A new £10 million multi-year fund has been launched to help transform towns and neighbourhoods after the pandemic accelerated the high street’s decline.

The Scotland Loves Local Fund aims to encourage people to think ‘local first’, and support businesses and enterprises in their community.

The fund will provide match funding of between £5,000 and £25,000 for projects run by groups like town centre partnerships, chambers of commerce or community and charity trusts.

The Covid-19 crisis has crippled footfall on Scottish high streets. In June 2021 shopper numbers were down by 29.9 per cent on the same period two years ago, according to the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC).

But the high street was facing challenges before the pandemic, including dealing with an increasing amount of surplus space owing to businesses closing their doors due to administration, moving to online or to out-of-town retail parks.

Administered by Scotland’s Towns Partnership, the new fund aims to bring suitable, creative projects and activity to towns and neighbourhoods – helping build local wealth and increase footfall and activity, while supporting local enterprise partnerships.

Eligible projects could include things like community shops, marketing and digital schemes, or enabling larger construction projects delivery. 

Community wealth minister Tom Arthur said: “To support Scotland’s towns and neighbourhoods recovery from the pandemic we are launching a new £10 million Scotland Loves Local Fund. This will provide 50 per cent match funding for local projects between £5,000 and £25,000.

“Whether it be funding for small-scale improvements or adaptations, climate or active travel programmes, home delivery digital schemes, pop up shops and markets, or the direct funding or expansion of Scotland Loves Local loyalty card schemes – communities will be able to decide how best to improve their local area.

“This 100 day Scottish Government commitment reinforces our determination to support all our communities as they recover from the pandemic and will help strengthen the vital support being provided through the Scotland Loves Local marketing campaign and loyalty card scheme.”

Phil Prentice, Scotland’s Towns Partnership chief officer, said: “Over the coming years, this significant commitment from the Scottish Government will make a real difference – empowering communities to take action that will make their areas fairer, greener and more successful. We are delighted to be working with ministers to deliver this.

“This funding will unlock the great potential of our towns and neighbourhoods, allowing them not just to recover from the impact of Covid-19, but to create a stronger, more sustainable future which has localism at its heart. I would encourage interested organisations across Scotland to get their applications in.”

This news comes after Scotland Loves Local launched a gift card scheme in July in partnership with Perth-based fintech specialist Miconex.

The project, delivered by Scotland’s Towns Partnership and backed by the Scottish Government, will see the creation of gift cards for all 32 Scottish local authority areas, each of which can only be spent in that specific region.

Businesses can sign up for the scheme here where they can complete the simple two-step form and registration process.

Minister for community wealth Tom Arthur is pictured chatting to Vittoria Capaldi from Honeybee Bakery in Milngavie. Picture: Jamie Simpson / Scotland’s Towns Partnership.

Success story

Wendy Ross, director of Milngavie Business Improvement District and business owner, said: “The Scotland Loves Local campaign was a massive help to Milngavie, especially at the peak of the pandemic when non-essential retail businesses were forced to close. Using the digital experience of our business improvement district place manager and his network of collaborators, the Loves Local funding was invested to build many e-commerce websites very quickly so we could continue to trade online, with click and collect and deliveries.

“This was a critical help for local businesses and really opened our eyes to aspects of the digital world that we knew little about. Using the Loves Local messaging and excellent #ThinkLocalFirst campaign, we used social media and milngavie.co.uk to reach local people. That really struck home and continues to do so.”

Applications for funding open on 9 August and will close at 17:00 on Friday 1 October. Funding for projects worth between £5,000 and £25,000 will come from the £2m committed to the Scotland Loves Local Fund for this financial year.

Around 100 projects are likely to receive funding this year, with a further call for applications next year. Funding for projects in areas with a higher level of deprivation may be prioritised.

Click here to learn more.