Economic boost in store as Scotland gains further business improvement districts

More local communities across Scotland could be in line for an economic boost if plans to increase the number of business improvement districts come to fruition.

There are currently 36 districts in operation across the country, representing towns, cities and regions, with local organisations acting collaboratively to drive investment and change. And, with a strong pipeline of new developing districts, Scotland’s Improvement Districts - the body charged with growing their impact and influence - wants to see their scale and reach grow. Backers say the expansion could unlock millions of pounds-worth of investment in local communities, helping improve them while boosting business and safeguarding jobs.

Traditional business improvement districts (BIDs) operate in a wide variety of places including Aberdeen city centre, Alloa, Stirling, Elgin and Falkirk. Innovations on the model have seen tourism BIDs created around Loch Ness and in Moray Speyside, while East Lothian is home to the first food and drink BID. The community of Possilpark in Glasgow made history last year by voting to create the UK’s first community improvement district, Remaking Saracen. It expands on the traditional BID model by widening the net of organisations involved and with a say on how investment is targeted.

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Phil Prentice, national programme director for Scotland’s Improvement Districts, said: “The difference an improvement district makes is colossal, generating money that might otherwise not be flowing into the community. It’s not just that, though. It’s the ideas, projects and collaboration - that collective investment which makes such a difference. It widens ambition, gets people talking and working together. Even if a community is performing relatively well, the investment from an improvement district can take things to the next level.

“Scotland has the most expansive programme of improvement districts in the world. We would like to see the movement grow substantively in the next few years. Achieving that would be a real success.”

Kimberley Guthrie, director of operations at Scotland’s Towns Partnership, added: “Encouraging people to love their local area is key, not only as we continue to recover from Covid-19, but also as we support the people and jobs around us during the cost-of-living crisis and act more sustainably to tackle the climate emergency.”



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