Our rural landscape is changing, and our economy with it.
Our primary industries remain vital to our prosperity – agriculture and food are essential to the economy of rural Scotland. But our landscape is also diversifying, and our people with it. Construction, public administration, micro businesses and tourism continue to grow as key rural industries  . As our future industries continue to diversify we must adapt to these changes.
Between 2007 and 2015 our fastest growing sector in mainly rural areas was business services  . The case studies above exemplify that we are not only capable of diversifying into new territory, but also of contributing to an array of social and environmental benefits. This is crucial to ensuring that the economic growth we achieve is both sustainable and socially impactful.
Working with individuals and membership organisations during the 'Rural Thinks' workshops demonstrated that there is energy and potential for a renewed economic strategy for rural Scotland. However, there was frustration at continuing barriers to progress and a lack of joined up policy making allowing businesses, people and communities to thrive fully.
We know we face challenges in achieving our goals. Brexit weighs heavily on the future of our industries. Rural areas will feel this keenly given the means provided by European funding programmes and the need for inward migration to populate our rural areas.
We need to act now to overcome potential hurdles by creating new ways of problem solving, by working together and attracting people - particularly young people - to our communities. We need to ensure we have the right skills in place to ensure a vibrant rural economy that promotes inclusivity and diversity for those living and working rurally.
And in order to achieve this, we must eradicate the infrastructure inequities we experience with our urban neighbours to ensure that the right support, including flexible and adaptable business support, is in place to allow businesses, communities and individuals to flourish.
Urban economies are supported by rural economies with bespoke products and outsourced markets. By cultivating relationships with our urban centres focused on economic learning, we have real opportunity to take forward partnerships which promote economic growth and which share learning both.
We are certain with the right focus and energy we can achieve a new rural economic strategy which puts people at its heart. We are enthusiastic that through this consultation we will arrive at a set of recommendations that are well tested, robust and which set the basis for reform.
But it is only through working with you, the citizens and businesses or rural and urban Scotland that we can achieve long lasting reform. We look forward to working with you to building that future with us.
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