Scottish Government
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Rural Development Council

Closer working relations with Ireland were on the top of the agenda when Richard Lochhead welcomed his Irish counterpart to the second meeting of the Rural Development Council (RDC) today.

Mr Éamon Ó Cuív T.D., the Irish Government Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs attended the meeting as part of a fact finding visit to Scotland.

Addressing the second meeting of the RDC, during which the Cabinet Secretary and delegates discussed a vision for rural Scotland, Minister Ó Cuív discussed his country's experience and ambition to work more closely with Scotland.

Richard Lochhead Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment said:

"Eamon O Cuiv is a highly influential figure within the Irish Parliament and I am delighted to welcome him to Scotland, and to speak to the Rural Development Council.

"This Government places great value in working closely with Ireland. We want to strengthen and build on our existing relationships with the Irish Dail (Parliament). It was extremely useful to look ahead and share views with Minister Ó Cuív.

"We discussed key issues, including those relating to rural and island development, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to talk about the way forward."

Before introducing Mr Ó Cuív Richard Lochhead welcomed two new members onto the Rural Development Council, Mr Alex Walker and Mr David Fyffe. Both appointees will broaden the experience base of the council.

Mr Éamon Ó Cuív is spending two days in Scotland during which he will also hold meetings with Linda Fabiani, Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture, and John Swinney Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth to discuss areas of mutual interest.

Mr Ó Cuív was first elected to Dail Eireann in 1992. A member of Fianna Fail, his constituency is Galway West, He was made Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in 2002. Prior to this he was Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (1997 - 2001), and Minister for State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (2001 - 2002).

The Rural Development Council met to reach consensus on a vision for rural Scotland to guide its deliberations and to agree how to proceed in measuring the strengths and weaknesses of rural areas.

David Fyffe runs Fetternear Estate, near Kemnay, in Aberdeenshire, and has overseen the family's successful development of Scotland's first Rural Business Centre. Born in 1956 and brought up on a mixed farm in Aberdeenshire, educated in England at Stowe School and London University. Fetternear is Scotland's first Rural Business Centre and site of this country's longest-running archaeological research project. It welcomes some 6000 visitors every year and actively encourages responsible access for the local and wider community. As well as sitting on the board of the Scottish Rural Property & Business Association and its Rural Enterprise Policy Group, he has been a land manager representative on the Aberdeenshire Local Access Forum since its formation, and also helped planners develop their SPP 15 planning guidelines for rural development in Scotland. He is particularly interested in the development of wider rural business opportunities in and new approaches to ensure sustainable rural.

Alex Walker is chairman of the Ekopia development trust, which has raised substantial investment capital for community projects in retailing, ecological accommodation and wind energy, and operates both a local currency scheme and a land trust. He is also a consultant working in the fields of sustainability and social enterprise. His main interests are in creating community-based enterprises for both renewable energy and affordable housing projects. Mr Walker also lectures widely in the UK on the prospects for a low carbon economy and the philosophy of sustainability. He is chairman of Development Trusts Association Scotland, a director of Findhorn Wind Park Ltd., and a member of the management committee of the Moray Housing Partnership.

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