The potential impact of Brexit on rural Scotland has been described as being serious enough to trigger the ’21st Century clearances’ in a new report published by the charity Scottish Rural Action.
The report has been compiled from a series of community conversations held across rural Scotland in recent months.
It was presented in final form to the Scottish Government’s Brexit Minister Mike Russell at a meeting in Elgin this evening (Monday).
Scottish Rural Action was founded in 2014 and is the organising body behind the biennial Scottish Rural Parliament.
Amanda Burgauer, chairwoman of Scottish Rural Action, said: “This report is about giving voice to a rural point of view that is rooted in Scotland’s people and places, rather than its rural industries.
"Of most concern was the fear of long term depopulation, exacerbated by the economic impact of the end of freedom of movement.
"There was an expectation of a hollowing out of rural Scotland through loss of EU funding, and there was worry about social cohesion with Brexit intensifying a sense of ongoing powerlessness in rural communities.
"There is widespread anger and frustration across rural Scotland, but that anger is not solely about Brexit.
"It was clear from workshop discussions that Brexit is compounding long standing concerns about rural equity and fragility."
Participants in the discussions generally seemed to believe that a historic over-reliance on EU funding to prop up rural areas makes rural Scotland particularly exposed to future loss of EU support.
Similar concerns were raised by the Highland and Islands Agricultural Support Group in May last year with Brexit ’likely to reinforce existing downward trends of fewer livestock, reduced agricultural activity and a shrinking workforce’.
Mr Russell said: “The findings in this report are stark. Taking Scotland out of the EU against our will removes us from a market which is eight times bigger than the UK alone.
"Rural communities are deeply worried about the impact of Brexit on their lives. From funding and trade to community life and the workforce, many believe the effects will be nothing short of catastrophic.
“This is sadly yet another example of just how damaging Brexit will be for Scotland.”