Poverty and Social Exclusion in Rural Scotland, was welcomed by environment and rural development minister Ross Finnie and deputy social justice minister Margaret Curran who both reinforced their commitment to tackling disadvantage in Scotland's rural communities.
'When we launched Rural Scotland: A New Approach last May, we announced that a group would be set up to help improve our understanding of poverty and social exclusion in rural Scotland. The Group has now completed its work and I am delighted to receive its report.
'The report identifies a lack of access to services and employment as a major contributing factor to poverty and social exclusion in rural areas. It also observes that people's problems are often more visible in rural communities. The Forth Community Flat which we are visiting today is an example of a project which addresses both of these issues.
'The report also looks at the Social Justice Milestones and identifies a lack of available data for rural areas. We are now taking forward work to ensure that we can disaggregate all of the Social Justice Milestones on a rural/urban basis. We have also established an official level working group as part of the Neighbourhood Statistics initiative to consider the Index of Deprivation. In advance of this work getting underway, some preparatory work will be done to identify appropriate indicators from a rural perspective for inclusion in the index.'
Margaret Curran added:
'Our social justice strategy highlights the importance of tackling the causes as well as the consequences of poverty and addressing people as well as places. We have targets and milestones for each stage in people's lives and for communities, but we have acknowledged that we have not known enough about how poverty and exclusion impact in rural communities.
'Our understanding of rural social exclusion has been improved by the report of the rural poverty and inclusion working group.
'We are mainstreaming work on poverty and social exclusion in rural areas as part of the social justice agenda. Local information on rural issues is being provided where possible in our second Social Justice Annual Report, which will be published shortly.
'We do need more and better data, but this report demonstrates that we also need to think differently. The group's report helps us better understand the different ways poverty and exclusion impact on rural areas and the key issues faced by all those working to improve rural services and opportunities.'
The establishment of a group to tackle rural poverty was first announced by the minister for environment and rural development, Ross Finnie, at the launch of the rural vision document, Rural Scotland: A New Approach, on May 22, 2000.
The group included representation from the following bodies:
Western Isles Health Board
Scottish Enterprise Borders
Highlands and Islands Enterprise
Fife Rural Partnership
South Lanarkshire Council
Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations
The group's report, Poverty and Social Exclusion in Rural Scotland is published by the Scottish Executive (ISBN 0-7559-0264-5).