Coronavirus: Nine in 10 Scottish rural firms want to safely re-open

The vast majority of countryside firms in Scotland want to restart the local rural economy, according to a survey
The vast majority of countryside firms in Scotland want to restart the local rural economy, according to a survey

Over 90 percent of Scottish rural businesses are confident they can reopen while safely adhering to Covid-19 social distancing measures, a survey says.

More than half (56%) of the 250 firms surveyed said they are confident they can reopen all of their business safely.

Meanwhile, 36 percent stated they are confident they could reopen part of their business safely.

There was little variation in confidence between types of business covered by the survey which ranged from tourism to farming.

It comes as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that people in Scotland will be allowed to meet friends outdoors and start shopping at garden centres from 28 May.

Scotland is one of the last areas of the United Kingdom to relax its coronavirus lockdown.

But the survey, carried out by rural business firm Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), shows that countryside firms are ready to help restart Scotland’s economy safely.

SLE is currently working with the Scottish government, Scottish Enterprise and regional enterprise bodies to give the rural economy a much-needed boost.

But the body has highlighted concerns over the impact of social distancing measures over the medium to longer term.

"The reality is that maintaining social distancing measures medium to longer term could have damaging ramifications on the future sustainability of many rural businesses," said Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of SLE.

"Limiting visitor numbers at tourist attractions, holiday accommodation and weddings and reducing manufacturing or processing means many rural businesses will not be operating at full capacity.

"Add in the uncertainty around Brexit and trade deals and all of this is likely to result in a loss of income which could jeopardise jobs in rural areas."

And while government support has been welcomed, some rural businesses are still ineligible for the help they need.

Not all issues are financial, there are environmental and personal costs too, which are harder to quantify, Ms Laing said.

"Great care and thought needs to be given to plan recovery and regrowth in rural areas to ensure their fragile economies continue to function in the future.

"The true extent of the cost of this pandemic will be ongoing for the foreseeable future and support will need to adjust to those challenges too.

"That’s why the Scottish government needs to commit to future support to help rural Scotland thrive.”