The vision of the Scotland Loves Local campaign can play a critical part in supporting communities as high streets become stronger and more sustainable.
That was one of the messages shared as a blueprint to help build a better future for town and city centres fell under the spotlight at an event in Inverness.
Business and local authority executives from across the Highlands were among those who discussed how putting town centres first is key to unlocking a stronger, more sustainable future.
And they heard how the Scotland Loves Local call for people to think, choose and spend locally can play an important part in that, creating a stronger economy while also helping to tackle climate change and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) staged the event as part of a series discussing the Response from the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) to the New Future for Scotland’s Town Centres report. That response – Scotland’s Town Centre Action Plan Review (TCAP2) – was published earlier this year.
Among the speakers was Kimberley Guthrie (pictured above), who has been spearheading STP’s work on the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card. She presented alongside Colin Munro, managing director of Miconex, the Perth-based fintech delivering the campaign’s gift card strand.
Cards are available for each of the country’s 32 council areas and can only be spent in the regions for which they are branded, meaning that money is locked into local economies.
As well as being used for traditional gifting and corporate rewards, the cards are also being embraced as a way by which local authorities can channel financial support to low income households who, in turn, spend that money with local businesses.
Kimberley said afterwards: “The overall Scotland Loves Local message is one that has a huge part to play as we face up to the challenges of covid recovery, the climate emergency and the cost of living crisis.
“Supporting local businesses makes life more sustainable – for our economy and environment. It safeguards jobs, enhances local services and cuts our carbon footprint.
“As an enabling part of the campaign, the gift card is another part of enjoying the best of what our communities have to offer and is part of building a better future.
“Modern high streets are all about great experiences. The gift card is part of that and we are beginning to see the significant financial benefits they bring for every sector, whether tourism, culture, travel, retail or hospitality.
“It was fantastic to be able to share some of that insight with the audience.”
Colin highlighted how the programme works and shared examples of where local gift cards have delivered success for businesses and whole communities.
Crucially, he flagged the power of the cards to unlock spending far beyond the amount loaded on them, with statistics showing that people spend in the region of 65% more than the money they are gifted.
STP spearheads the Scotland Loves Local campaign with the support of the Scottish Government and others.
Chief officer Phil Prentice said: “Although born out of the coronavirus pandemic, Scotland Loves Local is about looking to the future. It’s thinking about climate, community wealth and sustainability – building wealth back into local economies. Its core message is so important.”
Scotland Loves Local formed part of a wider discussion as part of the TCAP2 roadshow series, which is seeing events take place across the country.
TCAP2 highlights how climate ambitions can be achieved – in partnership with local government and others – while promoting better planning policies and delivering enhanced digital capabilities for residents and businesses.
Actions from the TCAP2 report include:
- Embedding a town centre first approach to meet community needs and tackle climate change
- Incentivising entrepreneurship
- Limiting out-of-town developments
- Encouraging digital transformation
- Exploring a new online sales tax to help traditional businesses compete with those operating online