Call for more sup­port to bol­ster ru­ral busi­nesses

FSB high­lights lower rate of start-ups in coun­try ar­eas

The Press and Journal (Moray) - - BUSINESS - BY RE­BECCA BUCHAN

Calls have been made for the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to do more to back ru­ral economies fol­low­ing the re­lease of data which shows there’s a far higher rate of start-ups in ur­ban ar­eas.

New anal­y­sis by the Fed­er­a­tion of Small Busi­nesses (FSB) shows start-up rates are sig­nif­i­cantly lower in ru­ral Scot­land than in the coun­try’s cities.

Be­tween 2010 and 2017, the num­ber of reg­is­tered com­pa­nies in Scot­land’s ur­ban ar­eas rose from 108,145 to 125,545 – an in­crease of 16%.

How­ever over the same pe­riod, en­ter­prises in Scot­land’s ru­ral ar­eas only rose from 48,225 to 52,270 – an in­crease of just 8% .

Since 2011 the pop­u­la­tion of ru­ral Scot­land has grown at a slightly faster rate than the coun­try’s ur­ban ar­eas.

As a re­sult the FSB has made a sub­mis­sion to the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s Na­tional Coun­cil of Ru­ral Ad­vis­ers, to ar­gue that boost­ing lo­cal firms and ru­ral busi­ness start-up rates should be a key pri­or­ity for min­is­ters.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scot­land pol­icy chair­man, said: “Since the start of this decade, we’ve seen the num­ber of reg­is­tered Scot­tish ru­ral firms in­crease at about half the rate of our cities.

“This trend should give all of us pause for thought. Smaller busi­nesses are at the heart of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and economies. With­out a di­verse mix of lo­cal busi­nesses, driven by a healthy busi­ness startup rate, ru­ral ar­eas will face slug­gish growth and strug­gle to re­tain and at­tract work­ing age peo­ple.”

FSB high­lights that ru­ral Scot­tish small-to-medium sized busi­nesses gen­er­ate around £15bn in turnover while sus­tain­ing more than two thirds of ru­ral pri­vate sec­tor jobs.

Mr McRae added: “In many parts of Scot­land, smaller busi­nesses are the lo­cal econ­omy. There­fore, if we want to de­velop re­silient lo­cal economies, then we need to fo­cus on help­ing our smaller firms thrive. That means en­sur­ing smaller busi­nesses get a fair share of pub­lic con­tracts. It means ask­ing our en­ter­prise sup­port agen­cies to think lo­cal first.”

Fig­ures from Au­dit Scot­land show a third of Scot­land’s lo­cal roads are in un­ac­cept­able con­di­tion, with this fig­ure even higher in ru­ral coun­cil ar­eas. Fig­ures from Of­com also show al­most a third (31%) of Scot­land’s land­mass con­tin­ues to have no ac­cess to 4G ser­vices com­pared to just 3% of the land­mass of Eng­land and North­ern Ire­land.

Mr McRae said: “By im­prov­ing trans­port and dig­i­tal in­fra­struc­ture, our ru­ral ar­eas can be­come more at­trac­tive to busi­ness start-ups, as well as fam­i­lies and tourists.”

A Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokesper­son said: “We know re­mote and ru­ral ar­eas are much more likely to have busi­nesses with 10 or fewer em­ploy­ees. These de­liver sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic and so­cial ben­e­fits and will be an im­por­tant fo­cus for us as we work in part­ner­ship with the FSB, and oth­ers, to en­cour­age and sup­port busi­nesses meet the chal­lenges our ru­ral econ­omy and com­mu­ni­ties face.”

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