SCOTLAND'S RURAL business owners are being asked to support a revamped initiative designed to channel consumer spending into rural and island towns and villages.

The REDS (Rural Enterprise Directory Scotland) Rural Gift Card was launched in 2020 by GrowBiz, Scotland’s rural enterprise agency. This year's update to the scheme means all rural businesses with a turnover under £500,000 can now be listed on the directory, and be part of the REDS Gift Card, free of charge.

Enterprise facilitator at GrowBiz, Andy Lambert, said there were numerous benefits for a rural business in being listed on the directory and receiving the REDS Rural Gift Card as payment: “This is the second year for REDS. GrowBiz has supported more than 2000 rural and island businesses, and REDS helps to ‘put them on the map’, making it easy for consumers to find and buy from rural enterprises, especially with the introduction of the REDS Gift Card.

"But being a part of REDS is about more than sales; it is becoming part of the collective voice of the rural community. The more rural businesses join us, the stronger our movement, and the better conversations we can have with policy makers. REDS is a place for leaders to see the tangible representation of the rural community. It is our mission to ensure that issues relevant to rural and island communities are firmly on the economic agenda.”

A fifth of Scotland’s population lives in rural areas, and economic activity across the country’s non-urban areas accounts for approximately one third of Scotland’s overall economy annually. 68% of the workforce in remote rural, and 54% in accessible rural parts of the country are working for small businesses, compared to 32% in the rest of Scotland. 9 out of 10 rural businesses are classed as ‘micro’, with fewer than 10 employees.

Simon Yearsley, co-owner of The Scottish Deli, is part of the REDS Gift Card and says that it is vital for rural businesses to support each other to ensure the continuation of rural communities. He said: “Unless we want to have our lives run by Amazon, Tesco and click and collect, we have to stand together as rural businesses. There is a massive volume of rural businesses out there, from shops and artists to childcare provision and cafés. All businesses operating in a rural context are making a difference, supporting the area and creating a destination. By being part of REDS, we can shine a light on what is available locally, connect with other business owners and share ideas and, crucially, reach a critical mass of attraction for the REDS Rural Gift Card."

Kate Blake, set up the Hebridean Design Company in 2015 with her husband Doug after moving to Harris in the Outer Hebrides from Newcastle Upon Tyne and noticing a gap in the market for crafts created on the island. She said: “I was a nurse before we moved to Harris, and my husband was an engineer.

“As with everyone, we didn’t expect a pandemic or for it to go on for as long as it has. Luckily, we have very loyal customers. We pushed on with the digital side of the business and created new ranges. Harris is so special, and my focus during the pandemic has been helping people who couldn’t visit to maintain their connection to the island, such as giving people the chance to receive a postcard from Harris."

A business born from the pandemic is the Mull and Iona Shop, started by Joe McFadden and his wife Chloe in 2020. They explained: “The Isle of Mull and the Isle of Iona are both very seasonal, tending to have lots of tourists in the summer and turning quieter in the winter.

“There are around 3000 people on the Isle of Mull, you don’t know everyone but you tend to know most people. The community has pulled together, and there has been a real sense of trying to support small, local businesses.”

Rural businesses can join REDS and the REDS Gift Card by visiting: