Jorge Lafuente Orte.

 

The depopulation in some areas of Spain such as Cuenca, Soria y Teruel is the main enemy of those who are already there. In the Serranía Celtibérica[1], 65.8 thousands of squared kilometers, only there are 483,000 people[2]. With the idea of finishing with this problem and due to the negatives given by the different governments, the business federations of those three provinces got together and they created a European interest group, the Southern Sparsely Populated Areas network -SSPA-. Its behavior, said by themselves, is the same as that started by another lobby in Scotland, the Highlands and Islands Enterprise -HIE-, whose results were surprisingly positives. This region of Scotland, Highlands and Islands, is around 40.5 thousands of squared kilometers and there are 447,043 habitants[3]. Will the southern group reach their demands? To answer our question I will study the Scottish case and make a little comparison with the Spanish one.

HIE was created in 1965 as group of help for the growth of the Nordic area of Scotland. Their tools were supporting the local economy and pressing the Scottish and European government to get some policy outcomes that would benefit the region. Like the theory of Neopluralisim recognize, the government had more power than this group, and also there were others which were stronger than HIE. Nevertheless that was not an issue but a hardly opportunity. When in the 70’s of the last century petroleum and oil were found in the North Sea, the little actor “starts building a mutually beneficial relationship with all oil companies setting up exploration in the northern sector of the North Sea. Both large scale heavy engineering construction work and support services for offshore operations could create significant employment opportunities in the region” (Highlands and Islands Enterprise 2017). This fact made all the levels of government to take care of the place and to start an investment there: the Ballachulish Bridge was built as many other roads were too. The rural zones were also linked by land, water or air by changing the legislation to provide transport companies and users powers to get financial assistance. Actually, in five years they reached the same census growth as in forty-five years. And what’s more, nowadays the HIE has become a very influential group also in politics. Currently, it is a government agency of the Scottish Parlament linked, mostly, to the Scottish National Party. They work together in a collaborative way in the legislation of the area. That is the point of view of the Corporatism’s theory which says that the government tries to get approval by the influential groups and therefore they get some advantages.

The SSPA network has been founded in 2016 and has just started to work to reach their goals: maintain public services at the rural level, be considered at the state level a specific economic treatment with co-financing of the EU, be the priority of state public investments, transmit to society the need to undertake specific actions in rural areas and make a census growth by supporting initiatives that generate employment and/or economic activities. By this time, their efforts have been focused on inform the Government’s Commission for the Demographic Challenge and on create a knowledge in the civil society participating in activities like the First National Fair for the Repopulation of the España Vacía.

Those things are achievable but the main characteristic, for them, to fix people in the Rural Spain is to persuade and to get as politic outcomes facilities for the enterprises to stay in the region (like HIE did). The Spanish counterpart, on the contrary, has not any kind of energetic resource and the present state plans are based in agriculture. It is a weakness but it does not make it impossible. There, the wood industry, factories of furniture and tourism are efficient and competitive sectors. Nevertheless, are they in the good way? Are enterprises important? To answer those topics, I have chosen some data about the number of enterprises in the area.

As we can see, there are several enterprises, in the 2016 there were 28687, and despite the crisis years, the number of them is growing each year. It is not a huge increment, but, at least, it is not a decrease. From 2015 to 2016 the rate of variation was 0,25%. The action of the lobby SSPA Network should be thought in medium and long term, and should be directed towards the conservation of this ones and a try to attract some others.

In the other hand, if we check the number of habitants of the SSPA, we also see a growth trend despite the loss of the last years. Nowadays there are 422.858 habitants (Cuenca, Soria and Teruel), which is the minimum number registered in the last 20 years but, again, this small quantity is due to the crisis. By 2009 they reached 459.215 people, the top. And the tendency was to augment. If the number of enterprises had not gone down, the population would not have suffered such a change. So the relation between economic activity and depopulation is clearly confirmed.

To sum up, lobbies are groups with issues and, sometimes, with a lot power. In the depopulation case, the history of HIE shows us how they were able to achieve an increment of the population by the attraction of enterprises. In the SSPA Network we can not talk yet but they have started to act in the correct way.

 

Bibliography:

  • Instituto Nacional de Estadística. 2016. “España en cifras 2016.” Accessed: December 15, 2017. file:///C:/Users/Usuario/Downloads/Esp_en_cifras_2016_web.pdf
  • BBC News. 2017. “SNP MP Ian Blackford proposes Highlands and Islands Enterprise power plan.” BBC, January 4, 2016.
  • Cerdà, Paco. 2017. Los últimos. Voces de la Laponia española. Logroño: Pepitas de calabaza.
  • Chalmers, Adam William. 2017. “Interests, Influence and Information: Comparing.” Journal of European Integration, 2011.
  • DÜR, A. BERNHAGEN, P. MARSHALL, D. 2015. “Contrary to popular opinion, business actors are less successful than citizen groups at lobbying EU legislators.” The London School of Economics and Political Science, December 14, 2017.
  • Highlands and Islands Enterprise. 2017.     “Highlands and Islands Enterprise.” Accessed: December 15, 2017. http://www.hie.co.uk/
  • Red Áreas Escasamente Pobladas del Sur de Europa. 2017. “SSPA-Red Áreas Escasamente Pobladas del Sur de Europa.” Accessed: December 18, 2017. http://sspa-network.eu/
  • Scottish Government. 2017. “Scottish Government Riaghaltas na h-Alba.” Accessed: December 15, 2017. http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Business/Corporate/

 

Notes:

[1] I talk about Serranía Celtibérica, however then I will talk only about Cuenca, Soria and Teruel which are the main important territories of this created region.

[2] Source: Cerdà, Paco. 2017. Los últimos. Voces de la Laponia española. Logroño: Pepitas de calabaza

[3] Source: Highlands and Islands Enterprise. 2017. “Highlands and Islands Enterprise.” Accessed: December 15, 2017. http://www.hie.co.uk/