INNOVATION and infrastructure investment can help rural communities through Brexit, Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday.

All but three per cent of the country is classed as rural.

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However, the future for farming is unclear as access to lifeline financial support from Brussels is withdrawn.

Yesterday at the National Economic Forum in Dumfries, Sturgeon confirmed that the Scottish Government is to “publish proposals on ensuring a smooth transition in farming support as the UK leaves the EU”.

However, no date for this was specified.

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The move comes after the Welsh Government committed to a “gradual and multi-year transition” from established agricultural support schemes to new mechanisms when Britain leaves the bloc.

Sturgeon, pictured, said pledges to dual the key A9 and A96 roads, and invest £35 million in the Maybole bypass between Ayr and Stranraer, would help keep business moving in remote parts.

She further emphasised the role to be played by the new enterprise agency set to represent the south of the country by 2020 and committed to establishing a Scottish Rural Parliament, appointing a specialist council of rural advisers and implementing the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband scheme to improve connectivity.

Addressing the meeting, Sturgeon highlighted the “massive contribution” rural communities make to the national economy.

She told the summit, which is now in its 20th session: “In many of the sectors that our economic future depends, rural communities make a massive contribution.

“So ensuring rural Scotland thrives is a fundamental part of ensuring our economy thrives.

“Scotland, including rural Scotland, has huge economic strengths and potential.

“Brexit makes it more important than ever that we build on those, which is why we must ensure the specific consequences of Brexit for rural communities are identified and addressed.”

Sturgeon continued: “By investing in innovation and infrastructure and providing the right support for business we can help rural Scotland to build on its strengths, overcome challenges such as Brexit and seize new opportunities.

“The importance of recognising rural needs is also why we are establishing a new south of Scotland Enterprise Agency.

“And ahead of it being established, we have set up the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, backed by £10m of additional funding.

“All of these steps will support the rural economy, and in turn drive Scotland forward.”