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Highlands and Islands Enterprise calls on rural businesses to have their say in national survey

By Calum MacLeod

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Carroll Buxton, the interim chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Carroll Buxton, the interim chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Businesses in rural areas across Scotland are being encouraged to take part in a new Rural Business Panel survey, which gets underway this week.

More than 2700 firms are to be contacted for their views on topics such as economic confidence, business performance and optimism, as well as current concerns such as financing, increased costs, supply chain issues and labour challenges.

The survey will also explore business priorities and actions they are taking to move towards low carbon ways of working.

The findings of the survey will be used by Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) to inform future policy and support economic recovery and growth across rural Scotland.

The survey is an extension of the Highlands and Islands Business Panel survey, which has been carried out 19 times over the past seven years by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

It was already extended earlier this year to include the area covered by the South of Scotland Enterprise agency (SOSE). Now it has been extended further to include the rest of rural Scotland.

Independent research specialist firm Ipsos MORI has been commissioned jointly by the Scottish Government, HIE and SOSE to undertake the work and will be contacting rural businesses over the coming weeks.

Announcing the new survey, Scotland's rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “As Scotland recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, it is vital that we understand the aspirations of rural businesses and the challenges that they are facing.

“I am delighted to announce that the Scottish Government will be supporting a new major Rural Business Panel Survey this autumn, in collaboration with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and South of Scotland Enterprise. This work will support our vision to build a vibrant, sustainable and inclusive rural economy.”

Carroll Buxton, interim chief executive at HIE, said: “Since we launched the Highlands and Islands Business Panel in 2014, it has proved extremely valuable. The feedback from businesses shows what areas of operation they are finding most challenging and where they see the best opportunities. It also looks at their attitudes to investment and confidence in the economy and their firm’s own viability.

“As development agencies we can use this information to make sure our resources and support programmes are targeted effectively. We are always extremely grateful for the time and effort people put into their responses and would encourage anyone who is contacted by the researchers to take part if they can.”

More on the HIE Business Panel, including previous survey findings, is available on the Business Panel page of the HIE website.

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