A report from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland, 98 Scottish towns and cities are facing or have been hit with the closure of a local service because of big business and public sector reorganisations. Clydesdale Bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Post Office, Police Scotland, HMRC and the Scottish Courts Service either have or plan to close services to the public, or shut local buildings, in Scottish towns and cities. The organisation has warned that the will disrupt government, local council and small business efforts to turn around Scottish high streets and rejuvenate local economies.
Colin Borland, the FSB’s head of external affairs in Scotland pointed out that, over the last few years, “we’ve seen large public and private bodies evaluate their operations and come to the same conclusion – they can no longer afford to operate at the same level in towns and high streets across Scotland. We are concerned about this trend and are encouraging those in charge to consider the cumulative impact of their decisions on local economies. We also fear that colleges, the Ministry of Defence and other large organisations may be making decisions which will put their hometowns under additional pressure.
“After the disappearance of many big names such as Woolworths, we know that the future of our high streets can’t rely exclusively on retail. We need to make locating in small towns and high streets more attractive and affordable for large and small, public and private bodies alike.
“We recognise that many of these towns are looking at new ways to reinvigorate their local economies and drive footfall into their centres and schemes like the Small Business Bonus continue to give local traders a real boost. However, the public servants tasked with turning our high streets around are being undermined by their colleagues in other bodies looking to rationalise their estate. Similarly, banks will not improve relations with small businesses by closing branches.
“These institutions cite our modern habits including increased use of communications technology and declining town centre visitor numbers. We know that how we shop, live and work has changed for good – the challenge is to ensure that our local towns and economies thrive despite this shift.”