Issue 8: January 2014


By Ian Davison Porter, Director, Business Improvement Districts Scotland

Business Improvement Districts Scotland (BIDS) recently published its first national report on Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in Scotland, highlighting the key contribution made by BIDs at a local level, towards improving the local business environment; helping to build sustainable communities and supporting local and national strategic economic development objectives. Led by Director, Ian Davison Porter and with respected towns expert, Professor Leigh Sparks of Stirling University on its Board, BIDs Scotland has the remit to deliver the Scottish Government’s BIDs programme. It’s central role is  supporting, developing and growing BIDs in Scotland - contributing to Scottish Government's central policy purpose of sustainable economic growth.

It has been a swift rise to success for this programme, which finds itself in the favourable position of receiving support across all political parties – testament to its effectiveness and impact.  In 2006 the Scottish Government allocated a central resource to take forward the development of BIDs in Scotland, resulting in the creation in 2008 of five pathfinder BIDs – Enterprising Bathgate, Clacks First Business Parks, Essential Edinburgh, Falkirk Delivers and Inverness City. Alloa Town Centre and Dunfermline followed in late 2008 and early 2009. The rapid development and interest in BIDs brought about the incorporation of Improvement Districts Scotland Ltd in 2010, trading as the familiarly known Business Improvement Districts Scotland; an independent organisation that would deliver best practice advice and support to BIDs and promote their development across Scotland. Since then, the BIDs programme and diversity of BIDs in Scotland has changed significantly. 

Promoted initially as a mechanism to aid regeneration and asset management, BIDs have adapted in the face of severe public sector financial cuts, continued financial stress and flat-lining of the economy.  Recognised by the Scottish Government as an effective means for contributing to local sustainable economic growth, through strong local public and private sector partnership, the local BIDs and BIDs Scotland are now delivering across a wide range of issues, meeting the concerns of local businesses and helping to achieve the National Outcomes of the Scottish Government and the Single Outcome Agreements of local authorities. 

Today BIDs in Scotland are the fastest growing group of BIDs across the UK. An independent evaluation of the Scottish BIDs programme in 2010 identified that the key to this rapid development has been; the provision of BIDs Scotland as a central resource, the Scottish Government’s continued unwavering support for BIDs and the provision of a seedcorn grant to business associations, local authorities and other groups wishing to develop a BID in Scotland.  

 “The BIDs across Scotland are delivering for their businesses through a very diverse range of projects, with businesses collectively working to improve their business environment. It is this strength of collective working by the businesses and the important contribution of the local authorities that is delivering local improvements. Although evident in some of the earlier BIDs, working with the local community and local groups is increasing across the BIDs, with strong local partnerships with community councils, development trusts and other local interest groups saving time and effort, preventing duplication and delivering coordinated action to the benefit of the wider community.”     
Ian Davison Porter – Director, BIDs Scotland

The National Report provides a snapshot of the impacts and outcomes of the 19 established BIDs across Scotland, although a further two BIDs have recently been successful at ballot, including Glasgow Evening Economy; and another 24 are in development.
Some big hitting facts and figures demonstrate their substantial input to Scotland's economic development; already leveraging over £16 million of additional investment, over and above the £17 million contributed in levy collection, through a combination of public and private capital, over the initial 5 year period.  This figure will rise significantly over the next five years as further developing BIDs come into operation, whilst also adding to the 52 directly employed posts already created and the estimated 220 new jobs which result from annual project spend.

BID projects Scotland-wide are addressing the key objectives of Wealthier & Fairer, Smarter, Healthier, Safer & Stronger and Greener. Dynamic partnership working between local business and councils and an increasing community role, has led to BIDs all across Scotland delivering area improvement agendas, through a range of projects that deliver additionality, introducing innovative business benefits and an increasing focus on a variety of projects impacting on education, employment, cultural development, health and wellbeing, the green agenda and a safer and stronger Scotland.

The holistic benefits and impact of a BID are increasingly evident with shining examples such as Queensferry Ambition’s school and community training and employment projects; I Love Clarkston’s Cycle Saturdays and Loyalty Card scheme; cost savings in excess of £205k for businesses delivered by Essential Edinburgh; Enterprising Bathgate property improvement projects and Embrace Elgin’s strategic community partnership, tackling a range of cross- cutting issues to improve the local area.

The BIDs family in Scotland, with a uniquely flexible legislative mechanism at its core, backed up by strong government advocacy and practical support delivered by BIDs Scotland, continues to grow across towns, cities and business parks and is now evolving, with emerging opportunities in marine and water, textiles and food and drink.

“The Business Improvement District (BID) initiative is growing and has a direct link to the Government’s Purpose of supporting sustainable economic growth. The BID model is particularly relevant in the current economic climate. Its flexibility enables the private and public sectors to work together and invest in improvements to the local business environment, while contributing to the wider regeneration of the local community. Businesses also benefit from the sharing of good practice across BID areas.”
Derek Mackay – Scottish Government
Minister for Towns, Local Government and Planning

With the Minister for Towns, Derek Mackay MSP, advocating BIDs as a route to a vibrant economy in the recent Town Centre Action Plan, a great deal has been achieved in a mere 6 years and it is estimated that there will be 50 BIDs in operation and development by the end of 2014 and 150 by 2020.

At a recent BIDs industry gathering, Vice Chair for Scotland’s Towns Partnership, Phil Prentice, said, “If you have a BID, make sure you keep it! If you haven’t got a BID – get one!” Phil Prentice is Economic Development & Regeneration Manager with East Renfrewshire Council – with two operational BIDs and a further three in development.  

Why BIDs? Watch our vox pops.

Hear Queensferry’s story at Scotland’s Towns Partnership’s annual conference for towns
BIDs Scotland: 0131 629 0065 or

By Ian Davison Porter, Director, Business Improvement Districts Scotland

Issue 8: January 2014

Issue 8: January 2014


Smart Cities: Smart Services: Smart Working Editorial

In focusing on 'Smart Cities' let's start with a few teaser questions (answers at the foot of this column)...


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