Embarking on the Scottish Rural Leadership Programme (SRLP) was a decision driven by curiosity and a thirst for growth.  I saw it as more than just expanding my network, it was an opportunity for both personal and professional development.  As someone who relishes the chance to explore unfamiliar territories, the prospect of delving into unknown areas excited me.

Coming into the world of agriculture without a background in the field and immersing myself in this sector since joining RHASS in 2018, I have developed a deep appreciation and respect for agriculture.  Through networking with peers from various areas within agriculture during my SRLP journey, I have gained a better understanding of the challenges faced in rural sectors and how rural leaders like us can drive change and engage with policymakers.

Throughout my journey with the SRLP, I found peer-to-peer support to be invaluable.  It was reassuring to discover that despite differences in our organisations or businesses, individuals facing similar situations shared common experiences.  This sense of camaraderie created an environment in favour of growth and learning.

As part of the programme, we engaged with topics such as the rural lens and rural policy development since post-war in the 1940s, along with the rural economy framework, leadership skills, strategic influencing and communications.  We delved into leadership practices and analysed our Myers-Briggs assessment results, allowing us to reflect on our communication styles and ways to enhance collaboration with colleagues.  Our journey also included a visit to the V&A in Dundee, where we participated in a Business Innovation Workshop aimed at creating a mindset shift through idea exploration and creation to drive transformative change in our businesses and the economy.  Additionally, we embarked on trips to Edinburgh and London, providing valuable opportunities to meet with civil servants, special advisors, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon, representatives from Scotland House and Scotland Europa, as well as Lord Bruce of Bennachie, MPs and MSPs.

In the Scottish Rural Leadership Programme, I encountered a cohort of individuals who have emerged as influential advocates for change, demonstrating a strong commitment to driving transformation within their businesses, organisations and communities.  Our ambition is evident through our desire to connect, collaborate and influence policymakers, politicians, and economic development agencies.  At the closing conference Caroline Millar’s inspiring stories fuelled our determination leaving us with two powerful messages: to seize opportunities when they arise and make the most of our time, we’re here for a good time not a long time.  Scotland’s rural sector plays a significant role in the country’s economy, with our rural leaders and the communities they engage with forming an integral part of Scotland’s story.

Throughout my participation in the programme, the frequent references to the Royal Highland Show have underscored the significance of this event as a key platform for conversations, business deals and networking in the agriculture sector.  Immersed in the event planning, I have taken a step back to appreciate the positive impact RHS has on agriculture thus highlighting RHASS as a body of influence and the sentiments contained in our Royal Charter – improvement, encouragement, benefit, communication, preservation, and advancement.

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