The rural parliament, which is being delivered by Scottish Rural Action, aims to empower rural communities across Scotland by giving them a stronger voice to initiate change at local and national level. The Scottish Government has supported SRA, which is a voluntary organisation, since its inception in 2014, which has enabled three rural parliament events to take place.
The previous rural parliament took place in my home city of Brechin.
I will be at the rural parliament later today and tomorrow. On Friday, the Scottish Government will be represented by the Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations, Michael Russell. The event is timely due to Brexit, which looms ever larger. In the run-up to the event, SRA has been engaging the underrepresented voices in our rural communities on the future of rural funding and policy after 2020, to ensure that their voices are heard. The Scottish Government has been happy to support that work with £25,000 from the Brexit stakeholder engagement fund, to ensure that people in rural Scotland have had a say in the process.
The minister will be aware that Stranraer, the Rhins and other parts of Dumfries and Galloway share many of the challenges that are faced by other parts of rural Scotland. What assurance can she give us that the new south of Scotland enterprise agency will work for the benefit of all parts of Dumfries and Galloway, represent all of the south of Scotland region and ensure that more events like the rural parliament are brought to the area, along with the associated economic benefit?
I give the member my absolute assurance that that will be the case; that is the clear focus of the south of Scotland enterprise agency. The agency has a focus on place and will play a vital role in driving growth across the region as a whole.
The agency will deliver a tailored approach and try to consider the particular opportunities and needs of the whole of the south of Scotland. It will consider how to support businesses, strengthen communities and drive the economy. We have tried to engage widely in our plans for the new agency. We know that on-going engagement with stakeholders is essential in driving that work forward.
The board will be chosen to provide a balanced mix of relevant skills and expertise and we aim for it to be representative of the whole south of Scotland region. The Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 is now in force and we will be working towards equal gender representation on the agency board.