Rural Economy Action Group minutes: February 2020

Minutes of the second meeting of the Rural Economy Action Group, held on 4 February 2020.

Attendees and apologies

REAG members

  • Carol Tannahill – Chief Social Policy Adviser
  • Gary Gillespie – Chief Economic Adviser
  • Andrew Scott – Director for Sustainable Land Use and Rural Policy
  • Colin Cook – Director of Digital
  • Alison Irvine – Deputy for Chief Executive Transport Scotland
  • Jeremy Phillipson – Professor of Rural Development, University of Newcastle
  • Jo Dow - Chief Executive – Business Stream
  • Helena Gray – Deputy for Director of Energy and Climate Change
  • Catriona MacKean – Deputy for Director for Housing and Social Justice

Additional Scottish Government Attendees

  • Jane Duffy – Deputy for Director for Fair Work Employability and Skills
  • Simon Fuller – Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services
  • Catriona Maclean – Deputy Director Rural Economy and Communities

Business Support Representatives

  • Hugh Lightbody – Business Gateway
  • Merle Palmer – GrowBiz
  • Rachel Hunter – Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • Julian Pace – Scottish Enterprise
  • Jim Watson – Scottish Enterprise
  • Karen Jackson – South of Scotland Enterprise
  • Louisa Harvey – Growth Deals and Regional Economic Partnerships
  • Chris Nicholson – Scottish National Investment Bank

Rural Leaders

  • Andrew Stirling – stirfresh
  • John Sinclair – Craigie’s Farm
  • Wendy Pring – KCP Ltd
  • Andrew Donaldson – Comrie Croft

REAG Secretariat

  • Amanda Fox
  • Pamela Berry
  • Ebba Svantesson


  • Shirley Laing
  • Roy Brannen
  • Kersti Berge
  • Iain Docherty
  • Mary McAllan
  • Graham Black
  • Dominic Munro

Items and actions


Welcome to REAG members

Actions from previous meeting

Welcome and Introductions to additional attendees – Business Support representatives and Rural Leaders

NCRA film showcasing rural Scotland

Update on Brexit

Business support landscape – discussion with representatives of business support bodies

Business support landscape – Engagement with Rural Leaders


Business support landscape – REAG members roundtable discussion

Action setting for Scottish Government Directors

AOB and next steps





Bi-lateral between Jeremy Philipson and Simon Fuller to discuss further the evidence base and disaggregated figures. Update at next REAG meeting

In progress


Circulate papers:
∙ Inclusive Growth Diagnostics

∙ Business Led Inclusive Growth in the South of Scotland

∙ Infrastructure Commission for Scotland report

∙ Scottish National Investment Bank – The Bank’s Mission-Oriented Approach



Investigate the differing data on the Gender Pay Gap in South of Scotland

In progress


Consider what further information on social landlord housing stock levels can be added to the analysis of housing association housing provision by rural and urban area

In progress


Explore how the sustainable procurement duty, outlined in Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 delivers opportunities for public good (e.g. climate change) and benefits to local economies and communities

In progress


Liaise with the Banking and Economy Forum and emphasise the importance of Place and probe in what capacity they are delivering for the rural economy

In progress


Circulate the Access to Finance Survey once published (March/April)

In progress


Send a note to the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board about the discussions held at the REAG meeting. Emphasise the need for a shared vision and strategy for the business support agencies and organisations

In progress


Set up meeting between Gary Gillespie, Andrew Scott, Mary McAllan and Carol Tannahill to explore the relationship between other public bodies (including SEPA, SNH, Scottish Forestry & Visit Scotland) and the enterprise agencies. Consider bringing this discussion to the Economy board & provide update at next REAG meeting

In progress


Apprenticeships - examine how well rural areas are able to make use of existing apprenticeship programmes

In progress


Explore how we can encourage and ensure that businesses are supported and transitioning to net zero. How are our Enterprise Agencies aligned to support and develop businesses to address climate change?

In progress


Explore what mechanisms are available or could be developed to connect people to the opportunity that Natural Capital presents. This would potentially become a topic for REAG deep-dive

In progress


Produce a report on the current business support in rural Scotland. Bi-lateral (Action 1) between Jeremy Phillipson and Simon Fuller to inform what is needed in terms of data going forward

In progress


Progress plans for next meeting of the Rural Economy Action Group to be held on the 3 June in a rural location. The theme of this meeting is likely to be on the communities in rural areas and the people in them; with a specific focus on housing, planning and population change.

In progress

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