Together we can, together we will: consultation

Consultation by National Consultation of Rural Advisers (NCRA) to help inform recommendations for Scottish Government on future policy direction for the rural economy.


One of our most exciting challenges is how to make the most of rural Scotland's greatest asset, its people. We know that we can only do this through support, encouragement and empowerment.

We must ensure the opportunity exists for rural communities to flourish and enable them to make positive decisions for the future. The theme of people was designed to capture factors that influence economic and social development as well as quality of life.

The 'Rural Thinks' workshops focused on:

  • How to attract people to move or return to live and work in the rural economy, particularly young people.
  • How to encourage personal, business and community development.

Life and work in rural Scotland

Diversity is a feature of rural Scotland and with migrants from many different countries choosing to settle here, our rural culture has been greatly enriched as a result.

"Rural needs to be seen as a positive choice, making sure that people want to live here, have a career or develop a business here." (Rural Thinks – St Boswells)

However, rural areas experience high levels of emigration and also face challenges due to demographic patterns. Over 23% of the population in mainly rural areas and 25% in Islands and remote areas are over 65 years old compared to only 20% in the rest of Scotland [8] . Accordingly, the share working agepopulation (15-64 years) is higher in the rest of Scotland with 66% in contrast to 62% in Islands and remote areas and 63% in mainly rural areas.

Rural Scotland's labour market is vibrant and characterised by high employment rates. Across the whole of Scotland, unemployment rates are lower in rural areas compared to urban, but our patterns of employment differ. Part-time employment for example is more common in remote rural Scotland (31%) than in urban Scotland (27%); and self-employment is more common in remote rural Scotland (22%) than urban Scotland (10%) [9] .

Post-Brexit immigration uncertainties post a threat to many industries, including agriculture and fisheries. A recently published survey by the Scottish Rural University College ( SRUC) on seasonal migrant workers highlights the value of non- UK workers and the need for reassurances and certainty from the UK Government. It is estimated that 9,255 seasonal migrant workers were engaged in Scottish agriculture in 2017 [10] .

We need to act to overcome the particular challenges we face in relation to attracting and retaining people, whilst recognising the main economic and social opportunities for future growth. The NCRA are working with key stakeholders, such as the Rural Youth Project - whose survey on young people's perceptions of their challenges and opportunities living rurally - reached thousands, to ensure that we have the voice of young people when attracting people to rural areas [11] .

It was clear throughout the 'Rural Thinks' consultation events that people in rural areas are passionate about improving life and opportunities in rural Scotland, and that given the right tools and resources, they are willing to contribute leadership, energy and ideas we need for the future.

"We want policy to be driven by people – regulations and governance to be people-led, bottom-up." (Rural Thinks, Kilmarnock)

We believe it is only through communication and collaboration that positive change can continue. We must build on strong networks, including with our urban neighbours, to problem solve and build our communities for the future and encourage entrepreneurship and sustainable growth in our rural economy.

Recommendations for People

4. Encourage future entrepreneurship by ensuring the Scottish Government's rural skills action plan meets the needs of the Rural Economic Strategy

  • What skills are required to have a vibrant rural economy?
  • How do we best ensure that people of all ages, genders, areas, socio-economic, educational and ethnic backgrounds receive appropriate support?

5. Develop opportunities for the businesses of urban and rural Scotland to share ideas and work together

  • How do you think we could do this? (for example through schools or membership organisations groups)
  • Facilitating learning and sharing between urban and rural areas to have a better understanding of the economic opportunities that are available would be a new approach for Scotland. What would interest you in this approach? Are there any benefits/drawbacks?

6. Create communities of interest (digital, physical) where businesses and people can come together to solve problems, share ideas and understand opportunities

  • Is there any place that you can think of in your community where people already do this? Can you please tell us about it?
  • What might be the benefits of this approach?
  • What things would your local community need to help people in your local area come together?

Case study 2 People – Growbiz - A model of rural enterprise support

Project Manager: Merle Palmer
Location: Rural Perthshire

Case study 2 People – Growbiz - A model of rural enterprise support

The following case study represents an example of a rural enterprise that has identified the potential of the people of rural Scotland. With its innovative approach it has become a provider of business support for rural entrepreneurs. Not for Profit GrowBiz addresses challenges rural business face such as a lack of small business support.

GrowBiz provides community-based enterprise support in rural Perth and Kinross and aims support as many local start-ups and existing businesses as possible by providing one-to-one support, mentoring, networking events and women's enterprise meetings. It has also piloted an Enterprise Grant Fund in partnership with Scottish and Southern Energy ( SSE) and the Griffin and Calliachar Windfarm with more than 40 diverse businesses in Highland Perthshire benefiting from small grants ranging from £1000 to £20,000. Their latest initiative, 'Creative Care', is an entrepreneurial approach to provision of social care and wellbeing services in rural areas. It follows a pilot which resulted in a cooperative supporting 33 micro-enterprises providing care/wellbeing services.


1. Scepticism about the GrowBiz approach from mainstream business support organisations.
2. Securing funding for the work that GrowBiz does is a constant challenge.
3. A lack of grants and loans available to small businesses.
4. A lack of similar organisations in Scotland to help the team with challenges.

What the Workshop tells us about rural policy for the future:

  • Provision of enterprise support and access to finance for a wider range of businesses is needed, particularly for micro-businesses.
  • The need to acknowledge the impacts of 'part-time' and small businesses.
  • Improvement of digital technology and connectivity is essential.
  • There is a lack of provision of specific support for women-owned businesses in rural areas.

How Growbiz impacted positively upon the wider rural economy:

  • Helped Perthshire to become one of the top three rural areas for entrepreneurship and self-employment
  • Supported 300 Businesses and administered 45 grant applications who went on to employ others
  • Trained 33 mentors and contracted 14 local business people in support for its operations
  • Held 94 events with 1200 attendances whose skills were reinvested into the rural economy



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