Over 90% of rural business owners in Scotland are confident they can reopen their business while safely adhering to social distancing measures.

A survey carried out this week by landowner representative body Scottish Land and Estates found that of the 250 businesses who responded, 56% were confident they could reopen all of their business safely, while 36% stated they were confident they could reopen part of their business safely.

Types of business covered by the survey ranged from tourism to shooting and fishing, and from renewable energy to farming, all of which showed little variation in confidence.

However businesses operating in food, drink and hospitality were less optimistic about their reopening prospects, with only 36% saying they were confident about reopening fully.

Commenting on the survey findings, SLE chief executive Sarah-Jane Laing, said: “This survey confirms that rural businesses are ready to help restart Scotland’s rural economy safely. Over 90% of rural businesses who responded to our survey are confident they can maintain social distancing measures if they reopen all or part of their business.

“Our members want to ensure that their employees, visitors, customers and the local community remain safe and they are confident they can do this. This is great news in the short-term but the reality is that maintaining social distancing measures medium to longer term could have damaging ramifications on the future sustainability of many rural businesses.," said Ms Laing.

"Limiting visitor numbers at tourist attractions, holiday accommodation and weddings and reducing manufacturing or processing means many rural businesses will not be operating at full capacity. Add in the uncertainty around Brexit and trade deals and all of this is likely to result in a loss of income which could jeopardise jobs in rural areas.

“Government support has been greatly welcomed and helpful to many rural businesses, however some businesses are ineligible for the help they need," she pointed out. "Not all issues are financial, there are environmental and personal costs too, which are harder to quantify. Great care and thought needs to be given to plan recovery and regrowth in rural areas to ensure their fragile economies continue to function in the future.

"The true extent of the cost of this pandemic will be ongoing for the foreseeable future and support will need to adjust to those challenges too," she added. "That’s why the Scottish Government needs to commit to future support to help rural Scotland thrive.”

The survey forms part of a wider report by SLE looking into the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on farms and estates across Scotland. Other findings included that a third of respondents reported a rise in rural crime such as flytipping, and 20% felt they had been adversely affected by the pandemic but were ineligible for grants.