At least 414 bank branch, shop and local premises closures have been announced for Scotland’s towns and villages by big business and the public sector since the start of 2016.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) revealed the figure as it published a new report calling for a slew of measures to boost Scotland’s 479 local towns.
Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland Policy Chair, said: “After the wave of recent closures, we need to rethink how we use our high streets.”
The ‘Transforming Towns’ report urges the Scottish and Westminster governments to direct the Scottish National Investment Bank and the UK Stronger Towns Fund respectively to invest in the country’s dying high streets.
FSB said these funds should set aside £90m every year over the next decade to invest in projects to make Scottish towns better places to work, live and run a business.
McRae explained: “More people in Scotland live in towns than cities. That’s why governments in Edinburgh and London must make a generational investment in our towns to overcome their current challenges and prepare them for how we’ll work and live in the future.”
The report urges Ministers in Edinburgh to establish a commission to tackle the rise of vacant properties. It suggests creative solutions like turning offices into housing, or department stores into art galleries.
It also calls on the Scottish Government to investigate rolling out a standard small business lease for commercial premises. McRae said: “We need to make it cheap and easy for independent businesses to take up high street property and we believe a standard small business lease could be part of this solution.”
The report also argues for a new town-by-town business support programme – rolled out by Scottish Enterprise – to help high street businesses make the most of new technologies.