Scotland Loves Local started as a campaign born out of the Covid-19 pandemic and has now evolved into a community-wide mission to drive long-term sustainable change and create a stronger future for both the residents and visitors of the area. In this article, Kimberley Guthrie, Chief Officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership Interim tells us all about the big plans on the horizon.
Urging people to choose local is a simple ask to make. Yet the effect’s profound – protecting jobs, sustaining services and creating community wealth, both economically and socially. As custodians of Scotland’s local communities, local government know that better than anyone. Yet, years of experience tell us that changing consumer behaviour and delivering the action behind that ask – so that people, businesses and organisations throughout our communities benefit – isn’t so simple. But there’s no hiding from the fact that it’s absolutely necessary.
As someone who spent many years as a local shop owner (and many years before that working for some major community retailers), I share the frustrations of the many hard-working business owners willing the people around them to discover all that they have on their doorstep. It’s incumbent on all of us who have an interest in Scotland’s towns, neighbourhoods and places to ask everyone to think local first – whether in person or online, rather than automatically turning to the internet shopping giants.
The game changer
That’s where the power of Scotland Loves Local can be a game-changer. Working with local authorities, improvement districts and many others, we at Scotland’s Towns Partnership hope to take our message to ‘choose local’ to another level. Many of you will recall that Scotland Loves Local was a campaign launched as the nation emerged from its first lockdown in the summer of 2020. As the pandemic threw all of our lives into chaos, it reinforced the fact that local businesses, who were there for their communities like never before, also needed our help in order to survive. There have, unfortunately, been casualties. But our rallying cry has been embraced and championed by partners across the country and played an important part in helping local businesses through a once unimaginable experience.
And, it quickly became clear that these sentiments are not just true during the pandemic. Yes, Scotland Loves Local has a part to play in long-term pandemic recovery. But its relevance is just as strong when dealing with today’s twin climate and cost of living crises too. Reduced travel (to use the obvious example) not only lessens financial costs but our carbon emissions. Our message strikes at the core of many innovative public policy initiatives too, from community wealth building to 20-minute neighbourhoods.
All of this can combine with powerful effects. Support for local businesses of all kinds protects jobs and keeps enterprises in our town and city centres open as we begin the process of reimagining our High Streets to make them stronger and more sustainable. Jobs equals money – money that can be spent supporting the businesses in our communities. Greater community wealth means enhanced confidence, both in terms of investing in enterprise and services and for social good as well.
This, in turn, will help with turning our town centres into places in which people live and visit for leisure as well as work, with good, sustainable transport connections and green spaces nearby for residents to enjoy.
It all starts with choosing local
True economic and environmental sustainability lies in our local communities. Scotland Loves Local is the beating heart of positive change, bringing together the people, businesses and community representatives who can build a better future. Whether through advocacy and community action (or through Scotland Loves Local Gift Card) we are seeking to further enhance our work alongside the nation’s councils to ensure that the full potential of thinking local first can be realised. That’s why we’re once again stepping up our work on this front, including the launch of the first Scotland Loves Local Week, to be held on the week commencing August 28th.
Through collaboration, Scotland Loves Local can be a true force for good. I’d be delighted to speak to anyone interested in hearing more. Please drop me an email at [email protected]
STP is carrying out a short survey into the importance of choosing local. Please click here to take part. Submissions can be made until midnight on Friday, May 19th.