Supporting and improving your team

Rural leadership programme

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?

Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) have joined forces to fund this unique and challenging programme - which is aimed at business managers and employees from rural businesses who have 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?
  • Do you think you are you too busy to take time off to develop your skills?

If your answers are yes to all three questions, then our rural leadership programme is absolutely right for you. This unique and challenging programme is delivered on behalf of Scottish Enterprise and HIE, by SAC Consulting. By coming on board, you'll be joining a network of over 500 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?

Facilitators, SAC Consulting, are 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. The main requirement 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

Feedback on recent programmes has been excellent. The impact of this group of highly motivated rural leaders has been recognised by government and other rural institutions.

However, the real impact has been 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

2018-19 programme

Thirteen days of activities between late October and March.

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 around:

  • 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

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. 

Applications for the 2018/19 programme are now closed but will re-open again in the summer for the 2019/20 programme. Look out for the next round of information evenings - which will take place across Scotland over June and July.

To find out more or discuss your eligibility, contact Aileen Carr at SAC Consulting.

Email for more information

Or call 01307 464033.


The ESPL Regulatory Consulting team in their Shetland base. Pictured L-R: Helen Erwood, Holly Hunter, Diane Wood, Tony Erwood, Anna Watt.

Looking to speak to an expert?

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