More than 60% of rural and island businesses in Scotland had to halt all business activity at the start of the pandemic, with only 8% operating as normal.Many self-employed operators were ineligible to access the Government’s support schemes.
The REDS Fund: Supporting Rural Scotland’s Future aims to raise £3 million by 6 August to support almost 1200 rural micro-enterprises across Scotland.
GrowBiz CEO Jackie Brierton 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 Higgins’ Economic Recovery report earlier this week highlighted the need for a jobs guarantee for 16 to 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 will be able to apply for grants of up to £5000, with 50% of that going to the business requiring the support and 50% to whichever businesses provide them with a service or support, in order to spread the cash in rural communities.
Businesses and social enterprises applying will register with the Rural Enterprise Directory Scotland (REDS) to encourage collaboration and support among them and they will receive support and advice as required from GrowBiz and other partners.
Brierton added: “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.
“Our campaign to raise £3million is the first stage of a larger vision to build a fund of £10 million 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.”