Rural businesses must embrace change and be prepared to diversify in order to survive, according to Scottish Land and Estates chairman David Johnstone.
Speaking at the organisation’s annual conference in Edinburgh, Mr Johnstone said farmers and landowners needed to “embrace seismic change” and break the barriers that exist between land uses so they can flourish in the next decade and beyond.
“We need to rise to challenges and embrace opportunities if we are going to create an even more prosperous and vibrant rural Scotland delivering an increasing range of benefits to wider society,” said Mr Johnstone.
“I firmly believe our core rural industries will continue to thrive, but innovative and out- of-the-box thinking is needed for many businesses to diversify and prosper.”
He said regardless of Brexit uncertainty, the world was changing and businesses needed to adapt.
“We cannot hide our heads in the sand or hope for a long-term bail-out from the Scottish Government or Westminster if our business models don’t stack up,” added Mr Johnstone.
He said for agriculture to flourish, it needed to be part of a mix of land uses that support, rather than compete with one another.
“Farming and moorland management is important but so are other land uses such as forestry and tourism,” added Mr Johnstone.Duncan McConchie, who runs Laggan Outdoors in Dumfries and Galloway, backed Mr Johnstone’s plea for out-of-the-box thinking.
He said: “In 2007, we had a farming business and a caravan business and I had to look at new ways to move forward.
“We had 1,500 acres of farmland, which included 1,000 acres of rough hill terrain.
“By using just five acres to create an activity centre, that same area of land is now employing 80 people in peak season and has an impact of £2 million into the local economy.
“Change isn’t easy, and it is scary at times, but when it works then the feeling is incredible,” added Mr McConchie.