Helping back room businesses

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Scotland’s hidden army of back-room businesses could help revitalise local town centres if suitable and affordable business space can be provided.

In a recent FSB survey, 42% of home-based businesses said that cost is the key reason for not expanding into dedicated premises. And 20% of respondents said that dedicated premises do not meet their business model requirements, and an additional 6% suggested there were no suitable premises available.

The FSB argues that this demonstrates unmet demand in Scotland’s towns for the right kind of business space at an affordable price.

Moira Gash, chair of the FSB’s Deeside branch, said: “We are very fortunate along Deeside and in Aberdeenshire in general to have examples of very vibrant town centres. However, even here we can see high street businesses struggling and empty premises increasing.

“The availability and affordability of business premises, within and around the edges of our town centres, is a real problem. I’m aware of issues in Aboyne and in Banchory regarding Ccouncil-owned premises, however private sector landlords have a big part to play in this too.

“I think that more needs to be done to attract tenants into empty units, yet unfortunately there are no quick fixes to turn our town centres around.

“A variety of solutions need to be developed and adapted to individual towns’ circumstances.

“If back-room businesses were given incentives to move out of their home-offices and into our town centres it could put business back into the hearts of our towns.”

The FSB also argues that the residents of these new units would use existing town centre shops, could collaborate for contracts and could work together to secure special rates for services such as next generation broadband.

A staggering 68% of businesses in Aberdeenshire believe that a higher internet connection speed is critical for their future business.Further, over 40% of businesses fear that the future of their business will be at risk if they cannot get access to broadband at a genuinely higher speed.

These figures are based on a sample group of small businesses surveyed by the FSB in April of this year. The results show that we must continue to put pressure on the Scottish and UK governments to work together and provide a financial package that will dramatically improve our broadband infrastructure. The alternative is that Scotland gets left behind.

Commenting on the survey results, Moira Gash said: “It is a few years ago now since we had to work very hard in Deeside to ensure that all the exchanges in the area were broadband enabled.

“It proved to be a very successful campaign, with the vast majority of businesses and local residents taking up the service. There were, and still are, a handful of exceptions due to location issues.

“However, one battle does not win the war and we are now in danger again. We will be left behind if we cannot get access to a faster and more reliable broadband speed and service.

“The digital age has moved on in leaps and bounds and the local business community wants and needs to be able to move with it.

“It is a vitally important that we find real solutions to our infrastructure problems. We know something has to be done and we will continue to ask the questions of how and when.”