Caithness Map :: Links to Site Map Great value Unlimited Broadband from an award winning provider  


Region's Businesses Value Community Links

1st February 2024

Most businesses in the Highlands and Islands consider their links with the local community as either equal to or more important than their profitable growth.

This is one of the key findings of the most recent rural business survey commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in partnership with South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE).

The survey was carried out by Ipsos in November and December 2023. There were 1,002 responses received from enterprises across the Highlands and Islands region and in a wide range of sectors.

For the first time the study explored the role of businesses in community wealth building and found that 92% of respondents were taking actions that reflect the tenets of community wealth building.

Two thirds (69%) were using or increasing their use of local suppliers, driven by a desire to support local businesses. Sixty four percent were collaborating to share ideas and best practice and reach new markets.

Almost eight in ten (79%) were taking specific action to benefit their community. Within this, more than half (54%) were providing financial support or donations to community groups or initiatives.

Almost two in five were engaging with schools, colleges or universities on career opportunities (37%), providing expertise or delivery support to community organisations (37%), allowing the community to use facilities (36%) and a third (32%) were supporting their staff to volunteer.

The survey again explored confidence in Scotland's economic outlook and found this to be down slightly since the previous round in May and June 2023, from 55% to 50%, the same as it was in February and March 2023. Confidence in the Highlands and Islands economy was slightly greater at 53%.

Business performance was broadly in line with the previous survey. Most had either performed well or had been fairly steady, though one-in-five had struggled.

Looking ahead, around half of businesses said they were striving for growth, while over a third were content with their current level of performance. One-in-ten expected to downsize in the future, higher still among the construction sector (20%) and primary industries (18%).

Tourism and visitors coming to the area was perceived as a key place-based opportunity for business, followed by renewable energy or large construction or infrastructure projects.

Most businesses (85%) were taking action to make the most of growth opportunities locally, including investing in equipment (55%), investing in technology (43%), and upskilling employees (43%).

The main barriers preventing businesses from making the most of opportunities in their localities were a lack of people or skills in the area (38% to a large extent), transport infrastructure (32%), access to housing (29%), complying with regulation and legislation (28%) and access to specialist skills (26%).

While contributing to the local community was clearly important to businesses, the findings suggest that concerns continued.

The most immediate-term priorities were satisfying existing customer demand (39%), surviving current financial challenges (37%), building resilience to future challenges (29%), and making cost savings (27%).

Businesses were asked about changes to import arrangements between the UK and the EU due to be phased in over 2024. One-in-five (20%) felt these changes would have mainly negative impacts on them, while 3% anticipated positive impacts and 24% no impacts. Almost a third (31%) were unclear on what it would mean for them. Among those expecting negative impacts, the main concerns were cost (86%), delays (78%), paperwork (62%) and additional time and effort required to comply with changes (62%).

Martin Johnson, HIE’s director of strategy and regional economy, said:

"As is always the case, this survey provides an extremely valuable insight into the perceptions, performance and priorities of rural businesses, the challenges they currently face and where they need support the most.

“This particular report highlights the inextricable nature of the relationship between our region’s businesses and communities and the value of each to the other. It also helps clarify where businesses need the most support in order to make the most of new opportunities in the region. This is something we can use to inform business support policies and priorities going forward."

The rural business survey report for the Highlands and Islands is available on the HIE website Business Panel page

The report of the South of Scotland region is available on the SOSE website.


Related Businesses


Related Articles

Manufacturing Innovation Centre For Moray Receives £5.6m ApprovalThumbnail for article : Manufacturing Innovation Centre For Moray Receives £5.6m Approval
Plans to establish a new facility in Moray that is expected to support up to 300 manufacturing jobs in the next ten years have secured up to £5.6m capital investment.   The Board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has approved its funding contribution for the new Manufacturing Innovation Centre Moray (MICM), a Moray Growth Deal project that includes more than £4m of UK and Scottish Government funding.  
Sumitomo Milestone As Ground Is Broken On £350m Factory ProjectThumbnail for article : Sumitomo Milestone As Ground Is Broken On £350m Factory Project
Enterprise agencies welcome Sumitomo milestone as ground is broken on £350m factory project.   Sumitomo Electric Ltd.  
Cairngorm Funicular Remedial Works ProgressingThumbnail for article : Cairngorm Funicular Remedial Works Progressing
A programme of remedial works to bring Scotland's only funicular railway back into service at Cairngorm Mountain is entering a new phase during week beginning Monday 15 April.   With the snowsports season now over, multiple teams from contractor Balfour Beatty, appointed by Cairngorm Estate owner Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), are set to be deployed on the mountainside.  
SRUC and HIE partnership to benefit rural economyThumbnail for article : SRUC and HIE partnership to benefit rural economy
The five-year agreement between Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) will also play a major role in contributing to regional economic growth.   The signing of the agreement, by Professor Wayne Powell, Principal and Chief Executive of SRUC, and HIE Chief Executive Stuart Black, follows the official opening of SRUC's Rural and Veterinary Innovation Centre (RAVIC), a valued addition to SRUC’s School of Veterinary Medicine, in Inverness by HRH the Princess Royal.  
New Orkney Whisky Distillery In Moves To Create Jobs And Lower EmissionsThumbnail for article : New Orkney Whisky Distillery In Moves To Create Jobs And Lower Emissions
Deerness Distillery Ltd has secured £246,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) for the £820,000 development.   Construction is underway at the distillery, which was founded by husband-and-wife team Stuart and Adelle Brown.  
Cuts And More Cuts But Still Cash For Arts In Highland - £30,000 For TapestriesThumbnail for article : Cuts And More Cuts But Still Cash For Arts In Highland - £30,000 For Tapestries
The Co-Chairs of the Inverness Castle Delivery Group, Fergus Ewing MSP and Cllr Ian Brown, are delighted to announce the award of £30,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in support of framing the 57 panels that will form the Tapestry of the Highlands and Islands.   This financial commitment from HIE has contributed significantly to the preservation of the 57 panels created by communities across the Highlands and Islands, of which 32 will be included in the first exhibition as part of the Inverness Castle Experience.  
£24.5m To Secure £350m Inward InvestmentThumbnail for article : £24.5m To Secure £350m Inward Investment
Sumitomo Electric UK Power Cables Ltd plans to establish major operations in the region, supplying high voltage cables to the growing offshore wind energy sector.   A funding package has been agreed to secure an estimated £350m in inward investment for Scotland, based in the Highlands.  
Property Demand Study Launched By Highlands and Islands Enterprisie
As part of the study, businesses, community groups and social enterprises with future land or property plans are encouraged to complete a short survey by 22 March 2024.   Whether it's interest in land for sale or space to lease, HIE is keen to hear from organisations already based in the region as well as from those that are considering locating a business to the area.  
Shetland Engineering Firm Expands And Creates JobsThumbnail for article : Shetland Engineering Firm Expands And Creates Jobs
L&M Engineering has secured a grant of £58,914 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) for the development, which is set to boost business turnover by £1.2m and create two jobs over the next three years.   The company is diversifying its operations to cater for additional aquaculture markets.  
Support Programme Takes Young Entrepreneurs To The Next Level
Dynamic business support programme, IMPACT30, is aimed at nurturing and empowering the next generation of innovative leaders.   The fully funded programme is for people aged under 35 in a young enterprise and in a key decision-making role.