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Businesses back minister's plea to public bodies not to desert ailing high streets

BUSINESS leaders have called for more action to revive Scotland's run-down high streets after ministers again urged public bodies not to desert town centres.

Local Government minister Derek Mackay yesterday called on public bodies to sign up to the government's "town centre first" principle established earlier this year, which calls on organisations from the NHS to Police Scotland to consider the impact of closing or relocating town centre facilities. Speaking during a visit to Barrhead in East Renfrewshire, one of the first local authorities to back the guidelines, he said: "Our town centres should be vibrant, attractive and safe places where local people want to spend their time and money." The move, recommended in a review of town centres headed by the architect Malcolm Fraser, was welcomed but business leaders said further action was also required.

David Lonsdale, of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: "Our towns and high streets have a great deal to offer, and a clear framework to encourage future investment should help.

"One in every ten shops remains vacant, so further action to make it easier and less costly for retailers to invest in town centres must be prioritised."

Andy Willox, Scottish policy convenor of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "One year on from the Fraser review of town centres, the FSB believes that there's still a lot of work to be done to turn around our high streets."

He said small businesses were closing down in high streets in Scotland because big companies or public sector bodies were quitting town centres, taking workers with them.

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