Professor Leigh Sparks, Chair of Scotland’s Towns Partnership and CSPP Board Member, discusses recent policy debates on the relationship between urban and rural Scotland, and how “linkages are changing and the inter-dependencies altering”. Originally published on Professor Sparks’ blog, Stirlingretail.
At the end of June 2015, various invited delegates met up at the Stirling Court Hotel on the University of Stirling campus to discuss the topic: “Do Rural and Urban Scotland need each other”? The event was organised by the Scottish Consortium for Rural Research (SCRR) and the SRUC Rural Policy Centre. The aim was to discuss whether rural and urban Scotland exist as separate spaces and places in research and policy and to consider necessary changes in the broad area. The discussion was intended to help inform the SRUC’s forthcoming Rural Focus in Scotland 2016 publication.
My interest derived from really two directions: first, my involvement with Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) and thus the position and role of towns in the rural, as well as the urban, parts of Scotland, and secondly from the retail research perspective, both personally and the work we have done in the Borders for example and elsewhere, and the ongoing work of my colleagues in the Highlands and especially the Islands of Scotland and the retail issues they face (e.g. the impact of internet shopping).
Prior to the day, all participants were invited to produce a a short think-piece addressing four questions:
- Are rural and urban actually on a spectrum or are they really different?
- Should urban and rural be looked at differently or is this an outdated approach?
- Can the Scottish government’s over-arching targets be met by continuing to look at them separately?
- Is a place-less approach more appropriate?
You might have a think about how you would respond to these questions. For what it is worth, my “think-piece” (rather too grand I feel for something meant to be a maximum of c500 words) is downloadable here. Comments are welcome.
Just over a month later, the summary of the meeting has been produced as a Policy Briefing from the SRUC Rural Policy Centre. It too can be downloaded here, or is available from the SRUC website, where it sits in the context of their other work on rural issues and matters. Again feedback. but this time to the SRUC, is encouraged.
You can take whatever messages you wish from the note and policy briefing, but for me the following seem to be the key ones:
- Places matter, whether urban or rural and we need better understanding of all, and their linkages;
- These linkages are changing and the inter-dependencies altering. As yet, our understanding of the shape, form and impact of this is relatively weak;
- To understand these connectivities and inter-dependencies we need to continue to build robust and user-friendly data tools (the Understanding Scottish Places tool has some data for smaller towns in rural areas worth looking at) and to build research themes, and then policy, on these data tools and their explanatory or questioning power.
It was good to talk (and thanks for the invite and discussion), to explore potential overlaps and interests and to make the point that collectively Scotland needs both its urban and rural components to work together if our ambitions are to be delivered. I look forward to more.