Business Improvement Districts: Recent Successes in Scotland

The closing weeks of June saw three successful ballots for Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in Scotland and further local endorsement and expansion of the “BIDs family” across the country.

18th June: Dunfermline Delivers welcomes a reaffirmation from its local business electorate when it is voted in for a second term – the 7th consecutive Scottish BID to be renewed. Minister for Local Government & Planning, Derek Mackay wished Dunfermline well, saying, “The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring sustainable economic growth by working with its agencies to secure new jobs and investment in Scotland. We are fully supportive of BIDs as they enable businesses to work together for their collective benefit and for the good of the local economy. Dunfermline Delivers has successfully achieved a positive vote for a second BID term. The BID partnership, with local businesses at the fore, can continue with their programme of investment and improvements for the local area. I wish the BID well in its second term.”

20th June, and with the news of a further positive ballot result from Hometown Carluke, Mr Mackay went on to say, “The positive ballot result for Hometown Carluke BID shows local support and enthusiasm for working together to maximise opportunities for further promotion of what the town has to offer. I look forward to hearing how the projects and activities the BID will deliver, help to grow the local economy.”

24th June: Vale of Leven Industrial Estate BID delivers the third good news story – establishing the second business park BID in Scotland, following in the footsteps of the successful Clacks First, which is now into its second term.

Business Improvement Districts Scotland has delivered the fastest growth in BIDs across the UK. In a matter of just 6 years, there are now almost 50 BIDs in operation and development in Scotland (predicted to have potential to reach 150 by 2020), and so far contributing around £33 million and approximately 300 BID-related jobs to the Scottish economy and supporting local places and business. BIDs Scotland has supported and grown the BIDs movement from Lerwick to the Borders, from Dunoon to Aberdeen.

Scotland’s distinctive BID legislation has seen a range of types of BIDs be developed in recent years across Scotland. BIDs have evolved into themed BIDs, such as business parks (Vale of Leven Industrial Estate BID), tourism (Inverness & Loch Ness Tourism BID) and the evening economy (BID based around Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street), with further emerging opportunities for marine, food and drink, and even tartan!

So why are Business Improvement Districts making a difference where other economic interventions have had little or no success? Perhaps the key is in the strength of collective working, with dynamic partnerships between local business and councils, and an increasing community role. This has resulted in BIDs all across Scotland delivering area improvement agendas, through a range of projects that deliver over and above council provision; introducing innovative business benefits; and an increasing focus on a range of projects impacting on education, employment, cultural development, the green agenda and safer and stronger communities. This successful approach to local regeneration has been enabled by the activities of BIDs Scotland, as a central national resource to provide advice and support; and by the continuing support of the Scottish Government and its provision of seedcorn grant funding for early stage development.

The Scottish Government’s Town Centre Action Plan and the recently published Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill open up further opportunities for BIDs to deliver more for their local communities; and to innovate and develop projects and services that will make a positive local impact – helping to grow the local economy.

This does not mean that all BID proposals have been successful at ballot, or indeed are, or should be supported. The democratic checks in the legislation mean that there is a public test of the planned programme of work and business plan, and that as well the ambitions and qualities of those involved, are subject to scrutiny and the ballot. BIDs have been developed and are operating successfully in many places across the world, including in Scotland, and it is hoped they continue to do so, especially given the potential for enhanced community focus, but they are an additional financial burden on businesses and as such businesses need to be certain the returns are there for them and their towns and places. To date, this argument has been prevailing and BIDs have become an increasingly common feature of Scotland.

Further information about BIDs in Scotland can be found at

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
This entry was posted in BIDS, Community, Governance, High Streets, Retail Levy, Scotland's Town and High Streets, Town Centre Review, Town Centres and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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