Action plan needed for Borders high streets

Local politicians are calling on the Scottish Government to set out a plan to rescue high streets in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

They are backing Scottish Conservative calls for a Town Centre Coronavirus Plan to help stop shop closures across Scotland.

Retail and tourism industries are already warning that thousands of jobs could be lost in the coming months, due to the slump in demand and continued social distancing measures.

Figures revealed by the Sunday Post shows debit card spending in Borders towns is down significantly.

Spending in Hawick and Kelso is down 32%. The drop is almost as big in Galashiels and Peebles, which shows a drop of 29%.

The numbers record a sample of debit card and direct debit transactions and compare them with those for the same period last year.

The Scottish Conservatives are calling on the SNP Government to consider measures as part of the action plan including:

  • A major "buy local" campaign organised by the Scottish Government urging Scots to back local high streets.
  • Law changes relaxing rules on pavement eating and drinking.
  • Temporary scrapping of parking charges to encourage shoppers to come out.
  • Review of the 2 metre rule in social distancing.

John Lamont MP said: “Our high streets will have been badly hit over the last three months. Without radical action, we risk seeing the worst economic hit to our economy for decades.

“This will undoubtedly mean more job losses in the Borders. It is vital that we do all we can to support local businesses as they recover from this crisis.

“Encouraging everyone to buy local and relaxing laws on outdoor eating and drinking could really give our local economy a boost when so many of the summer months have already been lost.”

Borders MSP, Rachael Hamilton added: “Our high streets need support more now than ever, as we ease lockdown restrictions and the grip of the pandemic loosens. We need measures that promote the high street and remove barriers to get shops and businesses reopened safely.

“Relaxing rules on outdoor eating and drinking, getting rid of parking charges and reviewing the 2 metre social distancing rule could all help businesses and give our high street a lift.

“With the economy entering a deep recession, we need an economic restart in Scotland, with the SNP Government taking action, rather than sitting back idly. I continue to urge people to continue to buy local and support our fantastic Borders businesses”