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.


"Multi-level connectivity – we know that there are many different ways to connect: digitally, personally, physically. We need those all to be strong, and if any of those links are broken or weak that can be very negative for the whole rural economy." (Rural Thinks – St Boswells)

The divide between rural and urban quality of life and opportunity has become untenable and we are ambitious in our view that this must end. There should be no reason why living, working or visiting the rural economy should be any greater a challenge than in urban Scotland.

The Rural Thinks process demonstrated clearly that the people of rural Scotland are capable of overcoming significant barriers to achieve success and deliver economic benefit - the case studies outlined above are further evidence of this.

The 'Rural Thinks' workshops focused on:

  • Supporting businesses and communities to thrive.
  • Improving physical infrastructure such as digital and transport links.
  • Creating a strong social infrastructure to ensure communities were well supported.

Issues relating to infrastructure often prove to be our greatest challenge in rural areas, and are often those that we sometimes cannot overcome -severely limiting our ability to deliver to our full potential.

Good transport, digital and mobile communications allow us to connect to our customer bases and manage our businesses. Equitable childcare, appropriate housing, social care and business support allow us to develop ourselves, our businesses and our communities. To take one example, with self-employment levels high in the rural economy, portfolio working and micro enterprise is common. In order to promote successful business support, we must look to tailor enterprise support for rural settings. A diverse range of enterprises need to have access to tailored, flexible and appropriate support and financial infrastructure to enable them to flourish [12] .

The assets we hold in our communities are vital, and ensure sustainability for our local economies, and the supply chains which form around them. Popular tourist attractions, such as Urquhart castle at Loch Ness for example, could be performing better for our local businesses but, due to a lack of local transport and business infrastructure, are currently not attracting visitors into our local communities to contribute to our rural economies.

"Planning, loans and grants need to be simplified." (Rural Thinks, Stirling)

Our entrepreneurial spirit works best when supported by the right regulation, planning and business assistance to enable us to make things happen and keep our local economies thriving. The NCRA understand that to create a vibrant rural economy, both policy, financial support and planning environments must now align to release our true economic potential.

This means a new model for infrastructure investment and development must be the focus for national conversation.

Recommendations for Infrastructure

7. Help ensure there are the same opportunities and access to services between urban and rural areas

  • For people living and working in rural areas there are often big differences compared to urban areas in what services might be available (things like broadband, childcare, transport, community development etc.) What do you need to enable you to choose to live and work in rural Scotland?

8. Make sure Government policies, regulations, planning and support mechanisms help local businesses

  • What types of policies, regulations, planning and business support need to be strengthened or removed to help a wide variety of small and micro businesses in rural areas?
  • Can you think of any problems in transport, housing, social care and digital infrastructure that prevent economic growth for your industry sector, business or community?

9. Make sure that community resources that contribute to our economy (like tourist attractions) also deliver benefits to their communities

  • Can you think of any examples of resources in your community e.g. that attract visitors and make money but that do not benefit the community?
  • Are there examples of attractions in your community that you would like to promote? What could help you do this?

Case study 3 Infrastructure – GG's Yard - The development of a 250 year old farm into a rural venue specialising in weddings/conferences

Project Manager: Duncan McConchie
Location: Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries & Galloway

Case study 3 Infrastructure – GG's Yard - The development of a 250 year old farm into a rural venue specialising in weddings/conferences

The following case study represents an example of a rural enterprise that has succeeded despite delays in planning permissions, challenges in terms of infrastructure and an initial shortage of applicants for newly created jobs. GG's Yard is a wedding and conference venue that has overcome these challenges and made the best use of the potential rural Scotland provides.

The idea to develop the 250 year old farm was Duncan's innovative solution to the dilemma of his previous recreation and adventure business: the seasonality of tourism on the one hand, and the needs of staff to be employed all year round on the other.

Duncan invested £1,800,000 into his project and secured Scottish Enterprise funding of £300,000. Before Duncan had secured planning permission, GG's yard had received 50 bookings. Now, one year on, they have over 150 events booked from all over the world with 20% from London and some bookings attracting over 200 guests.

Key challenges:

1. Getting approval and appropriate support from public sector.
2. Investments to infrastructure due to upgrading the A75 trunk road at a cost of £400,000.
3. Environmental regulations requiring investments to pipe a burn at a cost of £150,000.
4. Late notice about building restrictions that required further investments.
5. Staffing – 30 open vacancies received six applications which required intense recruitment in colleges, schools, clubs, etc.

What GG's yard tells us about rural policy for the future:

  • Public sector support: the public sector could provide staff with skills to implement a can-do attitude and entrepreneurial thinking.
  • Finance: 0% loan funds could be available for all businesses and £15,000 "no strings attached" grants to people willing to move to a rural area to start a business.

How GG's yard impacted positively upon the wider rural economy:

  • Provided customers for a new local taxi company and increased business to restaurants and shops
  • Local pub was able to make substantial investments into an extension to attract new customers
  • Increased guest numbers for a local hotel which has now extended its business



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