Your source is spot on with his comments over High Street rates in last week’s paper. And having since spoken to your source myself, he is also realistic enough to realise, though, it will take more than the newly-formed committee lobbying the Scottish Government to affect change in the system, but by enlisting support from MPs, MSPs, and similar committees from other towns, they may just be able to force change for the better.
I could write a book about the rates increases of my own business, and the millions of pounds wasted by the Scottish Government in setting up an appeals process after the last review and then bringing the big brush out and sweeping the whole episode under the carpet without a conclusion reached and failing to communicate this to any business, hoping nobody would notice, but I wouldn’t be addressing the other challenges facing high streets everywhere.
While a fairer system and rates reductions may encourage some of the empty shops to be filled, changes in our shopping habits, especially the internet shopping phenomenon and the muscle of the supermarkets, mean that there are simply too many shops on your average high street these days.
Zero rates would make life easier for many, but it’s never going to make a bad business idea viable. I could ramble on about charity shops contributing nothing, but that’s for another day.
In Hawick’s case, its employment through industry we need to save our High Street, although I’ve been saying this for 13 years since opening my own business. As long as the population remains the same, along with the amount of disposable pound notes in their pockets, we’re going to have to accept empty shops and possibly a record number of them.
I’ve listened to some councillors championing a new supermarket as a great thing because it brings employment. It may actually lead to a negligible net gain in employment if we’re lucky, but rival stores and small businesses are squeezed further, families suffer and we’re no better off. You only need to look at Galashiels and what’s happened to their High Street.
In fact if Hawick people stopped shopping in Galashiels, it would be far worse there.
Bringing fresh industry to Hawick would bring fresh hope for our High Street, and we should be fighting for that by whatever means possible. If we don’t fight, then I fear it’ll be the tumbleweed along our High Street.
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