Rural Youth Project Manifesto

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A LETTER TO DECISION MAKERS In many ways, the coronavirus pandemic provided the opportunity to stop, take stock and consider how young people can be better supported in rural areas. This starts by lifting the veil and exposing the underbelly of what it is like to live rurally and shining a light on their challenges and opportunities.

challenges, needs and motivations of rural young people from a wide range of sectors, geographies and backgrounds and subsequently underpins the asks within this manifesto, which we see as the launching pad of the next stage of the project.

The Rural Youth Project has kept in close contact with young people during Covid, surveying their sentiments and comparing the responses to the previous survey in 2018. What remains of key importance is that close to 80% of young respondents live in rural places because of emotional connections (family/partners/love of place), yet their optimism has been severely dented by Covid and many are feeling more isolated, lonely and worried. However, there have also been some rays of hope, young people forced home and into unemployment, starting up their own microenterprises.

We urge decision makers at all levels - local, regional, national – to listen to the stories of young people, their hopes, fears and the challenges and opportunities they face and to genuinely engage with them. Because, without our young people, the small communities that stich together the rich fabric of rural Scotland will wither, and the tyranny of distance will continue to cast a shadow over the future of rural areas.

Since the Project’s inception, it has built a very strong network of young people, stakeholders and believers that the creative approach to tackling rural youth depopulation is something that connects with the 18–28-yearold demographic and aligns to tackling the endemic challenges rural young people have.

CONSULTATION PROCESS Our mission: The Rural Youth Project is an international grassroots movement for positive change to empower young people (18 to 28 years of age) to develop their leadership, enterprise & activism skills, to play an integral part in making rural places attractive and viable for young people to build their lives and their futures there.

Quantitative Survey

Qualitative Report

COVID Survey

Over the past three years we have built up a deep knowledge about the


Virtual events ple Young peo engaged



would like gre at access to busi er ness/ enterp rise su pport.

Austen M orley, 26 Aberdeen shire


What we need:

• Remove barriers, improve signposting, and increase access to seed funding for rural young people to establish entrepreneurial ventures.

When surveyed on their asks of government during the 2020 Covid Survey, nearly 30% of respondents would like greater access to business/enterprise support.

“Support the growth of small businesses and industries in rural areas to encourage more young people to move to jobs in the countryside.” 4

• Raise business confidence and create more

opportunities for rural young people to build meaningful mentorships with experienced business leaders.

• Foster the creation of rural hubs invested

in local economic growth by creating more co-working areas within existing private business premises or re-purposed rural buildings.

• Encourage disruptive business ideas relevant to place and community that will contribute to achieving net-zero goals and wellbeing.

• Support young people in community land

ownership and other community-centred business models.

• Consider creating a ‘Rural Youth Business

Fund’ where young people can apply for business or social enterprise start-up grants.




What we need:

ccess have a eed -sp to high nd. a broadb

• Offer landowners and rural

communities planning permission and tax-break incentives to create low carbon, affordable accommodation, including combined work and living space units, aimed specifically at young people.

What we need:

• Ensure high-speed connectivity 97% of young people consider digital connectivity essential to their future, but only 13% have access to high-speed broadband.

of at least 40 Mbps for all rural businesses and households.

• Incentivise the provision of hot

desks for young people in private rural businesses.

• Greater support for and public A recurring theme throughout Rural Youth Project data is the limited access to affordable and acceptable housing.

• Faster roll out of 4G to areas still

“If there is one single thing that policymakers must do to encourage young people to live rurally and run rural businesses, it would be to invest in high-speed broadband.” 6

young rural people setting up a business, taking a leadership role or creating a movement for positive change.

• An increased commitment to

ensuring super-fast broadband is available to all rural communities.

• Introduce a specific rural

housing grant for young firsttime homeowners looking to build, buy or renovate in a rural area, similar to the Croft House Grant Scheme.

• That the National Planning

lacking adequate mobile phone coverage.

• A digital boost package for

investment in genuinely affordable housing.

“Finding a house in a 5-mile radius here is extremely challenging. Affordability is a huge challenge for young people trying to live in a rural area.”

Permission Guidance allow for housing and business premises to be developed specifically for the under 30s in a community, including the combination of the two needs in one development.

• Government or local authority

incentives for young people to establish their lives/businesses in remote or rural places with high dependency ratios.




“Cuts to bus services have made getting to work and having a social life very difficult for local people.”

78 %

One-third of young people who completed the 2018 Rural Youth Project survey stated that they were undertaking additional skills training and were interested in multiple forms of training ranging from management and leadership to chainsaw training.

use a car/ va frequent tr n for ansport

What we need:

• Create more opportunities What we need:

• Involve rural communities and Transport is an issue that is repeatedly cited as needing significant improvement in rural areas. 61% of rural young people describe public transport in their area as poor or very poor meaning they place a greater reliance on their own vehicles with 78% relying on their own car as the most frequent mode of transport. Alongside this, fuel poverty remains a common issue for rural young people which effects all aspects of their life such as employment, and socialising.

their young people in the planning and development of transportation services.

