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24 May 2017

Rural Leadership Programme expands to Highlands and Islands

Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise have joined forces to give rural businesses in the Highlands and Islands an opportunity to join the Rural Leadership Programme.

This year’s programme will see 15 Highlands and Islands businesses join 45 businesses from other areas of Scotland for the 13 day programme.

The programme started in 2006 and since then has supported over 450 rural leaders to help them create additional wealth through leading, team working, networking, influencing and driving ambition.

Independent evaluation of the Rural Leadership Programme shows that it is having a direct and positive impact on the rural economy, including:

  • 90% of participants said the programme had increased their confidence in their ability to lead
  • 83% said their ability to motivate others had improved
  • 81% stated the programme had positively affected their ability to initiate and implement change
  • 62% have improved their business practices

Commenting on the news Julian Pace, Head of Rural at Scottish Enterprise said:

“Rural industries are constantly facing new challenges, having to adapt to new technology and public policy, both in the UK and internationally. That’s why we’re opening this year’s programme to Highlands and Islands businesses as it’s essential that our rural leaders, wherever they are in Scotland, are equipped with the necessary skills to help them realise their ambitions.

“This programme provides rural businesses with the skills and networks to help them overcome barriers, challenge the status quo through continuous innovation and meet like minded people who can play a part in ensuring that our rural industries continue to make a vital contribution to the Scottish economy.”

Douglas Cowan, Director of Strengthening Communities at Highlands and Islands Enterprise said:

“Supporting participation in the Rural Leadership Programme is complementary to our other Leadership development offerings. Opening up this fantastic opportunity to become a pan-Scotland programme ensures business leaders acquire, develop and apply a broad range of personal leadership skills that are important for the sustainability and development of a prosperous rural Scotland.

“We’ve had a high level of interest from businesses in the Highlands and Islands area and we’re urging enterprises to come forward to register their desire to be part of this excellent leadership programme.”

The news was welcomed by NFU Scotland Chief Executive, Scott Walker:

“This is tremendous news for rural Scotland, particularly those involved in agriculture. The industry is going through substantial change and I have already seen many rural leaders make a significant difference to their business practices as a result of being on the programme.”

Andrew Stirling, a previous Rural Leadership Programme participant and owner of Stirfresh said:

“I came away from the Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Programme in 2013/14 realising that my wife and I had a good, diverse farming business - washing, packing and processing our freshly grown produce - but that we could take our 430 acre farm based at Lunan Bay a lot further.”

In order to grow they decided to invest £150k in equipment to allow them to supply to retail. They soon began to supply Aldi with fresh soup packs and, within 6 months, Maris Piper potatoes. They are now the sole supplier of Maris Piper in Aldi’s Scottish stores.

At the same time they started to supply over 850 schools with potatoes, fruit and vegetables in Tayside, Fife, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

The company has started supplying pre-cooked baked potatoes to Aldi along with four new prep veg lines and five new lines into Lidl. Growth in the last two years has been tremendous, their turnover has increased from £2.8m to over £5m and they have plans to undergo a £1m expansion of their premises over the next two years.

They were nominated for the Entrepreneur and Innovation Award at the Scottish Food and Drinks Awards and Andrew was also put forward for the EY Scottish Entrepreneur of the year.

“The Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Programme helped me to realise the importance of having a good team around my wife and I allowing us to spread the workload and also the value in rewarding our workforce financially with bonuses.”

The Rural Leadership Programme is delivered on behalf of Scottish Enterprise by SAC Consulting and is aimed at business managers and employees from rural businesses who have a desire to develop their leadership skills and grow their business. These include farmers, vets, estate managers, tourism managers, and managers from processing and supply businesses.

Companies wishing to register their interest or ask questions about the programme should contact Julia Latto, Scottish Enterprise Project Manager on

Contact information

Laura McMahon
0141 242 8382

Scottish Enterprise is Scotland's main economic development agency and aims to deliver a significant, lasting effect on the Scottish economy. Our role is to help identify and exploit the best opportunities for economic growth. We support ambitious Scottish companies to compete within the global marketplace and help build Scotland's globally competitive sectors. We also work with a range of partners in the public and private sectors to attract new investment to Scotland and to help create a world-class business environment.

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