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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 29 November 2017

Agenda: Business Motion, Portfolio Question Time, Policing, General Practice, Non-domestic Rates (Arm’s-length External Organisations), Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, Small Business Saturday 2017


Contents


Small Business Saturday 2017

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-07806, in the name of Ash Denham, on small business Saturday 2017. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises that 2 December 2017 will mark the fifth Small Business Saturday, which is a grassroots, non-commercial campaign that aims to highlight small business success and to encourage consumers to “shop local”; understands that, in 2016, customers in Edinburgh and across the country spent £717 million with small businesses on the awareness day, which was a 15% increase on 2015; understands that over 80% of local authorities across the UK actively support the campaign in a variety of ways, from networking events to offering free parking, which means that, for everyone, Small Business Saturday will be happening nearby, and notes the calls on Members to share their support for the campaign on social media, visit small businesses in their area, with media engagement to help raise local consumer awareness, and for them to encourage small businesses to get involved and register on the website, smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com.

17:07  

Ash Denham (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)

I am very happy to lead this debate on small business Saturday. From the time I was a young girl, I saw first hand the hard work, pride and determination that go into running a small business. Between my parents and grandparents, I experienced what it takes to run a small kilt shop, a video shop, a horticulture business and what was probably my favourite as a girl—my grandparents’ sweet shop.

In my youth, all the effort that went into those enterprises was evident, and now that I am a member of the Scottish Parliament, my interaction with small businesses seems to have come full circle. I have had the pleasure of visiting and shopping at many small businesses across Edinburgh Eastern, where that same determined drive to work hard and that same sense of pride that I saw in my family’s businesses are unmistakable.

In fact, Edinburgh Eastern has seen what the Federation of Small Businesses has described as an “explosive growth” in small enterprises, with a 40 per cent increase since 2010. Small business Saturday is taking place this weekend, and it is an opportunity to celebrate that growth and to help sustain it, in Edinburgh and across Scotland, because our small businesses are fundamental to the Scottish economy. The day is supported by the FSB, and interested businesses can sign up at the small business Saturday website. People can visit the website to find out more about the range of businesses that are available in their area that are taking part in small business Saturday.

Small and medium-sized enterprises account for about 99 per cent of all Scotland’s businesses and 1.2 million Scots are employed by those firms. The livelihoods of countless people who reside here, and to an extent our nation’s economic productivity, very much depend on the vitality of our small business sector. That is why small business Saturday is not just a one-off day to allow people to visit a couple of local shops while shopping at large online retailers for the rest of the year; instead, it is an opportunity for Scots to acquaint themselves with local businesses in their area and to find that new favourite shop, cafe, restaurant, pub or other retailer. It is about allowing people to get to know and love local products, to tell their friends and family about them and then to keep going back for the rest of the year. That localised network of support keeps our local businesses thriving, and we need them to continue thriving. Most importantly, money that is spent at a local business is more likely to stay in the community, benefiting the people who live there as well as our public services.

Across Scotland, people are bound to find any number of unique businesses that cater to a wide variety of tastes and interests—there is literally something for everyone. However, it would be remiss of me not to highlight some of the fantastic work that is going on in my constituency. As I mentioned, Edinburgh Eastern has seen many businesses grow over the past seven years in places such as Portobello High Street and promenade and through a number of developments that are happening through the Craigmillar regeneration project. There is no short supply of businesses to experience, but I will mention just a couple that I have visited over the past few weeks.

One is Bellfield Brewery, which is just round the corner from the Scottish Parliament at Abbeyhill and which is the first dedicated gluten-free brewery in the United Kingdom. It was founded by two coeliac friends who thought that they would be able to produce great gluten-free beer, which they have gone on to do. It is a family-run brewery that has made it its mission to develop small-batch craft-brewed beer that is certified gluten-free and which tastes as good as the real stuff, if not better. I have tasted its Lawless Village IPA and Bohemian Pilsner, and I can say that the brewery has succeeded in its aim of developing great-tasting beer.

Bellfield has been in business for just shy of two years now, but it has already landed a number of awards for its beers. It was a finalist in the Aldi Scottish beer awards and its Lawless Village IPA was named UK country winner in the gluten-free category. In this month’s world beer awards, the Bohemian Pilsner received second place—it was the silver winner. Both beers also won top awards in London’s free-from food awards this year, so they are becoming very successful. The brewery has also just got a contract to sell both of the beers through the 75 Aldi stores across the country.

