Page last updated at 23:01 GMT, Sunday, 7 June 2009 00:01 UK

Summit to 'unlock' rural economy

It is claimed agriculture is one of Scotland's most resilient sectors

Unlocking the economic potential of Scotland's rural communities is to be the focus of a special summit.

Politicians will be joined by representatives from local councils, enterprise bodies, the private sector and voluntary organisations.

They will examine the recession challenges facing rural communities.

In April, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead announced his summit plans saying agriculture was supporting the economy during the recession.

Mr Lochhead, Finance Secretary John Swinney and Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham are due to attend the event in Stirling.

We want to hear what those living and working in rural Scotland think can be done to increase economic activity
Richard Lochhead
Rural affairs secretary

Speaking ahead of the event Mr Lochhead said: "Rural Scotland has undoubted economic potential and we must ensure that we unlock it.

"In these challenging economic times, we need to think in new ways such as exploiting our strong position on renewable energy and connecting people to new technologies to enable them to grow their business."

He added: "The importance we attach to the rural economy is demonstrated by the fact that we will have three ministers attending this summit.

"The event will provide all of us with an opportunity to hear at first hand the challenges facing rural Scotland.

"We want to hear what those living and working in rural Scotland think can be done to increase economic activity, what the priorities are for infrastructure development and how population growth can be encouraged."

Policy statement

Mr Lochhead is due to make a statement in the Scottish Parliament covering agricultural policy on Wednesday.

He is expected to announce details of the recent consultation on the Less Favoured Area (LFA) scheme.

In addition he is expected to make clear his position on the possible use of Article 69 of the Common Agricultural Policy - a device which is used to top-slice single farm payments and channel the funds to other areas of the industry.

He is also expected to outline the findings of a review into the £1.6bn Scottish Rural Development Programme.

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