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19 October 2023 | Skills & People

Rural Commission – update on challenges and opportunities

In 2018, SCDI worked with our members to publish our Rural Commission to make recommendations about how the economic and social potential of rural parts of Scotland could be harnessed to the wider benefit of Scotland.

Since then, whilst some measures have been taken and we welcome new commitments made to put rural areas and their needs more front and centre of policymaking, there is still much to be done. Moreover, whilst the economic opportunity for rural communities (and Scotland) has never been greater, some of the practical barriers to achieving this opportunity have worsened.

Our rural commissioners, regional committees and other members have asked SCDI to update the recommendations or the rural commission. This paper reflects their views, and we are grateful for their time in preparing this report. It sets out our three key priorities areas for action – Development, Housing and Transport – required to enable rural people and businesses achieve their economic potential. We welcome further engagement with government and other stakeholders on its findings and recommendations.

Recommendations include:


  • The Scottish Government’s Rural Delivery Plan should, by no later than June 2024, detail how Government (Scottish, local and UK), planners/regulators/government agencies/statutory consultees and utility providers will work with industry and anchor institutions to co-ordinate infrastructure delivery which unlocks and facilitates economic development in rural areas.
  • Provide resources in the Scottish Budget 2023/24 to improve planning department’s capacity and skills to engage constructively with developers and determine planning applications within agreed target times and agree, in the first half of 2024, measures from the Scottish Government and RTPI Scotland to train the next generation of planners.
  • Develop service level agreements with more industries, following the Onshore Wind Sector Deal which was recently agreed by the Scottish Government and the industry


  • The Scottish Government’s Remote, Rural and Islands Housing Action Plan should set out actions which will significantly accelerate the supply of affordable, mid-market and other required housing types (including homes with space for business use) in rural communities.
  • Reform national and local procurement policies for housing. National procurement frameworks should correctly fund and permit local decisioning making to allow for the full draw down of budgets across multiple organisations.


  • The Scottish Government’s updated Infrastructure Investment Plan Major Capital Projects Pipeline and its Strategic Transport Projects 2 Delivery Plan must by the end of this year provide transparency and certainty about the strategic investment programme for transport infrastructure in rural areas.
  • While the budgetary strains are understood and full delivery over longer timescales is accepted, these do not change the case for the development of high-quality public infrastructure that supports economic transformation and jobs in all regions of Scotland. Plans for key routes are required in which priority should be given to the accelerated delivery of sections that will enable business investment, sustainable economic development and regeneration, and population growth.

Read the full report below.