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?

This unique and challenging programme is aimed at 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

Programme activities

Thirteen days of activities over six months.

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 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 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.

Information and recruitment events run from June each year at various locations across Scotland and by webinar. Please check back for further details.

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 has now closed.

For general enquiries about future  programmes contact Aileen Carr at SAC Consulting: or call 01307 464033

Looking to speak to an expert?

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