If people have any coeliac friends who are distraught about having to give up good craft beer for their health, they could always purchase some of Bellfield’s brews this small business Saturday and send them along to their friends, as they do not have to give it up. People can also order Bellfield beer to go with their meal at a couple of small businesses in my constituency: the Beach House cafe and the Skylark restaurant, which are both in Portobello.

In this digital age, when more and more things are done online especially shopping, small businesses do not have to be based on bricks and mortar. Indeed, Bellfield’s brews are also available for purchase online. Another business that I have visited recently is Urban Twist, which is a creative design company that is headed by Cameron Pitcairn and has its studio in Meadowbank, again not far from the Parliament. Urban Twist, which supplies its customers through its website, specialises in personalised gifts, wedding stationery and jewellery. A big seller this year that I saw and that I thought was very cute was personalised Christmas tree decorations in the shape of Christmas jumpers that people can hang on their tree. I also liked the large framed family trees to which people can add the names of their immediate family, which would obviously make a great gift. People who are looking for unusual personalised Christmas gifts could do worse than to look at the online catalogue, which is at urbantwist.co.uk.

Those are just two of the almost 1,600 registered small businesses in my constituency. Collectively, they provide vitality and livelihoods on that side of the city.

I offer my gratitude for the cross-party support in recognising small business Saturday. I appreciate the contributions of members who will take part in the debate, and I am encouraged that we can all come together to support small businesses throughout the country and to support small business Saturday. Last year, there was a 15 per cent increase in spending as a result of the campaign, and I hope that we can do even better this year. I encourage everybody to go into their communities and shop local to boost small business Saturday even further.

The Presiding Officer

There is a huge level of interest in the debate, so I encourage all members to keep their contributions to less than four minutes.

17:15  

Gillian Martin (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)

This is the first speech that I will deliver using an iPad, so I hope that all goes well, because I am a bit of a luddite.

I thank Ash Denham for introducing this members’ debate, in which it is good to see so many members taking part. Like my colleagues, I am keen to use this opportunity to namecheck and celebrate small businesses throughout my constituency, including in the towns of Turriff, Ellon, Inverurie, Oldmeldrum and Mintlaw. More small businesses are being set up in Aberdeenshire than ever before. The region has a proud history of its towns and villages and their small businesses being visited from afar. The number of enterprises with up to 49 employees is estimated to be 13,800, and they account for the employment of 49,500 people, while the number of enterprises with up to 249 staff is 240, and they employ 12,730 people.

I pay tribute to Phil Anderson Financial Services in Ellon, which was recently named employer of the year at the pride of Aberdeen awards. He is a living wage employer, and Phil and his staff also give back to the local community through sponsorship and charity work. I noticed in the local newspapers that he is taking his staff to the United States on an all-expenses-paid holiday to celebrate winning the award. Other bosses should look at what Phil is doing—maybe they would like to give their staff a nice Christmas present this year. The business started only six years ago and now also has offices in Aberdeen and Caithness. It is an example of how a small local business can expand and thrive.

Earlier this month, Kira Pirie won an award for her success in running the Chocolate Bar in Ellon. Kira was given support by the Federation of Small Businesses and the Prince’s Trust to run the premises. With dedication to her craft, she was named retail manager of the year at the Evening Express retailer awards. She is but one example of the many people who are so important to the local economies of Scotland’s towns.

My village of Newmachar is home to one of my favourite businesses in my constituency—Kilts Wi Hae—which I have mentioned previously in the chamber. It is run by Lindsay Ritchie, who has turned her sewing hobby into a full-time business. She is a global ambassador for that part of the country, as her products are sold world wide. In five years, she has built a thriving business that expects turnover of almost £1 million this year. That is an incredible achievement for someone who started out making kilts in her house.

I would also like to highlight the success earlier this year of the Inverurie Business Association, which comprises small businesses in that thriving market town. Following some incredibly hard work, its application for Inverurie to become a business improvement district was successful, with more than 80 per cent of local businesses voting to support the application and to maintain one of Scotland’s best retail town centres.

