Support rural business, trade body urges

Business leaders have called for action to support rural economies due to company start-up rates lagging behind their city counterparts, new analysis by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has shown.

It found that between 2010 and 2017, the number of registered businesses in Scotland’s rural areas increased by 8 per cent to 52,270, but in urban areas grew by 16 per cent to 125,545.

This is despite the population of rural Scotland having grown at a slightly faster rate than the country’s urban areas since 2011, the FSB added.

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In a submission to the Scottish Government, FSB argued that boosting local firms and rural business start-rates should be a key priority for ministers and the wider public sector.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said the growth of rural start-up rates being half of urban “should give all of us pause for thought”. He added: “Without a diverse mix of local businesses, driven by a healthy business start-up rate, rural areas will face sluggish growth and struggle to retain and attract working-age people.”

The organisation also said rural Scottish small-to-medium sized businesses generate about £15 billion in turnover while sustaining more than two-thirds of countryside private sector jobs.

McRae said we must help our smaller firms thrive, and rural transport and digital infrastructure improved. “This should be a priority for Scottish policymakers in their pursuit of a more productive, innovative economy.”