economy in rural areas is on having good connectivity, our £579 million investment in the expansion of superfast broadband means every home and business in South and Central Scotland will have access by 2023, with work in the North of Scotland completed in the next five years.
Through the Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme we will provide funding of up to £5,000 to help homes and businesses obtain superfast broadband in areas where providers may not ordinarily go, ensuring that everyone can access and benefit from this world-leading digital capability.
Over this parliament, we will invest £25 million to improve mobile coverage in remote rural and island communities.