Natural capital has featured prominently in a report highlighting ten key outcomes to ensure a sustainable future for the rural economy in Scotland.

Coordinated by the National Council of Rural Advisers (NCRA), an independent body providing advice and recommendations on rural policy to the Scottish Government, the report has been presented to the Scottish Government following one of the biggest consultations in recent years.

The NCRA’s remit was to provide advice and recommendations on future rural policy, and support for communities and businesses, which would help create a sustainable and productive rural economy.

Amongst the principles and recommendations for Scottish Ministers was the concern that traditional calculations of economic growth have major shortcomings and exclude huge parts of rural economics such as the value of natural and social capital assets. 

The report also recommends developing a Rural Economic Framework (REF), aligned to the National Performance Framework, that will ensure that Scotland’s rural economy can continue to contribute to, and maximise, Scotland's economic growth. Among the 10 outcomes the REF will work towards is creating an environment where the economy “value[s] our natural assets and the people who work with them”. 

Other outcomes include investment plans encouraging sectoral diversity to recognise the opportunities for growth in non-traditional rural areas, providing female-focused enterprise programmes and support for women returning to work, and creating rural skills work experience opportunities.

Improved access to rural housing and other services such as public transport and wider transport links, child care, and broadband and digital connectivity, were also highlighted in the report. 

Alison Milne, co-chair of the NCRA, said: 

“With an abundance of natural capital, world-renowned heritage and vibrant, diverse communities, our rural economy is not just crucial to Scotland’s national brand, it is crucial to our national prosperity.”

She added that: “The Scottish Government has embraced our call for a rural economic strategy putting the rural economy at the heart of the national economic plan, and we now need to build on that momentum with radical changes to redefine the contribution the rural economy makes to Scotland and ensure recognition and support of its significance.

“This report is the first step towards ensuring Scotland is recognised as a world-leader in rural economic development and inclusive growth.”

The report can be viewed online here.