It might have been born out of necessity with travel restrictions in place during lockdown, but there has never been a greater time to shop local and help businesses on your doorstep.

People sought out their local stores and town markets to stay closer to home at the height of the pandemic last year. And for the monthly market in Dumfries they are still benefitting from the ethos of shop local.

Social enterprise The Guild Dumfries runs the own centre market, showcasing the work of local independent businesses, and has ambitious plans to secure a permanent retail and workshop presence on the High Street, having operated pop-up shops.

Read more: American independence document found in attic of Scots home sells for more the $4million

Now they are looking to boost local trade even further and have signed up to the new Scotland Loves Local Gift Cards backed by the Scottish Government.

The Herald: Business urged to sign up to Scotland Loves Local loyalty cardBusiness urged to sign up to Scotland Loves Local loyalty card

Businesses across the country have already started signing up so they are ready to benefit as soon as customers can start spending them.

Kirsten Scott, co-director of The Guild Dumfries, who also runs design business Mala Interiors, believes the Covid-19 pandemic has led to greater appreciation of the part that local shops and services play in peoples’ lives.

“Now more than ever,” she says. “People are realising just how important local businesses are and how we need to be promoting and supporting them in order to regenerate our high streets.

“We are delighted to be supporting the gift card. This is a great time to be launching it.”

Fellow co-director Leah Halliday, a self-employed designer, maker and educator, added: “The message to support local businesses is really important - especially now. There’s nothing better than keeping money in the local economy. We hope that the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card is another way of doing this.

“When we hold our markets and pop-up shops, we see the genuine desire that there is from people to shop locally. Almost every other customer says how great it is to be able to buy local. We hope that’s positive for the future.

“Shopping locally is far more in people’s consciousness now than it was before the pandemic. It’s something that people are feeling passionate about.”

Madge McKinnon, who owns retro clothing shop Circle Vintage, moved in to her current premises on Nith Place, Dumfries, last July as we emerged from the first national lockdown.

Mrs McKinnon said: “It’s a fabulous idea. I’m behind anything that encourages people to shop in the local area - bringing people into town to enjoy the shops, something to eat or drink, having a wander and discovering things that they didn’t realise were here.

“What’s good about this gift card is that it’s not for an individual shop. That can bring more people into town and everyone benefits.”

The Herald: Scotland Loves Local gift card will help businesses on road to recoveryScotland Loves Local gift card will help businesses on road to recovery

The Scottish Government-backed scheme to keep spending local for longer is promoted across every region of Scotland.

Every community in Scotland could soon have its own gift card in a milestone move encouraging everyone to support local businesses.

Read more: Glasgow is on the verge of a fourth era, says its City Urbanist

The Scottish Government is backing the rollout of the new Scotland Loves Local Gift Card as part of efforts to power the national economic fightback from the Covid-19 pandemic from its grassroots - encouraging people to Choose Local.

The significant show of support for local businesses is being delivered by Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) - the organisation spearheading the Scotland Loves Local Campaign. The Gift Card scheme is a partnership with Perth-based fintech specialist Miconex.

It will see the creation of gift cards for each of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas, each of which can only be spent in that specific region.

Community Wealth Minister Tom Arthur urged businesses across the country to sign up to be part of it.

He said: “We are delighted to be backing this innovative scheme as part of our pledge to support local businesses and communities within the first 100 days of government.

“The Gift Card is a quick and efficient way to encourage spend and drive sales growth in our local economies. Thanks to Scottish Government funding, this is the first of its kind on a national scale and I look forward to seeing businesses benefit from the opportunities it presents.

“In the coming months we will further bolster the Scotland Loves Local (SLL) campaign with the second tranche of our SLL Fund, helping communities revitalise their own towns or neighbourhoods, building wealth and delivering greater, greener and fairer prosperity.”

STP and Miconex are working with local authorities to launch the regional gift cards, with the first year of costs being met by the Scottish Government as part of its £10m of support for Scotland Loves Local. There are no registration costs for businesses. Payments are processed as part of the Mastercard network.

Local cards will be rolled out in a series of regional launches over the coming months, as councils agree to promote the programme in their area.

Supported by the Scottish Government and others, Scotland Loves Local is the campaign urging people to think local first by spending in businesses and attractions around them - evoking the strong community spirit witnessed at the peak of the coronavirus crisis.

STP Chief Officer Phil Prentice said: “We have never valued local life, the people and businesses around us more. The Scotland Loves Local Gift Card embraces that.

“We can’t wait to see people choosing local and loving local life by using their region’s gift card, whether that be while out shopping, meeting friends for a coffee or meal - or making a day of it and doing it all. This is an ideal way of supporting the brilliant businesses in our communities.

“These gift cards will be a remarkably powerful way of unlocking spending potential - and keeping that money in local communities for longer. The more businesses that sign up, the better the local experience will be. We have had tremendous interest and support so far.

“Local businesses need our support - our communities need our support. Businesses can help people to be there for them by becoming part of Scotland Loves Local family. There has never been a scheme on this scale in Scotland.”

With the platform to purchase the regional gift cards launching later this year, employers are also being urged to support other companies in their area by using the gift cards as part of their corporate rewards programme.

For more information about the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card - including how to sign up - go to