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Caithness News Bulletins January 2005

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Highland Included In Rural Priority Areas List
Twenty parts of Scotland have been designated Rural Services Priority Areas (RSPA) after the identification of disadvantage in service provision, access to services and subsequently opportunities.

The status will enable government, local authorities and other agencies to focus improvements in services in the most disadvantaged rural communities, aiming to find innovative solutions to providing, for example, health care, training or childcare services.

The 20 RSPAs, identified by analysing the results of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, will be in local authority areas:

  • Argyll and Bute

  • Western Isles

  • Highland

  • Orkney Islands

  • Angus

  • Dumfries and Galloway

  • East Ayrshire

  • South Ayrshire

Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie said:
"Improving access to services is vital in maintaining vibrant and viable rural communities.

"In developing the Rural Services Priority Areas, as part of our Closing the Opportunity Gap approach, our aim was to identify areas which suffer disadvantage in terms of both overall deprivation and service provision.

"We want to see communities with a bright future where young people and families choose to live and work.

"Given the important role of local authorities and others in local service delivery, we shall be working closely with the Community Planning Partnerships concerned in driving forward improvements in each area.

"A first step will be consulting with the RSPA communities to identify their priorities."

Councillor Andrew Campbell, Vice President of COSLA and COSLA's Rural Affairs Spokesperson, said:

"COSLA welcomes the Minister's commitment to improving the accessibility and quality of services in disadvantaged rural areas, and his recognition that this can best be done by working together in partnership.

"We are sure that rural councils working with local people in the communities concerned and their community planning partners, will deliver on the service improvements agreed. We also expect that, in doing so, we will develop good practice in improving services that can be shared across Scotland. "

The announcement of the 10 Closing the Opportunity Gap targets took place on December 9 last year, setting out commitments for tackling disadvantage across the whole of Scotland.

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation measures deprivation according to a number of indicators, grouped as domains. It includes an access to services and telecommunications domain.

Discussions will be held with Community planning partnerships to define the precise areas within which action will be taken to improve services and an additional five RSPAs could be added if anomalies come to light.

Of the RSPAs, five are, or have been, the focus for the Executive's Initiative at the Edge programme. The Closing the Opportunity Gap initiative will take further the action already in hand in these communities, specifically with respect to service provision.

The next step will be qualitative research to establish in each of the RSPAs the views of local people on key services, followed in the autumn by agreement with CPPs on which services to cover and what targets to set for improvements.