The report urges a £90m annual investment for the next ten years in Scottish towns from the Scottish National Investment Bank and the UK Stronger Towns Fund. FSB argues that these funds are needed for projects to make Scottish towns better places to work, live and run a business.
It also calls for a new Scottish government commission to tackle empty properties and for banks to deliver on their promise of shared banking hubs and for new help for independent traders to make better use of digital technologies.
The study, Transforming Towns, said that big businesses and the public sector have announced at least 414 bank branch, shop and local premises closures for Scotland’s towns and villages by since the start of 2016.
Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “More people in Scotland live in towns than cities. That’s why governments in Edinburgh and London must make a generational investment in our towns to overcome their current challenges and prepare them for how we’ll work and live in the future.”
The report highlights innovative work to fill empty units, but urges ministers in Edinburgh to establish a commission to tackle the rise of vacant properties. FSB also sets out its case for the Scottish government to investigate rolling out a standard small business lease for commercial premises.
McRae added: “Following FSB campaigning, last year the Scottish government announced extra funding to boost Scottish towns. We need to build on this initiative because inclusive growth can’t only be a priority for city-dwellers.
“After the wave of recent closures, we need to rethink how we use our high streets. A new commission should investigate the barriers to bringing vacant properties back into use, even if that means turning offices into housing, or department stores into art galleries.
“Similarly, we need to make it cheap and easy for independent businesses to take up high street property and we believe a standard small business lease could be part of this solution.”