As part of the response to the pandemic and the focus that has been turned onto neighbourhoods, localities and local businesses, the Scotland Loves Local campaign was launched in late July 2020. It proved to “hit the spot” with many people, consumers, communities and businesses.
Some of this hugely positive response derived from the exploration of local neighbourhoods that was “forced” on people during lockdown. This led to a recognition of the sheer variety and scale of local businesses and the quality they provide. A more fundamental point however is the increasing recognition of the role of local businesses and communities in providing economic and social strength at a local level. Independent, local, community and social businesses are the economic and social “glue” of communities, and more and more people are recognising this, and acting accordingly. Supporting local businesses in local communities provides enhanced local value through money, jobs, engagement and community.
Scotland Loves Local Awards
The breadth and depth of this Scotland Loves Local movement has been considerable and at the end of June to recognise again this tremendous local effort, the Scotland Loves Local Awards were announced as opened for nominations. These Awards recognise individuals and organisations which are making a difference to life in their area, The Awards are organised by Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) to celebrate all that is great about towns and neighbourhoods – recognising creativity and commitment towards shaping a sustainable successful future. Further details, how to nominate for the various categories and important dates including the Awards ceremony can be found at Scotland Loves Local.
Scotland Loves Local Gift Card
The next phase of Scotland Loves Local launched this week, with the announcement of a Scotland Loves Local Gift Card, backed by Scottish Government, organised by Scotland’s Towns Partnership and delivered with Perth-based fintech specialist Miconex (who have a long standing interest in place marketing and the role of data and gift cards). This will see the creation of Gift Cards for each of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas, each of which can be spent in that specific region.
STP and Miconex are working with local authorities to launch the regional gift cards, with the first year of costs being met by the Scottish Government as part of its £10m of support for Scotland Loves Local. There are no registration costs for businesses. Payments are processed as part of the Mastercard network. Local cards will be rolled out in a series of regional launches over the coming months, as councils agree to promote the programme in their area.
Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth Minister Tom Arthur urged businesses across the country to sign up to be part of it. “The Gift Card is a quick and efficient way to encourage spend and drive sales growth in our local economies. Thanks to Scottish Government funding, this is the first of its kind on a national scale and I look forward to seeing businesses benefit from the opportunities it presents. In the coming months we will further bolster the Scotland Loves Local (SLL) campaign with the second tranche of our SLL Fund, helping communities revitalise their own towns or neighbourhoods, building wealth and delivering greater, greener and fairer prosperity.”
As businesses emerge from Covid restrictions and high streets fully reopen and resume trading, the gift card can benefit local people, local businesses and individual local economies. Local businesses have been there for their communities over the past year, and this scheme allows local people to further support them. Spending through a Scotland Loves Local Gift Card has multiplier effects which go far beyond the point of purchase. Using the card keeps people within their local area, supporting businesses as they buy. Research shows that most money spent in the local economy is then respent locally, further supporting local jobs and making local businesses more sustainable. Add to that the local product and services purchases and employment generated by local businesses and it is easy to see why local spending is worth millions of pounds to Scotland’s local and regional economies.
Scotland Loves Local Fund
As noted in my recent review in this blog of the STP year, The Scotland Loves Local Fund was launched in October 2020 to improve and promote local place and communities through capital or revenue grants of between £500 and £5,000. Projects included small scale local improvements, including those contributing locally to net-zero targets and supporting localised responses in town and settlement centres, such as, ‘Love Local’ marketing campaigns, environmental/place improvement, digital trading infrastructure, safe trading facilities, town signage/maps and local marketplace initiatives. With 193 individual town applications and 35 awards to multi-town partnership projects, the fund supported 261 towns across Scotland. The next tranche of finance for this fund will hopefully have a similar or greater reach and impact.
Think Local First
Communities and local spend and engagement have become ever more important over the past 18 months. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic a key focus of STP has been the Scotland Loves Local campaign, designed to encourage the public to ‘think local first’ and support their high streets safely and in line with public health guidelines. The Awards are there to recognise the amazing efforts that have been made. The Gift Card, further locking in spend to local communities and local businesses and multiplying its local impact, enhances the efforts underway across Scotland to strengthen local communities. The next tranche of the Scotland Loves Local Fund will add further to this momentum.
As Chair of STP I obviously believe in all this endeavour and am delighted by the support of Scottish Government and other partners (see website) setting the conditions for local communities to do what is best for them. However, as I also noted in my Report of the Review Group into the Town Centre Action Plan we need to combine this positive endeavour for a sustainable future with creating the conditions for development and activity to be naturally focused in our town centres and neighbourhoods, places and communities and not disaggregated and decentralised to their detriment. Scotland Loves Local has energised so many people and places across Scotland, and the new announcements will build on that; we need now to also ensure we continue to build on this basis. Think Local First applies not only to the public but to all tiers of government and all those involved in development and planning.