Business incubators, a strengthened community right to buy and more support for organics and farmers markets are among the moves Highlands & Islands Greens will push for post-election to ensure rural communities in the north thrive. (1)
The party today unveiled a detailed policy plan which will improve quality of life and build local economies by investing in transport and communications, empowering local communities, and supporting the food production industry in the face of new and emerging threats.
Eleanor Scott with Eileen Clark of Connage Dairy, Ardersier
Greens campaigned vigorously in the last parliamentary session on key issues such as the supermarkets’ exploitation of farmers, the lack of integrated, affordable public transport and the Labour/LibDem failure to properly fund the organics sector despite the massive surge in consumer demand. (2) Recent research highlighted the threat climate change poses to Scottish farming (3), but Greens argue that supporting local business and community-led innovation will help rural areas of the country thrive.
Eleanor Scott, Greens’ speaker on rural issues and top MSP candidate for Highlands & Islands, said today, “Rural communities and business in the region make a huge contribution to Scotland’s economy and culture but have all too often been let down by Lab/LibDem ministers’ short-term cost-cutting measures that close local services and their failure to carefully manage development and natural resources.
“Though climate change brings new challenges there are also huge opportunities. Greens want to build a low carbon economy in Highlands & Islands based on local economies, we want to kick-start decentralised and renewable energy generation, and work with farmers by, for example, paying them to help manage flood waters on natural flood plains to protect our towns and cities.
“Green plans to re-direct subsidies from large multi-nationals to SMEs, ensure schools and hospitals serve local produce, set up business incubators to support new companies, and provide a £100 million Climate Challenge Fund will all help secure a prosperous future for the region.” (4)
(2) In the first session of parliament Greens’ co-leader Robin Harper pushed the Executive into preparing an Organic Action Plan. In the second session Greens pressed the Executive to deliver on the Plan. Expenditure on organic support is likely to total £5·5m in 2007, the same as 2003 (over £388 million has already been paid in single farm payments in the 2006-07 financial year).
(4) Rural business incubators are typically provided by local authorities/enterprise companies, providing office accommodation and shared facilities such as conference rooms, IT facilities & support on flexible terms.
Research conducted by UK Business Incubation (UKBI) has shown that 80-90% of businesses in incubators survive, whereas the survival rate for small firms outside incubators is just 50% (see here (pdf document)).
They can also help to establish entrepreneurial cultures and clusters in their regions as well as acting as catalysts for major service providers. In terms of community regeneration they can result in local people establishing successful companies and continuing to live and work the area.