LISTEN: Phil Prentice shares his optimism for Highland Perthshire, and the rest of the country’s, upcoming recovery
Scotland’s Towns Partnership Chief Officer, Phil Prentice, is giving hope for recovery post-COVID to Scottish small towns who he says are on the verge of a ‘renaissance’.
Praising Highland Perthshire’s plethora of natural beauty, Mr Prentice said: “I think there’s a brilliant opportunity for towns, particularly around Perthshire where you’ve got that existing compelling product where people can come and walk and cycle and build on that.
“I think this is a real opportunity for small town Scotland to have a renaissance, and to actually build and be part of that brighter future for Scotland.
“I’m looking forward, really ambitiously, post this pandemic to see some of this being implemented across the country. This is definitely a time for towns.”
Local towns have been hit hard by the pandemic and as restrictions ease and we see local businesses reopen, emphasis is being placed on appreciating what we have at our doorstep.
He added: “The money that you spend in your local economy, it sticks in your local economy, and you can see that that’s the right thing to do.
“It might cost you a little bit more as opposed to go into an online platform but think about the damage you’re causing.
“If you go to your local grocer in your high street, a lot of that will be provided from the local farms and the local dairy, so you’re actually building in security and you’re building community wealth. You’re sharing your wealth with the community that you live around.
“To me that’s the right thing to do because our local shops and businesses they’re part of our DNA.
“They’re not just bricks and mortar – they’re people, that’s your neighbour’s family it’s your community so let’s just reward those local businesses, as we get into recovery.
“The programme for government, which will come into force post the May election is probably the most ambitious, in my memory in terms of supporting our times, there’s a clear recognition I that post COVID. And because of climate, we need to focus much more on towns, and we need to deal with the systemic imbalances in our economy.
“There’s 275 million pounds has been allocated through the investment programme, and over half a billion on active travel to encourage people to get out of cars until your cycling and wheeling and walking more.”
Scotland’s Towns Partnership has also worked closely with the Scottish Government to provide another £600,000 of funding across the country in 2021/22 to boost the country’s Business Improvement Districts (BIDs).
This additional funding builds on the £1.85m already provided to BIDs since the start of the pandemic.
It will go toward supporting safe reopening measures like sanitising stations and PPE as well as supporting digital and marketing communications.
Speaking on life post-lockdown, Mr Prentice spoke of what the priorities of communities should be and how we can best support small businesses.
He said: “If we’re able to stay local more often, and we will be no doubt post-pandemic there will be a change in how we live, how we work, how we get educated, so we will use digital much more, and we’ll work remotely flexibly actually in a blended pattern, that gives you more opportunity to re-engage with your local economy.
“Climate, COVID, community wealth, localism, these are all the reasons why people should be supporting this local.
“I don’t think we are going to be as challenged as what some of the more negative people are suggesting I think it’s going to be.
“Undoubtedly difficult but hotels, hospitality, Airbnb guest houses etc have been to a certain extent, supported by both UK and Scottish Government.
“There has been a lot of grants and assistance and tax reliefs and VAT reliefs etc that have been given – that’s not ideal but it’s been a big, big help.
“Let’s remind Scotland about how beautiful a country we’ve got and how wonderful some of our towns and our geography is.
“It’s not a second choice, staying at home is something that we should be encouraging people to do more often.
“It reduces their carbon footprint and reconnects them with their history, their heritage their culture.
“We have got everything in this country from white beaches of the Western Isles, to the mountains to Highland Perthshire, to the whiskey, to our coastline, and then we’ve got some wonderful cities as well so from city brakes to rural and coastal destinations people can actually engage with Scotland and move forward through the recovery.
“The money that we spend in Scotland stays in Scotland longer, we are building back a stronger, more resilient and secure Scotland.
“It’s not a second choice it’s a wonderful opportunity.”
For more information on how you can support small businesses in your area, please visit www.lovelocal.scot