HIE urged to adopt ru­ral leader project

The Oban Times - - FARMING -

NFU Scot­land mem­bers have writ­ten to High­lands and Is­lands En­ter­prise (HIE) urg­ing it to adopt the suc­cess­ful Ru­ral Lead­er­ship Pro­gramme (RLP) cur­rently avail­able in other parts of Scot­land.

The let­ter to HIE chair­man Lorne Cr­erar has been signed by the NFUS High­land re­gional chair­man Martin Birse, Orkney and Shet­land chair­man Paul Ross, Ar­gyll and the Is­lands chair­man John Dick­son and Sandy Mur­ray, who chairs the union’s Croft­ing, High­lands and Is­lands Com­mit­tee.

The RLP, de­liv­ered on be­half of Scot­tish En­ter­prise (SE) by SAC Con­sult­ing, has just cel­e­brated its 10th an­niver­sary, with al­most 450 peo­ple from ru­ral back­grounds ben­e­fit­ing from a course that has seen them de­vel­op­ing their lead­er­ship skills and grow­ing their busi­nesses.

How­ever, sim­i­lar fund­ing and sup­port is not avail­able to ru­ral peo­ple liv­ing and work­ing in the HIE area. The NFUS said it firmly be­lieves that the ru­ral econ­omy of the High­lands and Is­lands would be bol­stered if HIE were to fund ap­pli­cants.

In their let­ter, the group state: ‘ We strongly be­lieve that the lack of ac­cess to this pro­gramme for peo­ple in the HIE area is hugely detri­men­tal to the High­lands and Is­lands, and is se­verely dis­ad­van­tag­ing po­ten­tial ru­ral lead­ers here, com­pared to those in the SE area.

‘There is some lim­ited sup­port to ru­ral lead­er­ship from HIE but the re­al­ity is that what it cur­rently of­fers in terms of lead­er­ship for ru­ral busi­nesses, par­tic­u­larly to smaller farm­based ones, is not ef­fec­tive in de­vel­op­ing ru­ral lead­ers in the way that the RLP does.

‘In­de­pen­dent eval­u­a­tion of the RLP has shown that the pro­gramme is hav­ing a very di­rect and pos­i­tive im­pact on the ru­ral econ­omy in the SE area. This in­cludes the cre­ation or safe- guard­ing of em­ploy­ment, the start-up of new ru­ral busi­nesses and the launch of new prod­ucts.

‘More importantly, it cre­ates con­fi­dence in peo­ple’s abil­ity to lead and dra­mat­i­cally im­proves their mo­ti­va­tion.

‘The ru­ral econ­omy and the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try des­per­ately needs lead­ers with am­bi­tion, who also have the skills to help them realise their aims. It has been shown in the SE area that the RLP pro­vides these skills, while also de­vel­op­ing a key net­work of lead­ers across the re­gion – and that is what we are miss­ing out on.

‘As well as tar­get­ing ex­ist­ing farm­ers and crofters, we be­lieve that to en­gage with more women from farm­ing and croft­ing back­grounds, to en­able our young en­trepreneurs to de­velop their busi­nesses and to en­cour­age peo­ple to stand for the Croft­ing Com­mis­sion elec­tions, de­vel­op­ing these ru­ral lead­ers across the HIE net­work is es­sen­tial.’

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