A Gatehouse of Fleet business was among 11 winners from across rural Scotland who have triumphed at the national Helping it Happen awards, recognising their outstanding work supporting the economy, jobs and education, wildlife and the environment.
Duncan McConchie, chief executive of Laggan, picked up the Tourism & Visitor Management Award sponsored by GLM for his work creating a rural destination of excellence with tourism, hospitality and sustainability at its core. Duncan is also a board member of South of Scotland Enterprise and Chairman of the Scottish Wedding Industry Alliance.
Now in its seventh year, the Helping It Happen Awards have become firmly established in recognising the role of estates, rural businesses and community groups who are helping rural Scotland thrive. The awards are organised by rural business organisation, Scottish Land & Estates, and sponsored by NatureScot.
Also recognised was Henry Graham, who won the Award for Outstanding Contribution to Rural Scotland. Henry has been involved in land management all his life – a farmer himself, he was also an advisor to the Scottish Agricultural College before becoming a senior figure in agricultural banking and then holding non-executive positions with SRUC, Forestry & Land Scotland and Lantra as Chairman for Scotland. The Rural Rising Star Award went to Claire Taylor, a specialist in communications within agriculture, food and the rural environment, and a Nuffield Scholar.
Other winners included Arbikie Highland Estate who scooped the Innovation in Farming Award following the opening of their distillery nearly a decade ago and their pioneering ‘field to bottle’ model of growing, harvesting and distilling everything on-site; Leys Estate who won the Rural Business Award after providing land and buildings for a diverse range of over 150 independent local businesses, community organisations and charitable organisations; and Balbirnie Home Farms, who won the Iver Salvesen Award for Combatting Climate Change thanks to their work with AHDB over the last three years as its Strategic Cereal Farm in Scotland and an approach that has prioritised plant and soil nutrition to save money and reliance on chemical inputs.
A full list of the winners across the 11 award categories is shown below. There were also an additional two commendations made by the judging panel.
Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said:
“Huge congratulations go to our Helping It Happen awards winners who exemplify everything that is great about rural Scotland. The independent judging panel took their time to deliberate over the awards after some hugely impressive shortlists were drawn up. All the winners and nominees make a considerable contribution to Scotland’s rural communities, economies and environment, often spending their own time and resources to be able to do so.
“The Helping It Happen awards are designed to publicly recognise these often unsung heroes in rural Scotland and it enables us to share positive real-life examples of action on climate change, education about the outdoors and work on promoting affordable rural housing. Their help and influence is vital in sustaining flourishing rural communities and motivating and encouraging others to follow their lead.”
Claudia Rowse, NatureScot’s Deputy Director of the Green Economy, said: “We love supporting the Helping it Happen Awards; each year they remind us to celebrate the hard work being done across the country that boosts the rural economy and protects the environment. In this year’s winners we have seen projects encouraging young people to connect with nature, inventive paths to farming success and different ways to keep our native species safe. Congratulations to all the inspiring nominees and winners!”