Rural businesses must meet challenges of Brexit head on

Press Release

Rural businesses in Scotland will have to make daring and innovative investment ecisions to meet the challenges of Brexit successfully.

Failure to adapt to current uncertainty and the post-Brexit landscape will have far reaching consequences for generations to come.

The call for rural businesses to ‘grab the steering wheel’ to shape their own destinies was made at Scottish Land & Estates’ conference, ‘Brexit and Beyond – the future for Scottish rural businesses’.

The conference in Edinburgh was addressed by Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity and Lord Duncan of Springbank, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Scotland Office.

David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “The more Scotland in general and rural businesses, in particular, learn from the Scottish and UK governments on how Brexit is shaping up, the better.

“We all know great uncertainty remains around agricultural and rural policy, trade arrangements and what they will mean for food imports and exports as well the potential impact on profitability for many Scottish businesses. However, the reality is that change was heading our way regardless, most notably in terms of the reform of agricultural support.

“What is clear is that we who live and work in rural Scotland cannot afford to sit back and wait for Brexit and the post-Brexit era to arrive before we take action. There really is no choice but to find new ways of working that will help businesses through a very challenging time.

“It is encouraging to see rural land-based businesses rising to that challenge in different parts of the country and the rural economy is going to need to see a lot more of that type of enterprise.”

Sarah Jane Laing, executive director of Scottish Land & Estates, said that diversification is accelerating.

“There are examples where land-based businesses are grabbing the steering wheel and investing in a new approach. In agriculture we are seeing more flexible arrangements coming into place such as more contract farming and joint ventures. There is certainly a growing interest in forestry and we are seeing diversification such as deer farming and a drive to create many more farm shops,” Ms Laing said.

“This is encouraging and, given the uncertainty the rural business sector is facing, it is a trend that will have to gather pace quickly.

“Scottish Land & Estates will continue to ensure that the importance of the rural business sector is reflected in all Brexit discussions and negotiations.”