Starting and growing a rural business

Rural businesses can get support from various networks and schemes, including local councils and the Scottish Government.


1 min read

1. Overview

Rural areas face many of the same economic challenges as the rest of Scotland. However, some circumstances are particular to rural communities.

Many aspects are positive, such as quality of life and high staff loyalty. However, rural businesses need to cope with a sparse population, distance from markets, fewer job opportunities and limited availability of development sites.

If you are thinking about starting or growing a business in a rural area, there are a number of networks and support schemes that can help.

2. Support for rural businesses

The Scottish Government offers a range of financial and developmental support to rural business owners in Scotland.

The Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) was a £1.2 billion programme of economic, environmental and social measures designed to develop rural Scotland between 2007 and 2013. The next stage of the SRDP is due to run from 2014-2020. The Scottish Government has taken steps to ensure transition arrangements are in place for as much as possible of the SRDP for 2014, until the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) starts in 2015.

The Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (SGRPID) offers assistance to the agricultural sector to keep Scottish producers competitive and improve practices in the industry. Their support includes business development schemes, grants and agricultural subsidy payments.

The Scottish Government website has a full list of grants, subsidies and services available to agricultural businesses. You can get more information from your local SGRPID office.

Many rural businesses are social enterprises. Social enterprises are businesses that invest their profits back into projects which benefit the community. The Scottish Government initiative Just Enterprise provides support for social enterprises across Scotland.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) can support businesses in designated 'fragile areas' in the Highlands and Islands. These include small businesses which might not be eligible for assistance elsewhere. You can get more information from your local HIE office.

Some local councils offer programmes to support rural business development.

You can also benefit from the free advice offered by Business Gateway. Contact your local office for more details.

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