I would also like to mention Glam Beauty Therapy in Kingseat, which is a collaboration of small businesses. It is owned by Gillian Macleod. She has opened her doors to beauticians, hairdressers and therapists who all work out of the premises. They include my own fabulous hairdresser, Elaine Cornish, who will probably be screaming at the monitor if she is watching the debate.

We should give a huge cheer to microbusinesses, particularly those in the creative and craft industries that are filling our towns and villages with Christmas fairs. Many of them are led by women and, as convener of the cross-party group on women in enterprise, I have to mention them because there is a wealth of talent on display in artisan and craft fairs at the moment throughout Scotland.

If members want to buy Christmas presents that no one else duplicates to put under the tree, I urge them to go to Christmas fairs and to take advantage of the hugely talented people who keep craft fairs going. We should support all those people as we begin our Christmas shopping; more important is that we support them throughout the year.

17:20  

Alison Harris (Central Scotland) (Con)

First, I declare an interest as the owner of a small chartered accountancy firm.

I am delighted to take part in a debate on small business Saturday, which is an annual initiative that is in its fifth year and has steadily raised the profile of small business throughout Scotland.

Over the past five years, the number of small businesses has steadily risen, to more than 360,000. Although that number sounds good, the figure per 10,000 of the population is well below that in the rest of the UK, albeit that the sector plays a growing part in the Scottish economy.

Scottish Government figures show that, as at March, 1.2 million people were working for small and medium-sized businesses, thereby accounting for well over half of private sector employment. From sole traders to partnerships to small and medium-sized enterprises, that spirit of entrepreneurship is at the forefront of making a more dynamic Scotland, paying for public services, making us a more prosperous country and providing the jobs on which so many of our fellow Scots depend.

The Government also has a part to play in growing the small business sector: business must be nurtured and assisted by the Scottish Government. The builders of the businesses, the creators of jobs and the risk takers should not be threatened with having to pay more tax than their fellow entrepreneurs in other parts of the UK. Setting up and establishing a small business is rarely easy. As an accountant, and from personal experience, I know only too well how hard it can be. People who are not in business often do not appreciate the challenges that are involved. Men and women try to make their business a success at the expense of working long hours, often with no holidays for years on end, and limited access to benefits at times of sickness or maternity.

Many businesses struggle to get established. Sadly, for various reasons, some do not make it. Every person whom I know who has attempted to set up a business gave it a good go. Often with the odds and bureaucracy stacked against them, some have sunk every penny that they had into trying to make a success of their dream, to the extent of remortgaging their homes. Those who have succeeded are now running businesses that serve our local communities and are creating jobs and paying taxes.

It is great that small business Saturday puts a spotlight on the businesses that serve our communities throughout the year—shops and service providers that we too often take for granted. Small businesses, which are the lifeblood of town and village centres not only throughout Central Scotland, but throughout the rest of Scotland, offer the personal service that has been lost by many large businesses and superstores. In an age when more and more supermarket checkouts are machines telling the customer to “Please scan again”, and when many people in our society are not comfortable giving their credit card numbers to a computer screen, the personal contact that is offered by small businesses is a lifeline to many people.

The human touch and personal service go a long way. From the corner shopkeeper, who is a friend and confidante to many in the local community, to the hairdresser providing an at-home service to the elderly and the housebound, to the local butcher with his ever-helpful serving suggestions, small business has a vital social role to play, as well as an economic one.

I wish small business Saturday every success. Many of the novel initiatives from businesses the length of breadth of Scotland that I have read about on the internet are testimony to the creativity and imagination in the sector. I join others in the hope that this Saturday, and throughout the year, constituents will value their small businesses and heed the adage that is true for every business: use them or lose them. I urge people to support their local businesses.

17:24  

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

First, I thank Ash Denham for the opportunity to talk about small businesses. I was immediately jealous of her access to a sweetie shop. I was six years old before I could go to the sweetie shop without my ration card. [Laughter.] There are four of us in the Parliament for whom that would be true.

As other members do, I use small businesses. On my journey down here this week, I travelled from the station at Inverurie in Gillian Martin’s constituency and dropped in at the Coco Works cafe to have my lunch. I had a lovely toastie with salad and a latte: it was absolutely excellent. It is a tiny little business that serves a real local need—if only in terms of my digestion.

