NEARLY three-quarters of Scotland’s rural businesses believe they had a favourable operating environment last year, in spite of challenges such as Brexit uncertainty, a survey shows.

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The survey, conducted by Scotland’s Rural College, found only three per cent of such businesses rated their operating environment as “poor” or “very poor”. In contrast, 47% rated their operating environment as “good” and 27% said it was “very good” in the survey of more than 1,200 businesses, commissioned by Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government and published today.

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Businesses from a raft of sectors, including garages, hotels, electrical contractors and funeral homes, took part in the survey. Rural businesses as a whole face a similar challenge to the agricultural industry in terms of an ageing workforce, the survey concludes.

More than one-third of those surveyed were over the age of 60, with 72% being 50 or older. Only 9% were under 40.

Apart from Brexit, rural businesses cited staff recruitment and retention, and poor digital connectivity as challenges.

Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, said: “Recognising the concerns of rural businesses around Brexit as we edge ever closer to leaving the EU with no deal in place, there has never been a more important time for rural businesses to take the necessary steps to ensure they are as prepared as possible for whatever Brexit outcome.”