High Street action

Big business holds key to reviving town centres, says FSB

Shop-vacancies-on-Princes-Street
Princes Street, Edinburgh has a number of closed units (pic: Terry Murden)

A small firms leader says big businesses need to re-invest in struggling town and city centres which have been blighted by the closure of stores and bank branches.

A report on reviving Scotland’s high streets has proposed a range of measures, including an online sales tax and restrictions on out of town developments.

But Andrew McRae, Scottish policy chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, put the blame for the decimation of many high streets partly on big businesses withdrawing investment and shutting down operations which have caused people to stay away.

“Scotland’s town centres and high streets have long been associated with independent and local businesses.

“But to ensure these important local places have a bright future, they need to see public sector and big business investment,” he said.

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“The test of this new action plan will be whether it brings people and money to our centres. We need to see more public sector services and facilities in the heart of our communities.

“We need to see more bigger businesses choosing to invest on our high streets, after years of chain store and bank branch closures.

“National and local decision-makers must work with local businesses closely as they develop these proposals. For example, changes to local traffic systems can have a big impact on existing businesses and new schemes must be developed in partnership with local firms and people.

“Ahead of this year’s local government elections, it’s great to see renewed political focus on our town centres. But this attention can’t evaporate when the ballot boxes close.” 

In response to last year’s review of the Town Centre Action Plan, a joint report by the Scottish Government and the local authority body COSLA outlines actions which include a range of measures focusing on investing in low carbon transport and creating more green spaces, reducing unnecessary car journeys, an online sales tax, and using the planning system to limit out of town developments.

Community Wealth Minister Tom Arthur said: “The actions in this report provide a framework to meet our ambitions and give communities the freedom and confidence to deliver locally.”

However, the proposed online or “Amazon” tax comes three years after Holyrood dropped a similar plan amid pressure from business and retail associations.

It is also unlikely that Holyrood could impose the levy without the UK introducing a similar policy. The UK government launched a consultation into an online sales tax in February and the Chancellor has acknowledged that it may even require a global approach because of the nature of online trading.



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