Drop in number of empty shops

Penicuik town centre precinct

Penicuik town centre precinct

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Local politicians and business leaders have welcomed national figures which show a fall in the number of vacant shop units on our high streets.

Statistics issued by the Scottish Retail Consortium show that the number of empty shops in Scotland dropped to 8.7 per cent in October – the lowest retail vacancy rate for four years.

SNP Midlothian MSPs Christine Grahame and Colin Beattie said the drop, which was slightly lower than the UK rate of 9.1 per cent, was “encouraging”.

Ms Grahame said: ““The SNP government is serious about revitalising our town centres – that’s why a new £1.7 million fund to regenerate town centres was launched in August and local authorities have been given more powers over local business rates.

“These new figures are also another sign that the SNP government’s work to support entrepreneurs is bearing fruit – the number of businesses now benefiting from the Small Business Bonus Scheme in Midlothian has reached 1,235 contributing to the highest number of businesses in Scotland since devolution.

MrBeattie added: “The SNP is determined that Scotland remains the most competitive place to do business in the UK and that our high streets flourish – creating jobs, boosting local growth and supporting local communities.”

Gordon Henderson from the Scotland Federation of Small Businesses, said: “These figures are good news for local economies throughout the country including Midlothian’s.

“The Federation of Small Businesses have done a great deal of work in recent years to push the importance of our High Streets to their local economies, they support the local jobs that create resilient economies and resilient communities.

“Some people have clearly taken the plunge and occupied what were empty properties in Midlothian’s town centres and we all need to make sure that we support them in their ventures.”

Mr Henderson said the bonus scheme was a “lifeline during the recession” to FSB members and continued to give the smallest businesses a leg up when they need it.