Rural young people have been urged to be clever and ambitious to tackle the frustrations and challenges within their community.
The messages came at a first-of-its-kind Rural Youth Ideas Festival hosted by Jane Craigie Marketing (JCM) last week (August 1 to 3), to encourage youngsters to make their voices heard on rural life.
Findings from a six-month survey by JCM’s Rural Youth Project (RYP) highlighted while 72 per cent of 755 respondents said they were optimistic about the future, 61 per cent said public transport was poor and only 13 per cent said they had a say in their local community.
Other key themes included poor digital connectivity, lack of affordable housing and limited access to other young people and social events.
Addressing more than 100 international delegates at the Ideas Festival at Hilton of Aldie, Kinross, Ms Craigie said: “One of the things that drove us to doing this project is that wherever you go in the world, young rural people leaving rural areas is a massive issue.
“That really drove us into looking at what information there is out there from you guys. We wanted to hear your views; what you want to change; and your hopes and dreams for the future.”
The survey found 76 per cent of young people were living in the countryside because of either their family or partner, with a further 66 per cent either living where they originated or having gone back to where they came from.
“That brings in something that is rarely talked about when it comes to rural development, and that is that love and obligation are two of the things that keep you where you are,” Ms Craigie added.
When asked about three things to describe their rural community, common themes included ‘beautiful’, ‘peaceful’ and ‘home’ - but also ‘isolated’ and ‘challenging’.
Respondents from the UK also said their earnings were lower than the national average, despite 78 per cent needing a car to get to work.
A further 64 per cent said they had poor or no 3G or 4G signal, with 36 per cent only able to access less than 3Mbps, despite almost all respondents (94 per cent) suggesting digital connectivity was vital for their future.
Co-founder of the Rural Youth Project, Rebecca Dawes, also of Jane Craigie Marketing, said: “The fact that only 13 per cent of young people living in rural areas feel that they have a say in their community shows that there is work to be done.
“With various involvement in leadership programmes, the JCM are driven by a passion and commitment to develop leadership and a sense of ’can-do’ amongst young people in rural places, in order to support them to enact change in their own communities.”
Respondents of the RYP survey were from England, Wales, Scotland, Austria, Canada, Sweden and the US.