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FSB voice heard In council elections

What with June’s general election and the Brexit negotiations, it’s easy to forget that we had very important council elections in May; important because councils have really important contributions to make to the wellbeing of our small business community.

Following the election we wrote to all new councillors urging them to put the wellbeing of the 1,440 registered small businesses in Shetland, 1,460 in Orkney, 1,155 in the Western Isles and 10,740 in the Highlands, at the heart of their new policies and programmes. This matters, for these businesses jointly contribute around £4.6 billion to the region’s economy, and they have the potential to contribute more.

By helping the thousands of small Highland’s & Islands businesses to survive and thrive, councils can reduce inequality, sustain fragile communities and drive growth right across the region.

Amongst other things, FSB wants our councils to invest in roads because they are essential to the wellbeing of our local economies and communities; target rates relief at hard-pressed high streets and villages; and help forge closer links between schools and local businesses to encourage more young people to stay on and work here post-Brexit.

We also want councillors to declare once and for all that they will not introduce a tourist bed tax. The UK is already the second most expensive holiday destination in the world, and within the UK a Highlands & Islands holiday is more expensive than most. To tax visitors more makes no sense at all.

Finally, while Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles councils are all performing well when it comes to the purchase of goods and services from local small businesses, Highland’s performance is extremely disappointing. Over the past four years it has fallen from 33.5% to 23.1% and we have already met with senior officials to discuss what can be done to improve the situation.