Developing the potential of rural communities and our rural economy.

Rural Photo

  • We will support the development of a diverse and healthy rural economy through the growth of traditional and non-traditional sectors
  • We will invest in our infrastructure to deliver housing, improved access to services and connectivity enabling improved sustainable and inclusive economic growth
  • We will deliver a rural skills action plan to ensure that rural enterprises have access to a highly-skilled workforce

Nearly 20% of our population lives in rural Scotland. There are higher proportions of microenterprises and 34% of Scotland’s social enterprises are located in rural areas. Whilst our rural economy is similar to and tightly integrated with the urban economy, there are differences in terms of employment patterns, distances from services and markets, and sparsity of populations. These differences mean that the way services and policies are delivered needs to be tailored to the local situation.

Similarly, we are committed to supporting, strengthening and protecting island communities, and our historic Islands (Scotland) Act will help create the right environment for sustainable growth and empowered communities.

Scottish Rural Parliament

We established a Scottish Rural Parliament that has empowered rural communities across Scotland by giving them a stronger voice to initiate change at a local and national level.

Scottish Rural Development Programme

We have provided over £750 million of support to over 10,000 individual projects across Scotland through the Scottish Rural Development Programme; including over 240 LEADER projects to encourage communities and individuals to develop projects to meet local needs.


We are committing up to £750,000 until 2020 to support the Rural Innovation Support Service to broker collaborative innovation in the food and drink supply chain.

We will continue to support the building of more houses in rural areas to meet local needs, including via the £30 million Rural and Island Housing Fund. Through the Self-Build Loan Fund piloted in the Highland Council Area we have delivered 14 new homes.


We are working collaboratively with Regional Transport Partnerships, Scottish Rural Action and other key rural stakeholders to ensure that rural needs are being captured as part of the development of policies that will underpin the new National Transport Strategy to be published by the end of 2019.

We have ambitious plans to dual the A9 and A96 and have successfully reintroduced a passenger rail service to the Borders for the first time since 1969. We will examine the case for an extension of the railway along with improvements to the A1, A7, and A68.

Digital Connectivity

We have exceeded our target of providing fibre broadband to 95% of premises across Scotland through the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) programme. As a direct result of DSSB, we have provided access to broadband across Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, areas which would otherwise have failed to be connected if left to the market. We will provide Scotland with a truly national, future-proofed digital infrastructure through our Reaching 100% programme, enabling us to capitalise on emerging digital opportunities and ensuring everyone has access to superfast broadband.

Commercial investment has led to 95% of Scotland’s population having access to 4G however, only 36% of Scotland’s landmass was served. We are extending rural Scotland’s 4G coverage into longstanding ‘notspots’ through our Scottish 4G Infill (S4GI) Programme; investing £25 million (including £10M from ERDF sources).


We will publish and implement a rural skills action plan that will seek to ensure that national skills frameworks are available across rural Scotland. We will extend the Ringlink pre-apprenticeship programme to 4 other parts of rural Scotland over the next 3 years on a pilot basis.

We will work with Scottish Enterprise to maximise the impact of the Rural Leadership Programme. We will draw upon graduates’ skills enabling them to: become pacesetters in their sectors and communities, stimulating business innovation, creativity, know-how and collaboration; and contribute to the development of initiatives that will unleash the potential of young people in rural communities to support them into positive destinations.

Key resources:

Innovative Farmers

Scottish Government: Rural Farming

Scottish Rural Parliament

Rural Network: Scottish Rural Development Programme