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Rural MPs and MSPs must listen to the views of their constituents

Time and again we hear the calls from some MSPs in the chamber stating that they are offended by challenging comments, that they live and work in a rural constituency and do represent rural matters. It is often the case, however, that legislation is waved through as they tend to ignore the views of the people they are representing, and instead fall in line with party lines.

Take for instance the recent debate on the banning of wood-burning stoves in all new-build homes in Scotland. Gillian Martin, Minister for Climate Change, and MSP for Aberdeenshire East, will have many constituents affected by this damaging legislation. She was quick to remind the chamber of her rural credentials yet would not give assurances that this effective “ban” will be reversed by the Scottish Government. Already, this proposal, coupled with the lack of guidance, has had very real consequences for businesses that install or are affiliated to wood-burning stoves, with losses reported of £100,000 since 1 April 2024, when the New Build Heat Standards were introduced.

Both Gillian Martin and Chrisine Grahame disputed that the SNP government were not listening to their rural constituents when challenged by other parliamentary members. Ms Grahame was “a wee bit peeved that the SNP are being accused of being anti-rural”, yet when voting on rural matters as a member of The Rural Affairs and Islands Committee, the SNP member remained solid with her party’s views and often voted against amendments that would benefit rural operations. Ms Martin has utilised, on a number of occasions, her mantra “as a rural MSP….”. She may be a rural MSP, but she has yet to prove her commitment to those farmers and land managers who voted for her to represent them. We do, however, heartily welcome Ms Martins comments on a genuine cross-party collaboration on important issues, providing it is not a precursor to a path being laid back to the Greens extremist agenda.

Jake Swindells, Director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, said:

As First Minister John Swinney took up post, he committed to working together more and to more collaborations, primarily with other parties. Our government need to start representing the interests of all, rather than a select cross section of society. We welcome any steps taken to initiate work with sector professionals, as well as any genuine cross-party efforts.

The Scottish Countryside Alliance represents rural communities and now, more than ever, we need our rural MPs and MSPs to stand-up and fight for their constituents in areas that matter most to them. Issues such as fuel poverty, depopulation of rural areas, proper NHS care that they shouldn’t have to travel huge distances to access, employment - the list goes on.

Instead, we are seeing large rural estates in the spotlight of the government with the Land Reform Bill. These estates provide essential employment and training opportunities in often isolated communities of Scotland and help to bolster the economy of these areas during the off-peak tourist season.

We want to see real cross-party work on important legislation and implore the Scottish Government to listen to evidence based on well-researched facts and the opinions of experts, rather than conjecture from NGOs intent on pushing their own subjective agenda.

We invite all general election candidates to engage with us and our partner organisations. We represent members and supporters across rural Scotland and will be happy to discuss the realities of rural living. We have seen enough urban-centric policies and want to ensure future legislation is rural-proofed for the next generation.

For more information, you can contact our political team.

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