This is one of the main proposals provided by the report of the Visiting Group of the Network of Southern Sparsely Populated Areas (SSPA) to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to know in situ the model implemented in that territory that has led to the recovery and demographic, economic and social development.
Reproduce the successful actions that have taken them to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to reverse the process of depopulation. This is one of the main objectives of the Network of Southern Sparsely Populated Areas (SSPA) and the main proposal provided by the report of the group that travelled last May to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The aim was to know in situ the model implemented in that Scottish territory that has led them through approaches and practices appropriate to the recovery and 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 of demographic and economic decline in which it had been for centuries, something comparable to the situation that still exists in the areas that make up the SSPA network: Cuenca, Soria and Teruel in Spain and two regions in Croatia and Greece.
According to the report, the key to the success of the Scottish agency lies in its autonomy, funded by public and private funds, which has associations and civilians to listen to their ideas and proposals for the future and 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 has a large presence on the territory, with a headquarters in the capital (Inverness) and seven territorial offices, and have a proactive work dynamic, looking for projects and people who can play a fundamental 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 in the face of depopulation because they only have as a basic reference the primary sector, which is incapable of generating the necessary wealth for itself in order to support the rural population or give job and business opportunities to new settlers
Thus, they will only be able to generate sufficient development to retain and attract populations in areas that have sufficient capacity with seven basic premises for development:
- The provision of infrastructure and basic equipment and accessibility to essential supplies in affordable and quality conditions.
- The offer of accessible and quality housing.
- The availability of basic services for the population and adequate access to them taking into account the time factor, both in terms of public services – educational, health and social – as well as nearby commercial activities or certain cultural and leisure offers.
- Connectivity – internet broadband, mobile telephony-, communications and adequate portability.
- Legal framework – in all areas, from taxation to the management of natural resources-, consistent with the realities and needs of the rural environment.
- Presence and generation of entrepreneurial attitudes in the social environment with the ability to contain talent and attract entrepreneurs through appropriate opportunities and incentives.
- Presence and training of qualified workers with the capacity to attract exogenous human capital through the offer of job opportunities.
One of the most effective formulas to carry out local entrepreneurship initiatives (very successful in this Scottish area) is that of social economy companies, betting on a business model that guarantees the true benefit that these areas require: maintenance of basic services, labor insertion that provide economic and cultural growth to that territory.
The promotion of the culture of entrepreneurship and a specific education that helps exploit the potential of the territory has been another key to the good work of the Highlands agency. They have a University of the Highlands and Islands that plays a very important role in the generation of talent, with an offer of studies and a portfolio of projects connected to the needs of the area.
Finally, it is essential to incorporate the psychological and cultural aspects to the development strategy, recovering a sense of “rural pride” and establishing new formulas of rooting that leads the individual to bet on staying in their own territory or choosing a town as a setting for a vital project.
The document ends up compiling some of the ideas previously exposed as conclusions and also with an annex to the report, which gathers the data and findings made by the members of the working group that visited the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
From now on, as the president of the CEOE of Teruel, Carlos Torre, points out, “we want to present the report to the main political agents, both national and European, to show them the Scottish successful example and see the options to replicate in our country the model applied in Scotland to achieve the best change we all seek for our towns and counties. ”
In the presentation of this report, the President of CEOE CEPYME Cuenca, David Peña, recalled that SSPA aims to “fight against depopulation and its consequences in Cuenca, Soria and Teruel, which have the lowest population rates of all Spain, with less than 12.5 inhabitants per square kilometer, and achieve in 2020 a European policy aimed at reversing the depopulation process “. Peña pointed out that the objective is to present this report to the main political agents, both national and European, to show them the Scottish successful model that “has allowed to bring recovery and demographic and social development to this territory” and therefore see the possibility of applying it in our country to get the change.
For his part, Ignacio Villar, member of the CEOE CEPYME Cuenca that participated in the expedition to Scotland, stressed the need to make a change of model “we believe that with an essentially agricultural focus, aimed exclusively at the primary sector, it is logical that we lose population in rural areas, this being necessary but insufficient, therefore the population can only grow if we develop all the other sectors of the economy “.
Sara Bianchi, coordinator of the SSPA project, explained that the expedition to Scotland helped them to know the work done in this territory concluding that “if they have been able, why the territories of Cuenca, Soria and Teruel can not carry out the same operation and achieve the objective of a demographic balance and economic prosperity in the most disadvantaged areas “.
As the president of FOES, Santiago Aparicio, points out, “from now, we want to present the report to the main political agents, both national and European, to show them the Scottish success story and see the options of replicating in our country the model of success applied in Scotland to achieve the best change we all seek for our towns and counties. ”
FULL REPORT AT: http://sspa-network.eu/en/documentation/
RECOVERY OF THE DEMOGRAPHIC DECLINE OF THE HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS OF SCOTLAND