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DAVID RICHARDSON: Highland Council needs to get business savvy with FSB calls for private sector to deliver viable support for local enterprises

By Scott Maclennan

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David Richardson, regional development manager at FSB.
David Richardson, regional development manager at FSB.

The new Highland Council should place economic recovery and forging closer links with its business community front and centre in its plans for the next few years, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

In its manifesto released ahead of the council election on May 5, the FSB says the local authority needs to bring the maximum benefit to both local economies and communities.

Often local businesses in the past have felt that the local authority lacks business awareness and has often worked against rather than for them.

Now the FSB is calling for an about turn as the pandemic has revealed just how important Highland Council and local businesses are to each other, so May’s ballot “provides a unique opportunity to deepen and strengthen” ties between the two to “really drive change.”

David Richardson, the FSB’s Highlands and Islands development manager, said: “Now, as we emerge from the pandemic – hopefully for the last time – it is vital that the lessons are not forgotten and that Highland Council continues to strengthen its ties with the region’s smaller businesses.

“And it’s a good-news story, for in 2021 the Highlands’ 10,650 registered small businesses contributed £3.4 billion to the local economy and employed around 41,950 people. Add the countless unregistered small businesses and the contribution is far, far higher.

“If we want to reverse the ageing and declining population trend that is blighting much of the Highlands, we must make this region the go-to place to set up and grow businesses, and Highland Council has a really important role to play.”

The manifesto calls for “simple but powerful measures” from the council to – procure more goods and services locally; boost town centres by blocking out-of-town developments and returning staff to offices to encourage spending in shops; support smaller businesses reach net zero; and help businesses start up and grow.

He added: “Let’s hope that come the next Highland Council election in 2027, we can all look back on the preceding five years with pride. There’s all to play for.”

David Richardson is Highlands and Islands Development manager for the FSB

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