NISRIE Aims & Objectives

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Project Purpose and Aims

The purpose of this Novel insights on Scotland’s rural and island economies (NISRIE) project is to provide an improved evidence base on rural and island economies. The project will generate innovative thinking and recommendations to overcome perceived, often embedded, challenges and highlight opportunities to maximise opportunities for rural and island areas to “flourish”.

We will focus our research on 4 key work packages (WPs) designed to answer research questions as well as three cross-cutting strands of work that are embedded across all our work.

The NISRIE project aims to:
(i) Provide improved quantitative evidence on the rural and island business base in Scotland, including insights on their unique characteristics, challenges, and aspirations and issues and opportunities through digital use within business;
(ii) Develop operational context insights from priority rural and island businesses sectors (case studies) with associated policy recommendations;
(iii) Explore the particular characteristics of, and opportunities and challenges facing, community wealth building activities in rural and island contexts;
(iv) Assess infrastructural barriers to rural and island economic performance (including relating to housing and digital connectivity) and how these impact on the lived experiences of rural and island business owners and employees
(v) Model how the evolution of agricultural support and UK free trade agreements may impact on rural and island economies;
(vi) Generate new and innovative understandings of, and recommendations to support, regional food economies in rural and island locations in future.


Rural Enterprises

This work package will:
(i) provide quantitative evidence on the rural and island business base in Scotland, including insights on their characteristics, challenges and changes over time;
(ii) develop business operational insights from priority rural and island businesses sectors, with associated policy recommendations;
(iii) provide evidence on digital use and barriers across business sectors. This work will blend quantitative analysis of secondary data (including from the Office of National Statistics, the Scottish Government and Scotland’s Enterprise Agencies) with primary data collection (digital survey) and qualitative contextual case studies across industries and geographies.


Community Wealth Building (CWB)

This work package will:
(i) assess the rural and island implications/impacts of the CWB concept and its operation in practice through case study work of rural CWB projects
(ii) identify and analyse international CWB projects to learn appropriate lessons for rural and island communities in Scotland. Linked to community empowerment the project explores ways in which rural and island communities might be empowered to influence local decisions, shape rural and island services, and directly address poverty, through the encouragement of local economic development.


Agriculture beyond-Brexit

This work package will:
(i) expand our models of agricultural support payments (i.e. Thomson and Moxey 2021) to assess how future changes to the agricultural support framework in Scotland (e.g. increased environmental conditionality) may impact on individuals, sectors and geographies (including the islands) on farms and crofts as well as in upstream and downstream industries; and
(ii) establish a platform to highlight opportunities and risks to the agriculture sector emerging from new UK Free Trade Agreements.


Regional Food Economies

During the Covid pandemic some businesses were able to pivot to local demand and saw real growth online sales and direct-to-consumer sales with increased investment in digital marketing supported by novel platforms such as the neighbourfood or open food network.

This work package will examine the role that local food economies can play in bringing about a more resilient, healthy, and environmentally sustainable Scottish food system (linking to the independent National Food Strategy) and what is needed to release the potential in local foods. The Covid-19 pandemic and impacts of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU coincided, impacting on our food systems through changing demand profiles for food and processing plant and logistical disruptions.