Making Room for Business

Monday February 26th 2024

Edinburgh George Street

This View has been written by Garry Clark, Development Manager – East of Scotland, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)

Where do small businesses fit into the City of Edinburgh Council’s plans to transform the way we access the city centre? For those trying to find out, the array of interconnected strategies and initiatives can be mind-boggling: the City Mobility Plan, City Centre Transformation, the Low Emission Zone, and now Our Future Streets, the Streetspace Allocation Framework and the proposed Tram from Granton to BioQuarter and Beyond plan.

It seems that a great deal of effort has been expended over many years to measure data such as traffic flows, emissions, population growth and flooding, but what do these strategies tell us about the needs of smaller businesses? Where is the data about the various sectors that our city centre is home to? What goods and services do they provide? Who are their customers? Who are their suppliers? How do their staff get to work? The answers to these questions are vital to understanding the impact that the council’s various transportation strategies will have on our businesses and our economic future.

There are over 17,000 small businesses in Edinburgh, employing over 74,000 people and collectively turning over nearly £9 billion. These businesses matter to each and every one of us. They are where we buy our food, they are where our friends and family members work, they are the trades people we rely on, and they are where we go for financial and legal advice. If they matter to us, then they need to be central to the consideration of the council when it comes to how we access these businesses.

Every one of us recognises the imperative of the climate emergency. We need only look back at January’s storms and recent flooding events to understand how climate change is already impacting our day-to-day lives, and these events impact our business community too. We know that we all have a duty to act with urgency to mitigate our negative impact on our environment, and if we are to do that effectively then every part of our economy must be an integral part of our consideration.

Whilst the complex jigsaw of strategies and acronyms that comprise the council’s attempt to meet its ambition of a Net Zero city by 2030 may make sense to councillors and their officers who live and breathe this bureaucracy, local business owners just want to know that their needs have been fully considered. If they have, then business will play a crucial role in making Edinburgh and cleaner and greener city, but if these needs haven’t been assessed then there is a real risk of an unnecessarily painful transition for businesses, the council and the city.

The Federation of Small Businesses and our members stand ready to work with the council to play our part in securing a better future for Edinburgh and its communities. In order to achieve that, the council must act to assure businesses that it understands their needs. It cannot afford to hide behind a forest of strategies.

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