It is time to present an ambitious narrative about the rural economy of Scotland and the opportunity it presents.
Scotland's rural economy is diverse, rich in natural and human capital and capable of delivering significant benefit to Scotland. The people of rural Scotland are proud to be part of its community and are committed to ensuring we remain vibrant and sustainable - leaving a legacy for future generations to come.
The global economy is constantly evolving and as a result rural Scotland has undergone significant change in recent decades. This in turn has created a need for diversity – in our population, in our businesses and in our communities. The people of rural Scotland have embraced diversity and through our practical 'can do' attitude have demonstrated innovative ways to evolve.
When the National Council of Rural Advisers ( NCRA) was formed in July 2017  by Mr Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, we were tasked with advising Scottish Ministers. Our remit was to provide evidence based advice on the implications of Scotland leaving the EU and to recommend future actions that could sustain a vibrant and flourishing rural economy.
Our formation marked a recognition that we must re-think our approach to economic development in rural Scotland. Our aim for this document is to mark a sea change within rural development policy of the recent past.
The NCRA's publication of its interim report ( Potential Implications for Rural Scotland of the UK leaving the EU) demonstrated that policy making for rural Scotland is at a cross-roads. There are specific challenges as well as opportunities that rural Scotland faces post Brexit. These range from addressing our reliance on EU workers by nurturing home grown talent, to exploring the potential for funding programme coherence to better suit the needs of rural businesses.
Now presents the best opportunity to work with the Scottish Government and bodies responsible for the delivery of support.
Now is the time to change the way we think, act and operate to tailor bespoke policy frameworks.
The NCRA is ambitious. We need to change the narrative surrounding rural Scotland. We want to instil a sense of confidence to deliver a more aspirational message about our future.
We know that rural Scotland:
- Presents vast untapped economic opportunity
- Is well placed to meet the needs of today's world, based on our ability to deliver social and environmental impacts, as well as economic
- Is diverse, resilient and capable of constant evolution
Our vision for a flourishing rural economy is one that offers the potential for growth and new opportunities. We know that it is our people and natural assets that provide the foundation for a vibrant rural economy. It is imperative we nurture and protect them.
The work of the NCRA provides a unique opportunity to engage with those living and working in rural Scotland. However, we also want to engage urban communities in a conversation about our shared economic future. This is your opportunity to shape the future, and lead recommendations to the Scottish Government on its creation.
Our work is an on-going conversation with communities to take forward a new vision. During the first half of 2018 we held workshops where we have sought views to begin our discussion. We are excited to present our initial thinking below, and look forward to working with you to finalise our recommendations in September.
We invite you to consider our recommendations and to bring your creativity and ideas to help us make Scotland's rural economy vibrant, sustainable and inclusive.