Rural Youth Parliamentary Debate – 18th January 2024

The Rural Youth Group gather outside the Scottish Parliament.

Leadership, Engagement and Participation

“We want Ms Gougeon to be our spokesperson at the Scottish Parliament by publicly demonstrating what you have learned at this Scottish Rural Islands Youth Parliament and what actions you will take following it. We want resources that will support our ongoing participation across the network, developing the youth voice across rural and island Scotland.”

On the 18th of January, 30 attendees of the most recent Rural and Islands Youth Parliament were invited to the Scottish Parliament to watch as the priorities they had devised during the event were put to a debate.

These issues were concerned with making improvements in the lives of those aged 16 to 30, living in rural Scotland. The group carefully took time to group the issues into 10 key priorities that they wanted to see brought to debate in the Scottish Parliament by Mairi Gougeon, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs.

These priorities are as follows (click on the plus to expand details):

 

Environment and Nature Regeneration

“There is a lack of long-term commitment to our rural and islands environment prioritising rural community agency alongside nature regeneration. We want a government funding cycle that enables long-term conservation work and better regulation of the monetisation of nature, which also benefits the community.”

Transport

“We want a public transport service (using all modes) that is more sustainable, reliable, and frequent for everyone in Scotland.”

Mental Health & Wellbeing

“We ask you to improve the current system with empathetic interventions including: recognition and management of symptoms rather than medical diagnoses, creating social support places, finding proven methods and solutions tailored to specific age groups.”

Young Carers

“As Young Carers, we ask you to commit to funding carers’ centres directly. Carer’s centres directly support Young Carers to be seen, heard and supported in their homes and communities. We also ask for Young Carer Statements to be a priority across rural and island Scotland.”

Food and Agriculture

“In order to educate the public and support small-scale producers, supermarkets must provide shelf space for products and produce from the local region, to reduce food miles and carbon costs, promote food security, and recognise quality and high welfare standards.”

Arts & Culture

“We need proper recognition of the arts as a tool for individual expression and community development, building community resilience through ring-fencing funding for local authorities to create a robust network of skilled community development staff who use and celebrate the arts.”

Housing

“The housing market needs to be reformed and regulated to meet the needs of all people in rural and island communities now by implementing policy that disempowers the private sector and empowers communities.”

Skills, Education and Employment

“We want a reformed education system which is responsive to the needs of local young people and their region, delivered through: recurring youth-led updates to the curriculum; year-round engaging work experience opportunities with local industry partners; and the use of wellbeing as an additional measure of educational success.”

Equity and Accessibility

“Listening, championing and acting with sincerity and purpose alongside young adults and marginalised groups, utilising people’s voices to deliver services and shape positive change.”

During the first half of the day, the group were introduced to the Scottish Cabinet, the Permanent Secretary and the First Minister of Scotland, Humza Yousaf. A speech was delivered by a few youth representatives followed by an introduction by the First Minister in which he welcomed the youth delegates to the Scottish Parliament.

The wider group was then split into 10 sub-groups, each focusing on a different theme. They were assigned a relevant Cabinet Minister to discuss the theme in more detail. Each Minister stressed their dedication to improving the lives of rural youths and left their contact details for any further enquiries.

After lunch, the group headed to the Main Hall to watch the debate. Mairi Gougeon introduced each of the priorities to those participating in the debate. Despite some of the discussions becoming heated, it was unanimously agreed that the priorities needed addressed and the young people were praised for their passion in bringing them to the attention of the Parliament.

The next steps in the process is to draft a letter to those who participated in the debate to get some of the actions taken forward. Each sub-group are also writing Cabinet Ministers individually to monitor progress on some of the specific themes.

A couple of youth delegates with Humza Yousef, the First Minister of Scotland.

The Youth Delegates holding their priorities along with the First Minister and the Cabinet.