I was delighted to celebrate local businesses in Dingwall last weekend for Small Business Saturday (2nd December).
There are over 20,000 small businesses in the Highlands and Islands region, employing over 100,000 workers. Each small business offers something unique and special, and it’s important that we support them in a market that’s increasingly dominated by the big players.
Small Business Saturday boosted takings by £717m last year in Scotland, and with research showing that money spent locally is more likely to stay in the local economy, a key aim of this campaign is to encourage lasting, year-round support for small businesses.
That’s why I’m keen to encourage everyone in Orkney to support your local businesses to ensure our local businesses thrive.
In the run of up Christmas, the pull of festive shopping is officially upon us; and many people will be shopping for gifts for loved ones and friends.
I do recognise that in an increasingly interconnected and globalised world, people are changing the way in which they shop. As superfast broadband continues to be rolled out across the Highlands and Islands – thanks to decisive Scottish Government action – more people have access to the array of choices and bargains offered online.
Now, I will always encourage folk to support local businesses where they can and make this their first port of call. However, I know that in rural areas we can’t always find the goods we want locally; to fill the gap we often look online.
Consumers in the Islands are paying what can only be described as a “postcode penalty” in delivery charges for online purchases. A recent study for Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) found those living in the Islands pay a whopping 50% more, on average,than consumers elsewhere.
This report was published ahead of debate on the issue at Holyrood this week, led my SNP colleague Richard Lochhead, MSP for Moray, who has led the campaign for fair delivery charges. I wholeheartedly agree with him that charging excessive delivery charges to those living in rural Scotland is both unfair and unjustified.
Many constituents have expressed shock at some of the sky high parcel delivery surcharges they are being asked to pay by companies who deliver for free in the rest of the UK.
Some of the delivery surcharges imposed on local homes and business I’ve heard about are staggering. I know that there are many folk who have had similar experiences shopping online. That’s why I am working with Richard Lochhead to encourage folk to get in touch with their stories.
Richard has also set up a website http://fairdeliverycharges.scot where you can sign the petition calling on retailers and courier companies to stop ripping off customers in remote and rural areas.
I can also be contacted at email@example.com if anyone wishes to let me know about their experiences.
No matter where you shop, you should not be punished because of your postcode.
This is a regular column from local MSP Maree Todd, SNP