People across Scotland are being urged to 'choose local' to take advantage of wonderful local produce and build stronger futures for their communities. 

BUTCHER Neil Cunningham does not hesitate as he’s asked why it’s so important that people choose local and back businesses in their communities.

“If they don’t, they won’t be here,” he says definitively. “People must support their local shops and other businesses.”

The 62-year-old, a butcher of 40 years’ standing, is part of the team running John W McGraddie’s shop in Shawlands, Glasgow, where small, family-owned enterprises - such as the one he works for - are part of the community’s fabric.

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Like others in the busy neighbourhood, he has noticed an increase in people using their local shops and services since the start of the coronavirus pandemic - a habit that traders across the country are calling on customers to stick with.

It’s a call being championed by the Scotland Loves Local campaign with a rallying cry that it has never been more important to choose local as the country continues to recover from the consequences of Covid-19.

More than that, however, it is also about laying the foundations for a successful, sustainable future - a message supported in Shawlands.

As he welcomes and jokes with customers going in and out of the shop, Neil says: “We pride ourselves on being local and having great service. Customers come in and have a laugh. You build up a great rapport. For some older people it’s the only chat they might get in the day.

“Since lockdown, we’ve been attracting more younger customers - and we’ve retained them too. More people seem to appreciate the quality we offer and see the difference in product, which is really encouraging. Long may it continue.”

On the opposite side of Minard Street to McGraddie’s is Curley’s Urbane Barbers, which Karina Curley, 39, has run for the past nine years.

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She’s all too aware that success as a collective is important for the entire area.“We rely on footfall from other businesses around us pulling people in. We need to work together to get local people to shop local and stay local,” says Karina.

“There’s such a good variety in Shawlands. We’re proud to be part of the community - and lucky to be where we are, with great staff and customers.”

The Shawlands Business Improvement District (BID) encompasses 340 businesses, with its work overseen by My Shawlands.

Many of its members are at the forefront of the Choose Local drive, flying the flag in a multimedia campaign spearheaded by Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) - with the support of the Scottish Government - as part of Scotland Loves Local. BID manager Lisa McLaughlin, who has worked with businesses in the area for the past five-and-a-half years, describes the support of local people as “critical”.

She adds: “Support has definitely increased over the past 15 or 16 months, with many people working from home.

“With less commuting, lots of residents have had a bit more time to explore what’s on their doorstep and have been pleasantly surprised by businesses they had not previously used.”

During lockdown, staff at Stalks and Stems Greengrocers and Florists on Pollokshaws Road were among those who ensured people did not go without essential supplies - delivering produce to elderly people no matter how small the cash value.

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“People appreciated it and, in return, they’re coming back to us now in the shop,” says owner Ali Haider, 61, a father-of-two who has run the business with wife Kazema, a florist, for 21 years. “We hope people will continue to support us.

“We have regular customers, but we have seen a big difference between before lockdown and now.

“A lot of people are saying they are now supporting local businesses more because they realise how important they are - and that they worked hard to support people during the pandemic.”

The hope that people will choose to make a permanent habit of putting the businesses in their home areas first is shared by Phil Prentice, STP’s chief officer.

He says: “We need everyone to make a conscious decision to support the people around them – whether for shopping, services, a meal with friends or a day out. By choosing local every time, we will make a tremendous difference to the fabric and fortunes of our communities - and the country as a whole.”

The traders of Shawlands could not agree more.

Find out more about the Scotland Loves Local campaign at www.lovelocal.scot

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Count on great deals with new Scotland Loves Local gift card

SCOTS will soon have another reason to Choose Local with the rollout of the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card.

Businesses across the country are being urged to sign up to be part of the programme, funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP), working with Perth-based gift card specialists Miconex.

It will see the launch of local gift card schemes in each of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas, giving people another way in which they can show their support and spend with people in their home area.

Every type of business is able accept the card - from shops and services to cafes, restaurants, hotels, leisure venues and visitor attractions.

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STP chief officer Phil Prentice believes businesses will benefit by registering to accept payments through the Gift Card so consumers can spend with them.

He said: “It’s tremendous that the Scottish Government is making this possible. We have never seen a gift card programme on this scale before. These are a remarkably powerful way of unlocking spending potential - and keeping that money in local communities for longer. The more businesses that sign up, the better the local experience will be.”

Miconex Managing Director Colin Munro added: “The potential is huge. Research by The Gift Card and Voucher Association suggests that local gift card schemes have a huge multiplier effect, with up to an additional 65% of the card’s value being spent as people visit other shops, hospitality venues or leisure attractions.”

To find out more, go to www.lovelocal.scot/giftcard