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Highland businesses could get boost from £3 million fundraising campaign to support Scotland’s rural enterprises hit by coronavirus pandemic

By Ian Duncan

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Jackie Brierton.
Jackie Brierton.

A business support organisation has launched a multimillion-pound campaign which could help Highland businesses affected by the Covid-19 lockdown.

GrowBiz has been working with Crowdfund Scotland on the REDS Fund: Supporting Rural Scotland’s Future, which launched yesterday.

More than 60 per cent of rural and island businesses in Scotland had to halt all business activity at the start of the pandemic, with only eight per cent reporting that they were operating as usual.

Although many will be able to start to prepare for reopening next month the financial impact of such a lengthy period of non-trading will make it impossible for many businesses to fully recover.

The coronavirus outbreak has hit rural micro-enterprises and self-employed people particularly hard, with many being ineligible to access the Government’s existing range of business support schemes.

The fund aims to raise £3 million by August 6 to support almost 1200 rural micro-enterprises across Scotland.

Jackie Brierton, the chief executive of GrowBiz, said: “The coronavirus crisis has had a devastating impact on thousands of Scotland’s micro-enterprises, which form the backbone of our rural economy.

"In order for these businesses to survive in the short-term, they need support – both financial and practical – and a sense that they’ll be assisted to adapt where necessary and ultimately recover.

"One of the key target groups for the funding will be young people. Benny Higgin’s Economic Recovery report earlier this week highlighted the need for a jobs guarantee for 16 – 25 year olds but in rural areas, opportunities for self-employment and enterprise may be a more viable solution for this age group. And they’ll need funding to develop their ideas.”

Rural businesses throughout Scotland will be able to apply to the REDS Fund for grants of up to £5000. The project is designed to help micro-enterprises connect and help each other so it will work on a 50:50 principle; 50 per cent of the grant awarded will go the business requiring the support and 50 per cent to whichever businesses provide them with a service or support, thereby circulating cash within rural communities.

Businesses and social enterprises applying to the fund will register with the first ever Rural Enterprise Directory Scotland (REDS), leading to increased collaboration and support between businesses across rural areas. They will also receive business support and advice as required from GrowBiz and other ecosystem partners.

Ms Brierton said: “Over the past few months, we have witnessed the hardships and suffering experienced by those who have poured years of hard work into building successful rural micro-enterprises and watched them collapse overnight as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.

“Whilst the Scottish and UK governments have provided much-needed temporary support, many small enterprises and self-employed people in rural areas are struggling to survive.

"Our campaign to raise £3million is the first stage of a larger vision to build a fund of £10million so we can reach and support as many of Scotland’s rural businesses and micro-enterprises as possible, providing a vital lifeline for rural communities as they recover and rebuild.”

The crowd-funding campaign for the REDS Fund: Supporting Rural Scotland’s Future is open now here and runs until August 6.

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