Scotland is a nation of towns, and they are a gateway to our past. We owe much of the innovation, invention and culture that Scotland is renowned for to our towns – they are a rich tapestry of Scottish history and our journey to becoming the society and nation we are now.
Our small businesses, whether a pub, cafe, tailor, butcher or a grocery shop, are the lifeblood of our Scottish economy. Unlike many of us, small business owners are the ones who lie awake at night wondering about next month’s trade – they take risks each and every day to create jobs and prosperity to maintain our way of life.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused significant challenges for our town centres, high streets and local businesses. They have lost out to the large internet retail giants because they had to close to keep us safe. In fact, even despite these challenges, many of them have gone to enormous lengths to support the most vulnerable people in our communities.
But our high streets aren’t just a series of buildings where things are bought and sold. The people who run local businesses are our brothers and sisters, our friends, our aunts and uncles, our neighbours.
The challenges facing our towns and high streets aren’t new to this crisis. We’ve been talking about what our towns and high streets look like in the future for many years, but the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19 is the reckoning that must spur us into action. On the far side of this difficult time, there will be an opportunity to develop a vision for the future and that sort of renewal needs new thinking and innovation. The opportunities are endless – whether it’s in redesigning our high streets to be carbon neutral, embracing a digital first approach or returning our local towns to community hubs and social spaces.
But in the here and now, getting our high streets back on their feet is absolutely pivotal to restoring our economy, but also our sense of community and societal purpose.
Whether it’s an emergency pint of milk, catching up with old friends at Christmas in the local pub or offering a lovely coffee when there’s no big chain available, our high streets have always been there for us. Now is the time to support them to get back on their feet. Now is the time to be there for them.
In the coming weeks and months, Scotland’s Towns Partnership, alongside a series of partners including the Scottish Government, will launch a national campaign. The purpose and call to action of the campaign is simple – it’s about encouraging Scots to go back to their roots and think local first. Whether it’s a book, or a pint of milk, a night out and a meal, a bedside table or some garden furniture, we’re asking you to think local first.
This isn’t just about keeping shop units occupied, it’s bigger than that. It’s about supporting the very fabric of our society and community.
With support from the Scottish Government through the Towns and Business Improvement Districts Resilience and Recovery Fund, local communities across the country are already pulling together to think of creative and innovative ways to weather this storm.
When it’s safe to do so, our towns are ready for the fightback. Are you with them?