More flexibility in national initiatives and decentralised funding

Participants in Stornoway felt that there is a need for support that is specifically designed for implementation in rural areas and islands. They noted that urban area initiatives do not work in rural places such as the islands, and particularly wanted to emphasise that the government should not take a ‘one size fits all’ approach. They noted that the cost of building houses in rural areas is much greater than in urban areas as materials are more expensive.

They proposed ‘island proofing’ initiatives and policies in rural areas. The idea would be to take account of added cost in application and implementation of measures in both rural and urban areas, and should be tailored better to local island circumstances. At the moment, local authorities have to find the extra funding to provide support to rural areas, which means taking funding out of other areas of importance from their grant funding.

The group felt that support measures should also focus on the community. Participants commented that they felt services should be far more decentralised, allowing local authorities a certain amount of money to use in the way that they determine is needed in the locality. They felt that this would help to ensure money is spent where most needed.

People in the group highlighted the example that communities own 65% of land and they believe that community ownership leads to an increased sense of community empowerment. They highlighted the example of community owned wind farms and how the income that this can generate for the community helps with re-investment into the community.

Participants agreed that shops, schools and local amenities would decrease in number and in quality if the local community population decreases. In order to encourage people to stay on the islands, it was strongly felt that affordable housing was needed. They also suggested more sheltered housing was needed.

Schemes such as the Croft Grant Loan Scheme have the potential to support communities by being more flexible. The group proposed that this scheme could give local areas the ability to build more crofts, alleviating them from the bureaucracy of going to the Scottish Government for commission.

It was largely agreed by participants that people want to stay in islands, but often have to leave due to the higher cost of living and housing in rural areas. They believed strongly that there needs to be greater support to allow people to live where they want, and provide affordable housing. The group agreed that people in the islands have a strong attachment to the land, as crofts are often inherited by families and lie empty and unused, but people do not want to give them up as ‘they have been in the hands of families for generations’ and relations feel connected to the land.

Why the contribution is important

This is important because rural areas have different needs than urban areas, and the higher cost of living makes it more challenging for people living remotely. Additionally, they felt that communities need more support directly from the government, suggesting that if communities have more control over the support and finances for the locality, it will increase a sense of community empowerment.

by FairerScotlandAdmin2 on December 14, 2015 at 11:58AM

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