Technicians from the Network of Southern Sparsely Populated Areas have held several meetings with representatives of the European Commission, MEPs and with members of the NSPA network to show them the model implemented in Scotland that has led them to recovery and demographic development and that they want to move to their territories.

These meetings were held within the framework of the European Week of Regions and Cities, where they are also taking advantage of conversations about the post-2020 perspectives.

The Network of Southern Sparsely Populated Areas (SSPA) presented last week in Brussels the report on the successful example of the Scottish Highlands and Islands in the fight against depopulation. Specifically, SSPA technicians held a series of meetings with various European interest groups to show them the model implemented in that has led the Highlands to the recovery and demographic, economic and social development, in order to move it to their territories in Spain, Greece and Croatia.

These meetings took place within the framework of the European Week of Regions and Cities held in Brussels. There, they have been able to comment with the European representatives the impressions of the trip they made to Scotland to know in situ the Scottish model and to delve a little more about the future of these territories after 2020, date that SSPA marked for a different European policy for these sparsely populated regions.


The report was delivered to technicians of the European Commission and representatives of the network NSPA (network homologous to the SSPA but integrated by depopulated territories of the Northern Europe) that, after the meetings, they were interested in the treatment of the most fragile zones and isolated and in the best ways to make a policy of spatial planning that responds to the needs of its inhabitants.

This document was also provided to several MEPs coinciding with the approval by the European Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development of a report to ensure that depopulation is taken into account in the future cohesion policy of the European Union. The initiative will now be voted on in the plenary session of the European Parliament as a motion for a resolution that, if approved, will be transferred to the European Commission so that the demographic factor forms part of the cohesion policies of the structural funds for the period 2021 to 2027.

In these meetings, the technicians of the SSPA have highlighted the need for a new model of territorial development led by an independent agency in the fight against depopulation, with transversal policies and with an integration of European funds: ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) and with EAFRD (European Agrarian Fund for Regional Development).

The SSPA Coordinator, Sara Bianchi, wanted to highlight “the few synergies that exist between the ERDF fund and others such as the EAFRD, the European Social Fund or the Cohesion Fund, due to the agrarian vision about rural areas. From the SSPA we stress the need to change this focus.

Eurodiputado Florent Marcellesi 2


The Highlands and Islands of Scotland are the example that correct policies against depopulation manage to bring to the declining territories a recovery and a demographic, economic and social development.

The epicenter of the success achieved in the north of Scotland is the territorial development agency (Highlands and Islands Enterprise HIE), an organization created in 1965 with the mission of removing to its territory the situation in which it had been for centuries, something comparable to the situation that the areas that make up the SSPA network still live: Cuenca, Soria and Teruel in Spain and two regions of Croatia and Greece.

SSPA technicians visited Scotland and collected their impressions in a report according to which the keys to the success of the Scottish agency lie in its autonomous and depoliticized character, financed with public and private funds, which counts on the associations and the civil population to listen to their ideas and proposals for the future. This agency is directed by people chosen for their qualifications and professional and intellectual solvency from very diverse fields: lawyers, businessmen, technicians, professors, financial experts and economists, journalists, cultural technicians, etc. It also has a deep presence on the territory, with a central headquarters in the capital (Inverness) and seven territorial offices, and have a dynamic proactive work, looking for projects and people who can play a key role as promoters of a project. They act in permanent cooperation with public institutions, private companies, rural communities and education and research centers, reaching where the other organisms can not reach. Finally, another of the keys of the agency is its efficiency and exemplary management.

The report demands an obligatory revision of our own conception of rural development. Our rural development plans are ineffective facing depopulation because they only have as a basic reference the primary sector, which is incapable of generating the necessary wealth, to support the rural population or give job and business opportunities to new settlers.