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Scotland Loves Local poll shows Highlands and Islands shoppers put local high streets first

By John Davidson

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Phil Prentice, Chief Officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership
Phil Prentice, Chief Officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership

Most people in the Highlands and Islands say they will always support shops on their local high street.

A new poll published today shows that there is also a growing recognition of the fact that people need to get behind their town centres if businesses in them are to survive the consequences of Covid-19 and thrive beyond the pandemic.

The poll, commissioned by Scotland’s Towns Partnership for the Scotland Loves Local campaign, questioned people in the regional list constituency about their support for local shops.

In the Highlands and Islands, it found that:

  • 60 per cent of people will always shop on their local high street rather than going further afield, whenever they can do so.
  • 95 per cent of those surveyed believe there is a strong chance that many businesses on the local high street will go bust if people don’t support them.
  • 86 per cent say it is vital that people in their community support businesses on their local high streets.

Across Scotland, 56 per cent of the 1056 people questioned in the survey said they always prioritised using their local high street.

The results have been welcomed as a signal of the strong support for the region’s town centres – highlighting the importance of people thinking local first and using businesses in their community.

Phil Prentice, chief officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, said: “The positive power of people across the region supporting their high street should not be underestimated.

"Every pound spent locally flips six times in the area’s economy, so the knock-on effect is significant. Thinking local first protects jobs, helps the environment and helps make our communities better places to live.

“Our polling highlights how the community pride and the spirit of localism we’ve seen throughout the pandemic has strengthened support for town centres. As we all live more of our lives locally we must embrace this to ensure that stronger, more sustainable town centres are the beating heart of the future across the Highlands and Islands.”

Scotland Loves Local, a major multimedia campaign spearheaded by Scotland’s Towns Partnership with the support of the Scottish Government, is the national drive for people to support their local economies and fuel the nation’s financial fightback from Covid-19 from its grassroots and within all public health guidelines.

It is supported by influential organisations including the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland (FSB).

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “Successful independent shops have long been synonymous with successful local places. That’s why nine in 10 people in Scotland believe that their community should support retailers and other businesses in their town or on the high street. They know that, if they want to live in a strong, successful community, they need their local firms to thrive.

“But everyone understands that times are tough for many local operators. That’s why we need decision-makers and the general public to provide custom and support for these vital enterprises.

“So, it doesn’t matter if you’re nipping out for the rolls and papers, looking for that special present, or just getting something in for the family tea, we’d urge people in Scotland to buy local wherever possible.”

The polling was carried out by Mark Diffley Consultancy and Research (MDCR), whose director Mark Diffley said: “There is clearly a significant amount of goodwill among the public to support local businesses and traders; almost nine in 10 Scots believe it is vital that communities support their local high streets while over half say that they will always shop locally when they can, rather than going further afield, suggesting a willingness by many to match that support with action.

“Alongside that goodwill, there is a growing recognition that, without community support, many traders on local high streets may go out of business with 93 per cent agreeing with that assertion. Furthermore, 60 per cent of Scots think that the future of businesses in their area depend on the extent to which local people support them, a sentiment shared by the majority from across all parts of the country and all social groups.

“As uncertainty with Covid-19 continues and the winter approaches, the public recognise the importance of supporting local businesses and stands ready to offer that backing.”

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