A GROUND-BREAKING scheme is under way to transform a section of Scotland's east coast into a national food and drink destination.

Over 120 firms and organisations in East Lothian are being invited to come together for what is being billed as a European first and create a business improvement district (BID) specifically tailored to food and drink.

It comes during Scotland's Year of Food and Drink 2015 and has the backing of the government, local authority and some high-profile businesses.

More than 30 BIDs have been been set up in Scotland in recent years and see businesses with shared interests and ambitions come together to generate funds and decide how it should be spent locally.

In other areas funds been used to enhance town centres, tourism and business parks, better promotion and marketing, community events, projects and loyalty schemes, with the aim of driving sales and attracting investment.

The new BID would also become the first in East Lothian, joining recent additions in Crieff, Dunblane, Glasgow's Byres Road, Edinburgh West End and Penicuik.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment, Richard Lochhead, said: “The East Lothian Food and Drink BID is ground-breaking, not only a first for Scotland but for the UK, and possibly the world.

“Scotland’s food and drink sector is growing at an exponential rate. The BID model will further aid the growth and profile of this sector. I encourage other areas in Scotland to follow East Lothian’s lead and consider how they too can benefit from a Food and Drink BID.”

A steering group will now be established and charged with devising a five-year business plan tailored for the area.

All businesses will be asked their views on how the BID could create improvements to the local economy as well as individual businesses and if agreed by the majority would be operational within the next 12 to 14 months.

Ian Davison Porter, director of the national body for BIDs, said: "The collective working of the businesses involved in the food and drink BID will help drive local and international trade, in one of the key sectors of the Scottish economy, and create an opportunity to reduce business costs."

Councillor John McMillan, East Lothian Council's political head of economic development and tourism, said: "The speciality food and drink sector based here in East Lothian has actually thrived despite tough economic times.

"We have many wonderful businesses in this sector so it’s a great thing to be able to support and help them grow and encourage new start-ups."