The National Report on BIDs in Scotland

As before, this blog comes with something of a health warning; when I write about Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in Scotland you need to be aware that I am on the Board of Improvement Districts Scotland (IDS) Ltd, the arms length company that helps deliver BIDs in Scotland for the Scottish Government.

Just before Christmas, The National Report on BIDs in Scotland was published, both as an executive summary and as a full report. It was commissioned and compiled by IDS Ltd. You can obtain the Report and Executive Summary here, or via the website of BIDs Scotland, where there is further information. If you want further information on BIDs in Scotland then contact Ian Davison Porter via the BIDs Scotland website.

So what does the Report say?

At the time of compilation there were 19 operational BIDs, almost one-third of them after successful renewal ballots following their first term. There are a further 25 or so BIDs in development, with the aim of having close to 50 BIDs by the end of 2014.

The report is keen to point out both the measurable, financial benefits but also the less tangible successes. In financial terms the 19 BIDs have

  • produced c£18m of private sector investment
  • leveraged a further c£16m of investment
  • employed or created c275 jobs
  • produced costs savings for businesses by collaboration in excess of the levy raised.

But in addition, BIDs have furthered close partnership working and expanded local capacity. Examples include Clarkston, Bathgate, Elgin and Queensferry, but others have also seen improvements on this dimension.

As the report concludes, BIDs

  • are locally developed, locally managed, locally financed and locally delivered;
  • their sustainable local funding and a recognised structure has empowered local business communities to make improvements to their business environment, share risks and investment and create new platforms for growth;
  • have enabled local community groups to work with local businesses, delivering projects and services that benefit the whole community;
  • provide a single coordinated body for local authorities to work with and to help deliver services which contribute to local economic growth and the Scottish Government’s central policy purpose of delivering sustainable economic growth.

Just before Christmas the BID ballot at Sauchiehall Street was successful, adding to the BIDs “family”. Yet, at the same time the Lochaber proposed BID was heavily defeated and will not go ahead. Despite the successes of delivery, BIDs do not convince everyone and business plans are rightly subject to detailed scrutiny and on occasions rejection. It is the democratic principle in action and results and successful ballots are not automatic, nor should they be.

In most cases BIDs deliver, locally, and they have a good track record of renewal balloting and extension, suggesting that even at a time of real concern over rates, businesses find the model holds considerable attraction being local and locally responsible, delivering additionality and local responsibility. There must be lessons here for other service providers and delivery arms. As the National Review of Town Centres points out, we have to find new ways to deliver good places, and the BIDs model is one of those that will be significant in the future.

About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues. I am Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership. I am also a Deputy Principal of the University, with responsibility for Education and Students and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
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