David Stewart MSP

North MSP speaks out on new Scottish Rural Development Programme

Highlands and Islands Regional Labour MSP David Stewart has spoken during the first rural development debate in the new session of the Scottish Parliament.Mr Stewart said, “In an area such as the Highlands and Islands rural development policy is a vitally important issue.“In my speech I stressed the need for government to listen to rural communities and not to assume they know all the answers.

“Although those living in rural communities may not appreciate some of the more obscure legislation affecting the issue they will know about dualling the A9, rolling out broadband and ensuring full university status for the UHI.

“We need policies that work with local communities to identify their priorities, integrate them into a regional or national strategy, and invest public money in ways that will deliver the greatest public good in these areas.

“In recent years, Scotland’s environmental organisations have also become a formidable campaigning force and I commend the work of the RSPB, Scottish Environmental Link and others in getting their voices clearly heard in the rural debate.

“But the social dimension of Scotland’s rural communities has perhaps been under represented in that debate, and I hope the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Development will reach out to those hundreds of thousands of citizens whose work and life is so important to sustaining vibrant and successful rural communities.

“My last job was in the voluntary sector and I met hundreds of people in the voluntary sector throughout rural Scotland.

“The work carried out, some of it paid, some of it unpaid, is the very lifeblood of rural Scotland, delivering services locally and building the social capital that sustains real communities.

“The work these people do in their communities must be properly funded to make it sustainable.

“We all know the rural development challenges facing rural areas: distance, remoteness, peripherality, size of population, access to services and low GDP.

“The loss of young people from our young people from our remote and rural areas is also a concern.

“However, there are great opportunities.

“Rural Development in the Highlands and Islands needs to build on individuality, developing the intelligence of the people; life sciences; building up renewable clusters; stimulating research and development industries and linking industries with higher education.

“We also need more rural businesses with headquarters in the Highlands and Islands and enterprises with Scottish, UK and world reach.”

Mr Stewart added, “The acid test of the new Scottish Rural Development programme will be how it delivers to our most fragile and remote areas – to the young, to the disadvantaged and the dispossessed.

“They deserve the spirit of leadership and vision that led to the creation of the Highlands and Islands Development Board and the minimum wage.

“Our communities look to the Scottish Parliament for action.

“Let’s give them progress not procrastination.”      31 May 2007

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Written by davidstewart

July 31, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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