§ Sir Hector Monro
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what further steps he plans to take to ensure the effective co-ordination of the various Government policies and initiatives for the rural areas of Scotland.
§ Mr. Rifkind
This Government have always recognised the importance of rural areas in Scotland. We have responded to their changing needs and have demonstrated our commitment to their well-being over the years through many and varied forms of assistance to help sustain rural communities, stimulate economic activity, and maintain and enhance the environment.
We are in a period of changing emphasis for rural Scotland. For instance, agriculture support policies are being reshaped; new development opportunities are being recognised, not least by local communities supported by the voluntary sector; and we are placing even greater emphasis on effective conservation of the environment. I 58W am encouraged by the increasing awareness of a need to achieve a balance between development and conservation to sustain the resources of our natural environment for the benefit of future generations while at the same time permitting rural communities to achieve their full economic potential.
In order to ensure that our current and future efforts are fully co-ordinated and effectively targeted, I have asked my noble Friend the Minister of State, Lord Sanderson of Bowden, to take special responsibility for rural policy co-ordination in the Scottish Office in addition to his existing responsibilities for agriculture, fisheries, forestry, Highlands and Islands development and tourism. This appointment will ensure that the initiatives already in hand and further developments likely to occur in the coming years are properly co-ordinated and work together to achieve their common purpose of enhancing the position of rural areas.
Other Ministers will retain their existing responsibilities. Lord Sanderson will concentrate on ensuring that, in a time of change, the right balance is struck between the protection of the environment and economic development.