Time for action over empty shops

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OFFICIALS have given assurances that they are fighting to save Hawick High Street.

And both councillors and a Hawick MSP are calling for the Scottish Government to step in before more shops shut. Their comments follow last week’s revelation that Hawick and Galashiels have the highest town centre vacancy rates in the Borders, prompting Tory MSP John Lamont to warn that it is time “to see action” from the SNP.

And having previously met Hawick traders struggling to pay their rates, he stated: “I have raised these concerns with SNP Finance Minister Mr Swinney, to make him aware of the pressure his business rates are putting on small businesses in our area.

“With the Small Business Bonus only helping some of the shops, the onus is now on the SNP to act in order to help support them and ensure we don’t see even more empty shops in Hawick.”

This outlook is shared by High Street councillor Ron Smith, who voted in favour of a motion for the Scottish Government to reduce the rates discount for empty shops. “We need to continue to put pressure on government to offer appropriate discounts for small traders, and on assessors to create viable valuations”, he stated.

And at local level, Mr Smith is pushing for SBC to change its Prime Retail Frontage policy for the east end of the High Street, allowing a wider range of uses and increased footfall. Fellow ward member George Turnbull says Hawick High Street is always a priority, adding: “Myself and others are continually badgering to get help.”

Mr Lamont concluded: “The time for warm words has ended. We now need action from the SNP.”