MORE than 90% of rural business owners are confident they can re-open safely after Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, according to a new report.

The survey by Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) of 250 firms found 56% are confident they can re-open all of their business safely, while 36% are confident part of their business can restart while adhering to social distancing measures.

The businesses questioned ranged from the tourism to farming sectors, with little variation in confidence.

However, those involved in the food and drink industry and hospitality were slightly less confident about being able to

open safely.

Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of SLE, said: “This survey confirms that rural businesses are ready to help restart Scotland’s rural economy safely.

“More than 90% of rural businesses who responded to our survey are confident they can maintain social distancing measures if they reopen all or part of

their business.

“Our members want to ensure their employees, visitors, customers and the local community remain safe and they are confident they can

do this.”

SLE said it will use the results of its survey as it works with the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and regional enterprise bodies to safely restart Scotland’s rural economy.

But Laing warned that long-term, social distancing measures could damage the businesses’ sustainability.

She said: “Limiting visitor numbers at tourist attractions, holiday accommodation and weddings and reducing manufacturing or processing

means many rural businesses

will not be operating at

full capacity.

“Add in the uncertainty around Brexit and trade deals and all of this is likely to result in a loss of income which could jeopardise jobs

in rural areas.

“The true extent of the cost of this pandemic will be ongoing for the foreseeable future and support will need to adjust to those challenges too. That’s why the Scottish Government needs to commit to future support to help rural

Scotland thrive.”