Supporting and improving your team

Rural leadership programme

Aerial view of farmland and crops in Aberdeenshire

Rural leadership programme

Are you a business owner or manager based in a rural location? Want to develop your leadership skills and grow your business? If so, our rural leadership programme is for you.

What's it about?

We've joined forces with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to fund this unique and challenging programme for business managers and employees from rural businesses with a desire to develop their skills and grow their business. 

  • Are you looking to develop your leadership skills and grow your business?
  • Do you want to do something positive for your sector or rural Scotland?
  • Consider yourself too busy to take time off to develop your skills?

If that's a 'yes' to all three, then our rural leadership programme is absolutely right for you. 

By coming on board, you'll be joining a network of over 550 graduates, including farmers, vets, estate managers, tourism managers, and managers from processing and supply businesses.

John Armstrong, insructor from Laggan Outdoors with Karen Little and Gareth Marley doing the water balling activity

Who's it for?

Are you an ambitious farmer, rural business owner, manager or employee involved in running or managing a small to medium-sized business in Scotland?

Our programme delivery partner and facilitator, SAC Consulting, is leading the drive to recruit 45 applicants from the Scottish Enterprise area and 15 applicants from the HIE area, over the next three years until 2021, for a six-month series of workshops and events - running from late October to early March each year.

There are no boundaries to application – we have had everything from young people early in their careers to managing directors. All you need is ambition and a strong desire to improve your business and the rural sector.

Priority will be given to those involved in small to medium-sized rural enterprises.

Feedback and benefits

“Having completed the course, I feel I have a renewed sense of ambition and optimism about the future of my business. And I feel better equipped to bring about the changes necessary to realise that ambition.”

Feedback from recent programmes has been excellent and recognised by government and other rural institutions.

Real impact has been in the significant transformation of many graduates’ businesses:

  • Gaining the confidence to make bold decisions
  • Taking a step back to concentrate on leading as well as managing
  • Changing roles and delegating to others
  • Resolving family issues that hold businesses back
  • Taking on an important role within the sector
  • Lobbying parliament to change legislation
  • Unrivalled networking opportunity with other like-minded, ambitious people
Russell Fair, Nick Bannerman, and Graham Wilson from Johnstons of Elgin looking at a book
Hugh Carson, instructor from Laggan Outdoors, on left, with Liam Prior having an archery lesson

2019-20 programme

Thirteen days of activities between late October 2019 and March 2020.

These include:

  • Leadership coaching workshops
  • One-to-one business focus sessions
  • Business strategy workshop
  • Team working on rural innovation projects
  • Learning journeys to Edinburgh, Brussels and London parliaments

Participants will initially join one of four regional groups - Highland (Inverness), North East (near Banchory), East and South East (near Edinburgh), South West Scotland (near Ayr).

Then join one large group for later workshops and learning journeys.

Information evenings

Our information evenings will give you a chance to find out more about the programme, meet the facilitators and coaches, and hear how Programme graduates have benefited from the experience.

Meeting dates

  • Wednesday 26 June, 7.30pm, Carfraemill Hotel, Borders, TD26RA – 
  • Wednesday 26 June, 7.30pm, John Niven Building, SAC Auchincruive, KA65HW 
  • Thursday 27 June, 7.30pm, Highland Farm Cafe, Mountgerald, Dingwall IV15 9TT 
  • Tuesday 2 July, 7.30pm, Gloagburn Farm Shop, near Perth, PH11QL 
  • Thursday 4 July, 2.00pm, Thainstone Centre, near Inverurie, AB515GT 
  • Webinars – to be announced
SE Rural Leadership Programme Final Conference and Awards Ceremony 2018
The ESPL Regulatory Consulting team in their Shetland base. Pictured L-R: Helen Erwood, Holly Hunter, Diane Wood, Tony Erwood, Anna Watt.

Fees and how to apply

The bulk of the costs are covered by Scottish Enterprise and HIE, with participant fees set at £900 +VAT - described by many programme graduates as “the best money we have ever spent."

Recognising the potential barrier to participation in the programme for island-based applicants, HIE will reimburse the full costs of the best value and most efficient ferries or flights to the mainland, for successful HIE-based participants. 

The 2019-20 Programme is now open to register your interest.

To register your interest, find out more, discuss your eligibility and request an application form, contact Aileen Carr at SAC Consulting: or call 01307 464033

Applications must be submitted by Friday 30 August 2019.

Looking to speak to an expert?

Ask us how the rural leadership programme can help you succeed.