Scottish Government
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Town and city centres

Scotland's town and city centres are the 'heartbeat of our economy', the Vital and Vibrant Town Centres conference in Stirling was told yesterday.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said the Scottish Government was determined to support businesses and high streets the length and breadth of the country.

As part of that support, he announced an increase in funding for Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) - a scheme that sees businesses work together to promote and improve their local area.

Mr Swinney said:

"The effects of the global downturn are being felt on high streets across Scotland. But these town and city centres are the heartbeat of our economy which can keep it moving in difficult times.

"That is why the Scottish Government is determined to do everything we can within our limited powers and fixed budget to support the small businesses which are at the centre not just of local economies, but of local communities too.

"We have put in place a Scottish economic recovery plan and we are slashing business rates for tens of thousands of small businesses across Scotland. From April next year many of these businesses will pay nothing at all.

"We have already announced continued support for BIDs. And as our recovery plan continues to gather pace, we will up the support provided for areas looking to set up a BID from £15,000 to £20,000. That change should be seen as part of our overall commitment to support small business and Scotland's town and city centres.

"Interest in BIDs is growing across Scotland as evidence builds of the real difference that businesses working together can make for their local area. I hope our increase in support will see further areas come forward with BID proposals and help position our economy for a stronger and quicker recovery."

Mr Swinney also launched the new Scotland's towns website which is supported by the Scottish Government as a portal to useful information and good practice on town centres and high streets in Scotland. The website has been designed so that the content will be driven by users, continually developing and evolving based on members' needs so that it stays relevant and has up to the minute information.

A BID is a precisely-defined geographical area of a town, city, commercial district or rural area, where local businesses have voted to invest collectively in local improvements, in addition to those delivered by statutory authorities. BIDs often take the form of partnership arrangements through which the local business community and statutory authorities can take forward projects and services to benefit the business community.

For further information on Business Improvement Districts Scotland please visit www.bids-scotland.com

The Scottish economic recovery plan sets out actions to help householders and businesses. These include

* Reshaping capital expenditure

* Ensuring all government activity, including on planning and regulation supports economic development

* Intensifying our activity and support for Homecoming 2009 to boost tourism

* Intensifying work on energy efficiency and fuel poverty

* Increasing advice to business and individuals

* Improving financial advice to vulnerable individuals

that can keep it moving in difficult times," John Swinney said today.

Speaking at the Vital and Vibrant Town Centres Conference in Stirling, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth said the Scottish Government was determined to support businesses and high streets the length and breadth of Scotland.

As part of that support, the Cabinet Secretary announced an increase in funding for Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) - a scheme that sees businesses work together to promote and improve their local area.

Mr Swinney said:

"The effects of the global downturn are being felt on high streets across Scotland. But these town and city centres are the heartbeat of our economy which can keep it moving in difficult times.

"That is why the Scottish Government is determined to do everything we can within our limited powers and fixed budget to support the small businesses which are at the centre not just of local economies, but of local communities too.

"We have put in place a Scottish economic recovery plan and we are slashing business rates for tens of thousands of small businesses across Scotland. From April next year many of these businesses will pay nothing at all.

"We have already announced continued support for BIDs. And as our recovery plan continues to gather pace, we will up the support provided for areas looking to set up a BID from £15,000 to £20,000. That change should be seen as part of our overall commitment to support small business and Scotland's town and city centres.

"Interest in BIDs is growing across Scotland as evidence builds of the real difference that businesses working together can make for their local area. I hope our increase in support will see further areas come forward with BID proposals and help position our economy for a stronger and quicker recovery."

NOTES FOR NEWS EDITORS

1. The Cabinet Secretary also launched the new Scotland's towns website which is supported by the Scottish Government as a portal to useful information and good practice on town centres and high streets in Scotland. The website has been designed so that the content will be driven by users, continually developing and evolving based on members' needs so that it stays relevant and has up to the minute information:

www.scotlandstowns.org

2. A BID is a precisely-defined geographical area of a town, city, commercial district or rural area, where local businesses have voted to invest collectively in local improvements, in addition to those delivered by statutory authorities. BIDs often take the form of partnership arrangements through which the local business community and statutory authorities can take forward projects and services to benefit the business community.

3. A steering group comprising predominantly of businesses is usually established which identifies the projects to be included in a business plan. A BID proposal in Scotland can only go ahead if more than half the businesses vote in favour and they represent more than half of the aggregate rateable value of those businesses.

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