Business Commentary by David Richardson, Highlands and Islands Development Manager for the Federation of Small Businesses
With all the chaos in the world, it’s easy to forget that Scottish local authority elections are imminent. And these elections are important, because if you think it’s important to bounce back from the pandemic, to survive the current inflationary pressures that are making life so miserable, and to create a vibrant Highlands with a well-balanced and sustainable population, then for whom you vote on May 5 counts. Why not check out what each of the candidates in your neighborhood promises before casting your vote?
While much decision-making and spending is now controlled by the Scottish Government, FSB Scotland has released a manifesto which identifies some simple steps Highland Council can take to help local businesses and communities.
‘Keeping trade local’ is as much about councils as it is about consumers, and while Highland Council’s spending with local businesses is exemplary, second only to Shetland, a further 2% would boost the local economy by around £5.8million pounds per year.
The council is also expected to focus on town centres, blocking development outside the town unless damage to centers has been assessed beforehand and there is no alternative, and it can help by reopening its offices, allowing its staff to spend in stores rather than online. .
Businesses also need the right road network – the arteries that carry much-needed goods and customers – and they need financial help to get to net zero. And those who want to start or grow their business need a well-funded Business Gateway to help them.
Highland Council can also make it much easier for local businesses to operate by putting its customers – businesses and consumers – first. We need simple, integrated online systems, an end to unacceptable planning delays which can cost businesses tens of thousands of pounds and jeopardize job-creating projects, and we need the council to assess and fully understand the likely impact of new fundraising. proposals and other initiatives such as the short-term rentals program on businesses, economies and communities before implementing them.
And finally, we need the new council to put the economic recovery first and forge even closer ties with the business world – because together, everyone achieves more.