Growing the Rural Economy and Creating Jobs
We've been speaking to people in communities across rural Scotland and heard the issues that are most important to them. We will continue to invest in rural jobs and growing the rural economy. That means taking forward our rural development programme, helping rural businesses expand, diversify and create jobs, with priorities to be agreed with stakeholders such as food production, renewable energy, climate change and a value-added approach. And because we know the importance to businesses and families of digital connection we will invest in the rural roll out of high-speed broadband across Scotland.
A big part of creating more prosperous and sustainable communities across Scotland is ensuring a greater benefit for communities from our nation's substantial natural assets. We want to see more community benefit from renewable energy and so will take forward our proposal for a new £2.4 million fund to enable community investment in renewables projects, securing a long-term return and income for those communities who become involved.
We will also create a new Rural Innovation Fund to support new community enterprise initiatives in rural Scotland, helping communities establish successful local businesses. And we will further expand tourism opportunities around outdoor activity, food and drink and Scotland's culture.
We also want to see an expansion of the mutual model in rural Scotland and will support the creation of rural co-operatives, including local energy co-operatives to enable communities to take forward their own local renewables projects. We will make the case for further devolution in this area to enable a more rapid expansion of co-operatives in rural Scotland.
And to ensure the voice of rural Scotland is heard, we will take forward proposals for a rural parliament to enable rural communities to engage more effectively with government.
Increasing the Value of our Fishing Industry
Fishing remains a vital industry for Scotland. It is worth more than £1 billion to the Scottish economy. Over the past four years we have worked closely with our fishing industry and other partners to secure a stronger future for the industry in the face of a Common Fisheries Policy that hampers rather than helps our efforts to conserve stocks.
Our priority over the next five years will be to achieve discard-free fisheries in Scottish waters and increase the value of landings for our fishermen. We want to see more fish landed alongside an overall reduction in mortality rates. This will require a change of approach at a European level, and we will continue to make the case for radical reform of the EU's fisheries policy to give a greater say and control to the fishing nations and to the fishing communities. The CFP is well past its sell-by date.
We will develop a national strategy for Fisheries Dependent Areas to support economic development and encourage local authorities, along with our fishing communities, to develop regional action plans to strengthen local fishing-related economies around our shores. In partnership with the industry we will look to restore the identity and status of fishing as an occupation of choice and continue to support research in fishing to help map out the most profitable future for the industry.
We will work to support the expansion of exports of quality Scottish fish and shellfish and encourage more Scots to eat fish and shellfish as part of our healthier eating strategy. And we will continue our efforts to secure MCS sustainability status for more Scottish stocks, knowing that this is good not only for the future of stocks but also for the positioning of Scottish fish as a premium product in international markets.
We will continue to support Inshore Fisheries Groups and work for an ongoing increase in the value of inshore sales. We will investigate the potential for more low-impact fisheries and we will introduce industry-led measures for the static gear sector such as creels. We want to see wider marine regeneration with the benefits this will bring for stocks and will explore with the industry the development of inshore sustainable fisheries pilots. And we will also take forward a Small Harbours Initiative to help promote and diversify our small coastal communities.
We will work with our Higher Education Institutions and industry to explore the establishment of a centre of excellence for fisheries management.
A Commitment to Food Production and Growing Farm Businesses
The primary purpose of agriculture in Scotland is and has to be the production of food. We will develop a value-added strategy for Scottish farm produce, linked to our successful food and drink policy. We want to see a greater return for Scottish farmers for the food they produce and new opportunities to develop new products for market.
We are determined to maintain food production at the heart of our agriculture policy. And we will build on the principles of the Pack Inquiry in partnership with the industry.
Over the next few years we will see reform of the CAP. Scotland has distinctive needs and we will continue to make the case for our farming sector with UK ministers and in discussions at EU level. Scotland's interest must be recognised and in particular we will argue for the continuation of direct support and for a move away from historic payment towards a regime that rewards active agriculture and caters for new entrants.
We will publish an agri-renewables strategy and will continue to support renewable energy solutions to increase sustainability and profitability of farm businesses, as part of our wider efforts to deliver higher levels of sustainable growth in our rural economy. We will also take forward our action plan for organic food and farming.
We recognise the important place of crofting in our society and the contribution it makes to health and strength of many rural communities. We will encourage the creation of new crofts especially on public land.
We will amend the Agricultural Holdings Act to support tenant farmers and will work to encourage new entrants. We also believe that when a farm business is being passed from one generation to the next it should be easier for the successor to build a home on the farm where required.
Reducing Burdens on Rural Businesses
Since 2007 progress has been made in reducing the number of inspection visits to Scottish farms through the SEARS initiative, but this only a start. We have as our ambition the delivery, where possible, of a one-visit approach.
To reduce the bureaucracy facing farm businesses we will take forward proposals for a Funds Gateway – an online portal and single point of access for fund applications. We will investigate the creation of a single IT platform for Scotland’s rural agencies to enable information to be shared more easily and will pilot a SEARS kitemark that will be recognised across agencies as indicating that a premises has reached an agreed standard. We will also encourage agencies to move to a more risk-based assessment, and begin a process of review of existing regulation to streamline requirements within the legal limits that exist.
Please see pages 38-39 of the Scottish National Party manifesto for this policy.
The party had no previous policy stated on its website for this topic for comparison.
Retrieved on 16/04/11 (4:56pm) from: 2011 Party Manifesto