Election special – SNP policies on rural issues

With a General Election looming on 7 May, we asked the political parties to set out their policies on eight key rural issues that affect the countryside in 2015. Here are all the responses made by the SNP

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Should some areas of green belt be built on to increase supply of housing?

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The SNP Government recently reviewed the Scottish Planning Policy (SPP), which includes its policy on green-belt development. The SPP states that in reviewing development plans, planning authorities should identify the most sustainable locations for development.

Do you believe that the ban on hunting with hounds should be repealed?

The inhumane practice of hunting with dogs has no place in modern Scotland. The Protection of Wild Mammals Act, which came into force in 2002, ensures that animals in Scotland, like foxes and hares, are protected from cruel practices and we have no intention of repealing this law.

How will you improve rural broadband access?

We are committed to a world-class infrastructure to deliver digital connectivity across Scotland by 2020. Digital connectivity will transform the way people live, work and learn, particularly in remote locations.

What are the best ways to tackle bovine TB in cattle?

Scotland was recognised as officially tuberculosis free in 2009 and we are committed to safeguarding this. A robust monitoring system for bovine TB in cattle is in place, which involves four-yearly routine herd testing. Herds defined as ‘low risk’ are exempt from the testing if they can comply with the required criteria.

How will you stimulate the rural economy?

Rural Scotland has huge potential. Our rural development programme provides crucial support for Scottish farming, food production, rural communities and the environment, and is worth £1.3 billion over the next six years.

How will you improve rural transport links?

We are committed to increasing access to transport for those in more remote areas. We have improved rural transport services through programmes such as the Rural Transport Fund and the Rural Community Transport Initiative and will continue to support projects that build on this progress.

What is your approach towards HS2 and HS3?

There is a clear case for HS2 coming all the way to Scotland – and the Scottish Government is working with the UK Government to identify to ensure high-speed rail for Scotland.

Are there instances where development should be stopped to protect wildlife or biodiversity?

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Protecting wildlife and biodiversity is important not just of itself but also to encourage tourism and maintain quality of place. Our planning system should seek benefits for biodiversity from new developments, such as the restoration or avoidance of fragmentation of habitats. In remote areas, development should provide sustainable economic activity, while preserving important environmental assets.