Vision Scotland: Frank O’Donnell’s reflections on summer

RHET P2 visit Blegbie Farm by Alan Richardson.
RHET P2 visit Blegbie Farm by Alan Richardson.

As the summer makes its mark on Scottish life, Vision Scotland turns its attention once again to the rural economy.

This year, we have added some thinking about sustainability and the circular economy alongside the usual mix of topics from across the business world.

Fordyce Maxwell, a former agricultural editor of The Scotsman, paints a vivid picture of the rural economy in our first editorial feature.

His far-reaching report looks not just at farming, but at a range of businesses that make their living away from the hustle and bustle of our towns and cities.

He finds signs of prosperity, but a strong awareness of the challenges ahead.

In another wide-ranging piece, Fergus Ewing sets out his government’s record on cultivating a sustainable life in the country.

Say “rural life” to anyone and immediately we conjure up a picture of farming, it’s probably no surprise that we have concentrated on agriculture, unearthing some interesting stories on the way.

Take the farmer who has diversified into yoga and foraging; or how Scottish academics are helping Colombian farmers replace their cocaine “addiction” by growing beans.

Fish is another strong performer in the rural economy and salmon is a phenomenal ambassador for our food and drink, with £600 million of the fish exported a year.

The new chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation sets out her vision for the industry.

There is nothing that says the Scottish summer more than the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston – but what is probably not so widely talked about is the work of its own charity the Royal Highland Education Trust.

Each year the trust – through its network of farmers who host farm visits or give school talks – opens the door to the countryside for thousands of children.

Rural life is clearly no longer isolated from the modern world – or it shouldn’t be – as the internet and all its associated technology connects us all together.

A recent report said that if Scotland’s rural businesses were to take full advantage of digital technologies, they would add up to £1.44 billion in rural business turnover. We find out how things are progressing.

You can’t help thinking about nature and its resources when you talk about the countryside, so sustainability is a natural fit for this issue of Vision Scotland.

Scotland has been quietly earning a reputation as a beacon of the circular economy; so much so that this autumn we will be hosting an international event to highlight it.

The Circular Economy Hotspot 2018 will showcase what we have achieved so far in keeping resources and products in use for as long as possible.

As two partner reports on the circular economy show, businesses and organisations across Scotland clearly have some exciting opportunities to embrace by taking this sustainable route.

This article appears in the SUMMER 2018 edition of Vision Scotland. An online version is available here.