Edinburgh businesses launch Holyrood election manifesto urging help for city's recovery

Edinburgh’s business leaders today called for the next Scottish government to help the Capital’s recovery from Covid with an international travel restart plan, business taxation measures to help retail and hospitality and a policy to build back the culture, festivals and events sector.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 11:17 am
Updated Friday, 16th April 2021, 7:06 am

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And they stressed the need to support the city centre – “the beating heart of Scotland’s Capital” – which had suffered disproportionately during the pandemic.

A manifesto produced by Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce for next month’s Holyrood elections warned moves to create 20-minute neighbourhoods must not be at the expense of a thriving city centre, which was vital for the whole of the Capital.

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The chamber's manifesto says the city centre is Edinburgh's beating heart Pic: Greg Macvean

The document also called for financial incentives and grants to small businesses to support recovery, radical reform of business rates, continuing VAT reductions for the worst-hit sectors, support for businesses to deliver net zero transition and help in upskilling and reskilling employees.

In an executive summary of the manifesto, the chamber’s chief executive Liz McAreavey said Edinburgh’s economic and employment recovery from Covid would be led by the city’s private sector, which created growth, jobs and opportunities.

“But we also need our policy-makers to create the right environment for growth. There is much the incoming Scottish Government can do to speed and strengthen our recovery. We need to work together as never before.”

She said since the start of restrictions in March 2020, footfall in the city centre had fallen by 66 per cent with a 2 million decrease in July and August. The live Festivals had been cancelled in 2020 and the hospitality sector could take until at least 2023 to return to pre-pandemic levels.

“In the face of all this, the need for a ‘good recovery’ for Edinburgh is overwhelming. The city’s contribution to the GDP of both Scotland and the UK demands real focus on bringing Scotland’s Capital out of the pandemic as quickly and strongly as possible.”

The manifesto says the relationship between public and private sectors needs to be reset to achieve maximum momentum for recovery. And it proposes a Joint Economic Partnership with the Scottish Government, bringing together expertise from public, private and other sectors.

It says the proposed tourist tax may help speed recovery for the tourism and hospitality industry, but only if the money raised is ring-fenced to support the sector.

And it calls for the roll-out of a city centre recovery plan with financial incentives and grants to small businesses.

“Our city centre needs to be supported. It is the beating heart of Scotland’s Capital, and it is essential to the economic, cultural, social and emotional health of our city.

“There is no doubt the city centre has suffered disproportionately through the pandemic restrictions, with hospitality, tourism, retail and offices effectively shut down for a year. Help is needed to ensure the centre recovers to good health.

“Measures need to be introduced to ensure the growing focus on “20-minute neighbourhoods” is not pursued to the detriment of our city centre, which is vital to the economic, cultural and social well-being of the wider city.”

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