The SNP Scottish Government established the Rural Parliament in 2014 to ensure that the needs of rural communities were considered, debated and acted upon. The Scottish Parliament has also passed the Community Empowerment Act which requires public bodies to consider how to engage with local communities.
We have established a new rural housing fund which is open to community groups and rural landowners – meaning that they can take a more active role in meeting the housing needs of local communities. Our Rural Fuel Poverty Task Force will report within a year with specific proposals which make it easier for people in rural areas to keep their homes warm.
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 which will bring major economic benefits across the north of Scotland. Rural rates relief has also benefitted more than 2,500 businesses across Scotland – alleviating the extra costs companies can incur and increases the sustainability of the rural economy.
We are also aiming to ensure that 1 million acres of land are in community ownership by 2020 – a short life working group has been established to help us to achieve this target. In addition, we have introduced the Land Reform Bill, and we are trebling the size of the Scottish Land Fund, which supports community buy-outs.