Delivering tailored support for Scotland’s rural businesses.

A man working on a laptop in a farm field

  • We are providing support to rural enterprises through our economic development agencies, Business Gateway and GrowBiz
  • We are establishing an economic development agency in the South of Scotland to support sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the area
  • We will develop new sector specific action plans for the food and drink industry
  • We are providing the Highlands and Islands Enterprise with £71 million to provide regional leadership and work to secure inclusive growth across the Highlands and Islands

Enterprise Support

There is a greater proportion of microenterprises in rural Scotland than anywhere else in the country. By-and-large these enterprises operate a business model where profit margins and turnover are lower, they have slower trajectories for growth, and the levels of self-employment are higher. These enterprises play an important role in their local economy and are a major source of development with growth of £6.6 billion between 2007-2015. There is untapped potential in our rural economy as its true value to the economy of Scotland is under-represented in statistics due to turnover levels of some microenterprises falling below those required for VAT registration.

We are delivering over £119 million of enterprise support through GrowBiz, LEADER, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise to nearly 1,500 community based and/or micro enterprise projects operating in the rural economy.


Established in 2007, GrowBiz is a community-based enterprise support organisation located in Perthshire. It provides services across rural Perth & Kinross, and increasingly to other parts of Scotland, and has engaged with more than 800 small and micro-businesses in the last two years.

With funding and support from the Rural Perth & Kinross LEADER programme, Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Perth & Kinross Council – and also private sector support from SSE and RBS - GrowBiz has created a unique model of enterprise support which has contributed to a more sustainable and diverse rural economy. It offers flexible and individually-tailored support to anyone wanting to start or grow a business, or social enterprise, contracting a team of freelance enterprise facilitators to provide specialist 1:1 support, responsive to local needs. Its peer learning and networking events have supported more than 2,500 individuals since 2017, and GrowBiz’s client businesses represent a wide diversity of sectors, including tourism, creative, digital services, care & wellbeing and niche manufacturing.

GrowBiz’s award-winning mentoring programme has trained more than 60 local mentors, and its Creative Care project has developed an innovative approach to delivering social care and wellbeing in rural areas through a network of micro-enterprises and self-employed carers – addressing issues of social isolation, as well as enabling elderly people to stay in their communities. One significant measure of the effectiveness of the GrowBiz model is the high survivability rates of businesses, with more than 95% of the businesses started with support from GrowBiz over the last four years continuing to trade.

South of Scotland Enterprise Agency

To achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth in rural areas in the South of Scotland we will create a new enterprise agency in the South of Scotland with an interim Economic Partnership in place, backed with £10 million of investment.

Food and Drink

We have pledged £7.5m funding over 2017-2020 towards the Ambition 2030 Food and Drink Industry Strategy to help the sector double its turnover to £30bn by 2030. The strategy contains a range of actions with collaboration between government and industry to support food and drink businesses and help the sector grow. We have published, in collaboration with industry, a number of sectoral action plans covering: fruit and vegetables and potatoes; pigs; and venison; featuring a series of practical actions to drive economic growth in these sectors.

Key resources:


LEADER - Links Between Activities Developing the Rural Economy

Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Scottish Enterprise

South of Scotland Economic Partnership