Scotland’s Rural College – A Five Point Action Plan for Boosting Rural Economies

Action Plan

Scotland’s Productivity Challenge

In Scotland we can see the whole picture of the impact of this when you consider Scotland’s primary economic challenge: Stalled productivity.

The David Hume Institute documented the nation has made no productivity gains in 15 years and

“Scotland sits mid-table for productivity among OECD countries, and falls below other European economies such as the Netherlands, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain.”

The Royal Society of Edinburgh responded to explain that productivity growth is dominated by the top 1% of companies, with the remaining 99% stagnant, and they identify a lack of investment in R&D as a primary cause. This is evident through a lack of investment in technology.

Boosting Rural Business Productivity

Successfully doing so could add between £1.2bn and £2.5bn annually in Gross Value Added (GVA) to Scotland’s rural economy and at least £1.44bn to rural business turnover the report says, with almost four-in-five rural business owners believing digital tools and services are important to their future growth potential.

However 52% of rural business owners say they face some form of skills-related obstacle to adopting digital to unlock more growth, such as recruiting people with appropriate skills to finding training for their existing workforce.

Almost a third (30 per cent) have difficulty finding external or outsourced digital connectivity support, 14 per cent have difficulty accessing appropriate external digital training for the existing workforce and one-in-five (20 per cent) say their existing workforce lacks sufficient skills or they struggle to recruit people with appropriate digital skills.

It offers a complete digital enablement program for Scotland’s rural communities, developed around the best practices identified by Scotland’s Rural College that would unlock £2.5 BILLION in new economic growth as a consequence of adopting rural digital innovations.

“To unlock the billions of pounds additional GVA from greater digital adoption in rural areas, Rural England and SRUC outline a number of recommendations for the public and private sectors, including:

    1. Streamlining digital support services – Setting up a single portal for information and local directories giving guidance and support that fulfils the digital needs of rural businesses
    2. Digital Enterprise Hubs – Establishing hubs in rural towns which businesses can use or visit for better connectivity, start-up workspace, hot-desk space and training
    3. Training and skills development – Local collaboration between employers and education providers, improving retraining opportunities and ensuring short training courses and online tools are more readily available to small business owners for life-long learning
    4. Accelerated business adoption of digital connectivity – Encourage businesses using superfast broadband to champion its benefits to their peers locally, offering practical real-life examples of success, and prioritise investment in connectivity and digital tools.
    5. Stronger rural targeting by existing policies and strategies – Making support for digital growth a key objective in future rural business support programmes and encourage larger technology-driven firms to implement policies focused on greater digital adoption in rural areas that shares best practice and provides practical hands-on support for smaller companies.”

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