Place-based policy approaches and rural Scotland: RESAS Strategic Research Programme Research Deliverable 3.4.2 Place-based policy and its implications for policy and service delivery

Jane Atterton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Working paper/PreprintWorking paper

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Executive Summary

There has been a return to place-based policy-making in Scotland in recent years, particularly as a result of the recommendations of the Christie Commission on the delivery of public services and the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015. However, the term ‘place-based approach’ remains poorly defined and the implications for rural Scotland have not been fully explored.
Defining ‘place-based approaches’
- The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) New Rural Paradigm (2006) and its more recent Rural Policy 3.0 (2016) are fundamentally based on place, and the need to build on local assets and potential through integrated partnership working. Its parallel regional development work has demonstrated how all regions have the potential to grow and argued that they should be supported to do so, through tailored place-based approaches to encourage economic growth and the creation of a more inclusive society.
- The European Commission (EC) work on place-based approaches emphasises the need for a balance of exogenous and endogenous interventions and multilevel governance to develop integrated, locally-owned strategies. For the OECD and EC this approach is about much more than funding directed towards particular places; it signifies a new philosophy and style of operating.
- In Scotland, the re-emergence of place-based approaches is set very much in the context of reform of Scotland’s public services, given tightened budgets and increased demands, to encourage more integrated service provision at local level. However, in the Christie Commission, and the Government’s response to it, it is argued that place-based approaches do more than provide an opportunity to address key agendas such as prevention and early intervention, and tackle inequalities. They also offer the potential to tackle cross-cutting issues through an integrated and joined-up approach across geographic and organisational boundaries and to develop the most appropriate responses, based on bottom-up endogenous knowledge, resources, etc. and putting communities at the heart of activities.
Implications for rural Scotland
- The new emphasis on place-based policy approaches in Scotland has particular
implications for its rural communities. For example, in terms of services, there are specific challenges in rural locations relating to the costs of service delivery, which need to be recognised as today’s place-based approaches are funded from mainstream resources. However, more positively, place-based initiatives offer opportunities for rural areas to be at the forefront of innovative approaches to the delivery of services through new collaborative working or the use of digital technology.
- Defining the appropriate scale of place for an intervention is critical in rural areas and taking a functional region (e.g. a town and its hinterland) may be more appropriate than using existing administrative boundaries.
- It is critical that there is an adequate evidence base to inform the design of place-based approaches, and to monitor and measure their impact, but this evidence base does not always exist for rural areas. As inequality and deprivation are the key issues guiding the location of place-based approaches, it is especially important that up-to-date and fine grained data exists to identify these in all locations and thus target approaches appropriately and accurately measure impacts.
- There is evidence to suggest that rural communities often have high levels of capacity due to their remote location or the challenges that they have faced (i.e. due to necessity), therefore they may be particularly well placed to engage in place-based initiatives. However, having a public (and private) sector which is supportive of and helps to build this engagement is critical, particularly in those communities which do not have a history of engaging, in order to avoid the creation of an increasingly uneven socio-economic development landscape.
- Moreover, having a policy framework which recognises and is supportive of place-based innovation at local level is important.
- Finally, notwithstanding the considerable challenges that some rural areas still face, including in terms of the requirement to enhance their capacity to engage, the adoption of a place-based approach in national policy-making in Scotland offers the opportunity to develop a more positive dialogue around the future of rural communities based on their wider range of economic, social and environmental assets and their often untapped potential.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
Publication statusPrint publication - Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

This report should be cited as: Atterton, J. (2017) Place-based policy approaches and rural Scotland,
Working Paper from RESAS Research Deliverable 3.4.2 Place-based policy and its
implications for policy and service delivery (July).


  • place-based policy
  • place-based approaches
  • rural policy
  • rural development
  • communities
  • community development


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