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Friday, 28 January 2011

Idea 4: "Large Retail Levy needs reviewed, re-boxed and rebranded

Large Retail Levy needs reviewed, re-boxed and rebranded

From the Town Centre Regeneration Fund to the growing debate on the large retail levy, town centres have never had a higher political profile. This, for an issue that rarely features in most political parties manifesto’s in Scotland, is an achievement.

Indeed, it is now commonly accepted by all parties that town centres play an important role in securing Scotland’s economic recovery and also in providing creative spaces for the social interaction that makes for a vibrant community.

Yet this debate – triggered by the proposed Large Retail Levy – has become hugely politicised and divisive. This is a mistake. This is not a “them & us” debate between town centres or our out of town retail. We need to ensure that a rational and mature debate begins to ensure the issue doesn’t become a party political football in the budget process or the Scottish Parliamentary elections.

Any new initiative should be viewed as part of a coherent package that includes consideration of other policy ideas, such as out of town car parking charges, transitional rates relief for smaller sized traders, a review of existing planning policy and the sequential test and the small business bonus scheme. If seen in this context, and reshaped to avoid targeting a particular part of one identified sector, the 'big retail levy' could conceivably make a contribution.

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Note: this information was based on a recent press release from the Scottish Towns Partnership (STP), an alliance of key representative bodies and experts. It was borne out of the *Centre for Scottish Public Policy's Scottish Towns Policy Group in 2009.

Ahead of the Scottish elections, the STP released a policy group paper on Scotland's Towns and Town Centres: Creating Confidence - Changing Futures, lead-authored by Professor Leigh Sparks with support and input from all members of the Group. A copy of the paper can be found here.

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