Empty shops are top of Minister’s agenda

Paul Wheelhouse MSP
Paul Wheelhouse MSP

Local MSP Paul Wheelhouse is set to welcome the Holyrood Minister responsible for business rates to Hawick next week.

The invitation has been extended to Derek Mackay MSP, the Minister for Local Government and Planning, in light of recent shop closure announcements and the formation of a new Hawick High Street sub-committee which aims to tackle concerns surrounding the number of empty shops.

And with Mr Mackay responsible for town centres, Scottish planning policy and business rates, Mr Wheelhouse says this he his thrilled that he has secured the earliest slot to hold a meeting.

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s visit, he commented: “As I stated in the Hawick News last week, nobody wants to see good businesses lost to the town, especially when Hawick is
attractive and has poten-
tial to have a vibrant High Street.

“Mr Mackay is aware of the issues facing Hawick and, at my invitation, is keen to see for himself the impact of recent closure announcements have had and will continue to have on Hawick High Street.”

Mr Wheelhouse has pointed out that next week is also Scotland’s ‘Towns Week’, adding: “It is apt that the Minister should visit what could, with a team effort and appropriate support, once again have a vibrant future, albeit we need to perhaps recognise that the role of our high streets is evolving in response to changes in consumer behaviour.”

Mr Mackay will also meet with members of the newly formed sub-committee, before visiting the High Street to note their concerns in person.

Mr Wheelhouse added: “I look forward to the Minister hearing of the local challenges for himself from some of the retailers and members of the sub-committee looking at the future of the High Street. I am in no doubt that those present will be forthcoming with their views of what needs to be done and I hope those present will take the chance to discuss constructive suggestions for the future.

Hawick’s Tory MSP John Lamont added: “We’ve had visits from Ministers before. We now need action. I hope the Minister will use his visit to announce some meaningful changes, such as a revaluation of business rates and an extension of the high street regeneration fund.”