As an autonomous part of Great Britain, Scotland received a higher degree of self-government as a result of a referendum in 1997. As a consequence, the 1999 devolution led to a deregulation of the centralised state system and autonomy is now expressed through a state parliament elected by the Scottish people.

Rural areas in Scotland account for 98% of the total area of the country. Among these, the Scottish Highlands and Islands play a special role. The Highlands and Islands represent a unique mountain and marine territory that has long been considered one of the "classic" peripheral areas of Europe. With a population density of twelve people per km2, just one tenth of Scottish people live in this region. Although the north of the country has an aging population structure, it has a strong economic base. A low unemployment rate and a high number of self-employed are indicators of dynamic regional development.  


Scotland and especially the north of the country with the Highlands and Islands is of great interest as these rural areas have had to deal with special challenges for decades. Unplanned settlement in the countryside, the spatial structure of the islands and also demographic change meant that new solutions had to be found early on to preserve rural public services.

Recent regional development in Scotland is characterised by the land reform in the late 1990s and the establishment of many Community Trusts with a unique governance structure. The Trusts play a major role, especially as a form of "self-empowerment" for the local population and in many places have led to a noticeable breakthrough in regional development. Particularly in the area of post-school education and training, a strong focus on a decentralising of options can be observed in Scotland. The decentralisation allows for education to take place in the locality that goes hand in hand with an increase in identity with the home region. The University of the Highlands and Islands can be cited as an example. The research is to focus in particular on the extent to which the liberal welfare state in Great Britain and the governance structures in regional development affect the establishment of projects receiving funding.

In the field of fire services and hazard prevention, the establishment of the 'Fire and Rescue Service', which brings together eight territorial services under one centralised structure, was one of the most prominent developments since devolution in 1999. The emergence of this structure was intended to improve the efficiency of the emergency services (police, ambulance, and fire services) in view of the British paradigm of austerity (which emerged in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008/2009). The design of the new fire service was also characterised by a change from a reactive to a preventive approach. Nevertheless, in rural areas there are still staff shortages and difficulties when it comes to maintaining emergency services. As part of the InDaLE project, the Scottish (and British at large) retained-duty system (a semi-professional system with paid part-time firefighters) is compared with the German and Austrian models which are primarily volunteer-based.