AFTER BREXIT, rural and agricultural support must continue the work of the EU's LEADER rural development programme, Scottish researchers have concluded.

LEADER supported local development projects to revitalise rural areas and create jobs. Since its launch in 1991, it has funded 6194 projects in Scotland, injecting more than £500 million into community development.

The programmes funded were defined by principles set out by the EU’s Member States and then implemented at a local level by Local Action Groups which chose the most relevant and deliverable elements for their area.

In a review of the legacy and impact of LEADER programmes in Scotland, researchers from Scotland’s Rural College have recommended that these Local Action Groups continue to be involved in decision-making about local funding, and that LEADER should be made part of the new rural and agricultural support system to be introduced after the Brexit transition period.

The researchers warned that without a dedicated LEADER-style programme in the future, there was a risk the legacy of the programme would be curtailed, which in turn could undermine the objective of sustainable, inclusive growth across Scotland.

Co-author of the report, Rob McMorran, said: “This research was completed at an important time – pre-Brexit – to inform how the LEADER approach will continue in Scotland in the future, outside the EU.

“The report identifies the key achievements and impacts of LEADER, including investment in local economies and employment creation, as well as identifying the current key challenges for the programme in Scotland..

“These findings will help inform debates around the future of the LEADER programme and feed into the work at local, regional and national levels relating to the future of community-led local development in Scotland.Brexit policy,” he concluded.

The report, which is published on SRUC’s website, was commissioned by the Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services. For more information, visit: