Coronavirus: Scotland’s rural firms to suffer 'disproportionate' Covid-19 impact

More support is needed for Scotland’s rural businesses as they will suffer a “disproportionate” impact due to Covid-19, Perth-based GrowBiz has warned.

The organisation said the sector boosts Scotland’s economy by £37 billion a year. Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.
The organisation said the sector boosts Scotland’s economy by £37 billion a year. Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

The rural enterprise support organisation said the sector boosts Scotland’s economy by £37 billion a year – adding that nearly 25 per cent of adults in rural Scotland are self-employed, more than twice the rate of urban areas.

GrowBiz chief executive Jackie Brierton said: “The spread of Covid-19 presents enormous challenges for businesses across Scotland and especially for small and micro-businesses in rural Scotland.”

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She added that in any small Scottish town or village, “many retailers are sole traders, as are essential tradespeople, café owners, independent hoteliers, fishermen, fitness instructors, childminders and so on – the list of trades and professions who are self employed in rural areas is considerable”.

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She continued: “The support package announced by the Chancellor on Thursday for these business owners and the self-employed is obviously welcome. But it’s not going to prevent serious financial hardship for many individuals and their families in rural areas.

“With a delay until June for any payments to be made, many will struggle to survive. And those who have only recently started a business, and haven’t yet completed a self-assessment return will have to use the benefits system.

Dependent

“Local economies and communities in rural areas are absolutely dependent on the army of sole traders and self-employed in every sector and we hope that every effort will be made to support them through this period... adequate support needs to be delivered in a timely fashion.”

Other highlighted challenges for the sector include inconsistent broadband coverage, poor transport links and greater distances to food supplies and health services.