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Clydesdale MSP Aileen Campbell took part in Scotland’s Towns Partnership’s ‘MSP Town Time’ initiative this summer. The event is designed to connect politicians with the towns they represent in a bid to better understand the challenges and experiences of businesses in town centre settings. Scotland’s Towns Partnerships states that towns are key to Scotland’s economy, providing around 60% of jobs and employment, with around 70% of the population living in these communities.

Aileen spent time with Denise Lightbody, proprietor of Lightbabies in Carluke and Alastair Brooks, owner of family business, Brooks of Lanark.

Commenting Aileen said: "I got a real insight into the different challenges facing businesses in Lanark and Carluke. And while some of the challenges facing Denise’s new business compared to Alastair’s more established enterprise are different, what unites them and the other businesses that took a chance to have a chat with me, is the burden of rates and overheads before you even open your door to start trading. My mum ran a small business in a small town and I worked for her for several years, and so I have a level of understanding about how hard self-employed people have to work.

"It is clear that government at all levels needs to ensure that we are doing all we can to support our important SMEs - that is why the Scottish Government created the small business bonus scheme in order to relieve some enterprises of their business rates. And as consumers and customers, we need to do what we can to support our local businesses and our high streets. We have great towns across Clydesdale and their vibrancy is down to the hard work of our local businesses.

"I will be feeding back my experience with Denise and Alastair to the team at STP in an upcoming meeting, as well as to colleagues in the government. We all need to do our bit to keep our towns thriving."

Alastair Brooks said: "It was great to welcome Aileen to the shop and to spend time talking her through the challenges of retail in a small market town. A number of other local businesses also came along and enjoyed the opportunity to speak with Aileen. We are lucky here in Lanark in that we have a great town with many good local businesses but we also face many challenges. We need to reform the outdated and unfair Business Rates that are currently in place. If we want to breathe life back into the high street we need to make it more affordable for businesses to operate. I know the Scottish Government is committed to promoting fair and sustainable business practice and the best way to do that is by reforming the existing business rates tax so that small businesses pay what they can afford. We will continue our efforts to keep local shopping relevant in the 21st century but we also need the support of local and national government to make that possible."."

Denise said: "As a new business, I am working hard to establish myself on the high street and to generate new custom. It is hard work, but I really do value the chance to be my own boss and to do what I can to help keep Carluke’s high street thriving. I was glad to have Aileen in the shop and to let her know all the challenges I face and where more support is needed. We also need local people to support the high street and their local retailers to keep our local shops in business. I will hopefully be moving to a bigger unit in Carluke in the near future and am looking forward to welcoming customers into our new shop."

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Aileen Campbell MSP, Kirkton Chambers, 12 Kirkton Street, Carluke ML8 4AB • 01555 750 249 • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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