A PERTHSHIRE enterprise support organisation has launched what is claimed to be the first multi-million pound campaign of its kind to support thousands of small businesses across rural Scotland.

The GrowBiz move comes as over 60 per cent of rural and island businesses in Scotland had to halt all business activity at the start of the pandemic, with only 8% reporting that they were operating as usual.

GrowBiz said that although many will be able to start to prepare for reopening in July, the financial impact of the lengthy period of non-trading will “make it impossible for many businesses to fully recover”. It said many are disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The REDS Fund: Supporting Rural Scotland’s Future aims to raise £3 million by August 6, which it is claimed will support almost 1200 rural micro-enterprises across Scotland, working with Crowdfund Scotland.

Jackie Brierton, GrowBiz chief executive, 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 16-25 year olds but in rural areas, opportunities for self-employment and enterprise may be a more viable solution for this age group.”

Rural businesses will be able to apply to the fund for grants of up to £5000.

The project is designed to help micro-enterprises connect and help each other and will work on a 50:50 principle so 50 per cent of the grant awarded will go the business requiring the support and 50% to whichever business provides them with a service or support.