• Improve technology to support liftsharing, timetabling, ticketing and on-demand service provision.

• Investigate new initiatives to

alleviate fuel poverty where there is poor access to public transport services.

• Encourage the development of

community-based transport, taxis, and private hire vehicles as an extension to the public transport network for rural areas.

• Extend free bus travel for young people under 25 years.


for young people to develop their desired skills in a variety of industries such as landbased, tourism and professional services.

• Ensure rural disadvantaged

young people are given equal access to equivalent opportunities as their urban peers. E.g young leadership programmes, mentoring, workshops, varied extracurricular activities.

• Ensure that young people in

rural areas are central to the “summer of play” programme to reconnect with their local communities and environments.

• Encourage education providers to extend vocational learning opportunities in the workplace for all key rural economic sectors.

“There are a lack of education opportunities unless you’re going on to do A levels or planning to go to university. No variety in courses for [rural learning], or anything interesting and as someone who needs to work but would like to further their education it makes it hard.” 9


COMMUNITY & SOCIETY 2018 Ideas Festival, Kinross

Rural young people are willing to forgo higher salaries for a job that fulfils their sense of purpose but, due to COVID19, the poverty related attainment gap is expected to grow.

What we need:

• Encourage spaces for intergenerational

Anna Lam otte perthshir e

social activities.

• Encourage community enterprise

What we need:


• Fund youth-inclusive rural community

• Encourage the development of ‘cool

heritage, arts and culture projects.

rural businesses’ that:

• Have a pro-youth employment approach.

• Do different. • Have strong environmental and social

“I’m trained in graphic design, but there are zero opportunities in my area for this.” “There aren’t many opportunities and I feel that this can hinder people’s dreams and ambitions.” 10


• Have a deep sense of purpose and place.

• Champion people centric practices. • Employ innovative marketing often with an ‘urban vibe’.

• Have strong stories, frequently tying in history and heritage.

• Have a community Ethos. • Encourage flexible working

environments, such as working from home where possible, flexible days and times, to encourage young people to stay in rural communities.

le are of young peop alisers ci so infrequent

• Incentivise local approaches to solving

practical problems together as a community. Local economy, housing, transport and other services.

• Incentives for established and new rural

“[An issue is] socialising and meeting new people, building a social network – particularly in winter. Having moved from a busy city with lots to do and lots of friends, it can feel quite isolating and difficult to meet other young people.”

businesses to provide mentoring/workspace or practical help for young people setting up local businesses, e.g. storage for machinery, hot desks etc.

• Utilise the strength of Scotland’s rural

Development Trusts by offering them access to additional financial support to encourage young people to set up businesses or social enterprises with practical facilitation by the local Development Trusts and the local community.

• Consideration should be given to grants

that assist communities with viable plans for intergenerational social enterprises, projects or businesses.








20 20







Only 13% of young people feel as if they have a say in their community.


government, non-profit boards and advisory groups include representation of young people.

• Establish a Rural Youth Task Force and give a ministerial responsibility for Rural Youth.

• Introduce a new role, Scotland’s Minister for Rural Youth.

“Sometimes you feel like • Support a training programme for interested you're always having to rural young people to develop effective leadership skills to increase confidence. justify your decisions ScotGov works with the Rural Youth when rural areas are full • That Project and other representing youth bodies to encourage community councils, boards of older folk” and local authorities to adopt a pro-youth inclusion on boards and working groups to ensure that young people’s voices are heard.


• Create mobile mental health

support services that can travel to more rural and remote communities.

What we need:

• That all relevant rural community,

What we need:

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, optimism about the future for rural youth has halved going from 72% in 2018 to just 40% in 2020.

“I think it is really important that everyone – not just young people – has access to mental health services in rural communities – we just don’t have that access at the moment.”

• Provide grants for increased

community training in Mental Health First Aid.

• Better use of existing

community spaces to encourage more dedicated peer support networks.

• Reduce digital exclusion through improved access to broadband.

• Nationwide access to mental health support.

• The next Scottish Government

Suicide Prevention Strategy to include specific actions pertaining to rural young people.

• Establish and appoint Scotland's Chief Mental Health Advisor.





Ideas Cafes

Smart Village

Jane Craigie


Story seeking and telling




rhuis, 24 Josse Haa nds Netherla

Rebecca Dawes

Alana Black Project & Communications Officer

Helen Cameron Admin & Bookkeeping Officer

Ellie Strohm RYP Smart Village Joint Project Co-ordinator

Skills development programmes A special thanks from our team to the LEADER Programme 2014-2020: The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas, who have made publishing this manifesto possible. The Rural Youth Project is funded as a cooperation project by five LEADER Local Action Groups (LAGs); Angus, Lanarkshire, Outer Hebrides, Rural Perth and Kinross, Scottish Borders, who are supporting the project in the next phase of a longer-term programme to reach out to all areas of Scotland and enable all young people to participate and become the next generation of rural leaders.