There are other wonderful examples in the north-east of Scotland. I have in my constituency a relatively small fish processing business that smokes salmon. There is nothing uncommon about that, but it buys old whisky barrels from the distilleries and uses the wood from them to smoke the salmon. It is actually possible to tell what brand of whisky the barrels contained on tasting the smoked salmon. That is an excellent initiative.

On Monday, I also visited Granny Bakes on Straight Path in Banff, which has opened only in the past few weeks, to buy éclairs for Gary who works for me in my office in Peterhead. The éclairs will be on his desk tomorrow for his birthday. Those are just some examples. Every one of us will have examples of wonderful entrepreneurship and innovation.

Of course, small business Saturday is not just a one-off: this is the fifth year of the initiative. It is the culmination of efforts by the FSB and others to promote small businesses around the UK. Another part of the programme is the small biz 100—a list of 100 small businesses, one of which is featured in each of the 100 days leading up to the main event. There are many examples of such businesses. My assistant has identified a haberdashery and fabric store in Fochabers in Richard Lochhead’s constituency that is participating.

As we have heard, running a small business is a challenge; it is not an easy thing to do, and it is not something that I have ever done or even contemplated. When I meet small businesspeople, I find that their experience is not such that I would be sucked in. However, small businesses are a vital part of the social and economic infrastructure of many of our communities in the north-east and across Scotland. They are vital cogs in supporting local commerce. The people who work in them are committed to customer service, because if they ain’t, it ain’t gonna work. In the modern world, where so much of our interaction with businesses is relatively abstract or online—there is no human involved—that commitment to customer service makes a real difference.

That said, small businesses, too, are going online. Granny Bakes might have been started only a few weeks ago, but it will go online in the new year. I wish it every success, just as I wish everyone who participates in small business Saturday every success.

17:27  

Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

I thank Ash Denham for again securing a debate on small business Saturday and for her excellent speech. The debate has provided an opportunity for every member to be very parochial and talk about their local shops, and I will be no different. Small business Saturday shows how important small businesses are to our economy, and I have no doubt that it will be a great success again this year.

Small and medium-sized enterprises account for 99 per cent of all of Scotland’s businesses. They provide 1.2 million jobs and make up 55 per cent of private sector employment. Therefore, they are important, not just to our local economies and our high streets but to the Scottish economy more widely. Last year’s campaign had a huge impact on small businesses. It certainly encouraged people to shop locally, as around £717 million was spent on small business Saturday alone—I was responsible for a small portion of that—representing, as Ash Denham said, a 15 per cent increase on the previous year. Let us make this year an even greater success.

One of the greatest challenges faced by small businesses in our communities is the fact that our shopping habits are changing. The majority of people shop online—we need only look at what happened on black Friday and cyber Monday to understand the truth of that. People also shop at retail parks outside the town centre. The consequences of those changing habits are clear to see on our high streets. If we care about our high streets—and we do—we need to make more of an effort to reverse that trend. We need to shop local, not just on small business Saturday but all year round, as other members have said.

I am grateful to have so many wonderful small businesses in my constituency. Here comes the advert.

Last year, I had the pleasure of visiting Callaghan, a butcher in Helensburgh; Lily’s florist in Alexandria; and Wilkie and Rider in Dumbarton, which is a local optician and jeweller. The year before, I went to Gowns and Crowns, a wedding shop, and Scruples cafe in Dumbarton East. This year, I am excited to visit Ardardan in Cardross. Ardardan is a local farm that has a farm shop and visitors cafe attached. I have to confess that I am a frequent visitor, and I recommend it to all members. It has the most amazing local produce and the cafe is a particular favourite with my staff. Ardardan is just one of the small businesses in my constituency; there are so many more. I am resisting the temptation to do as other members have done and name them all—and even give their website addresses. We would be here all day.

In West Dunbartonshire alone, there are more than 2,000 SMEs, employing more than 10,000 staff. I want every single one of them to do well, because the better they do, the more our local economy will flourish.

I am grateful that West Dunbartonshire Council is taking action to address the visible decline on the High Street in Dumbarton. A decision by the previous Labour administration means that the council headquarters are moving right into the heart of the town centre, bringing more than 600 staff on to our High Street. That footfall will make a difference. We have already seen businesses starting up on the back of that promise, and I hope that, when the offices open in the new year, many more businesses will be encouraged to locate on the High Street.

I pay tribute to the local chambers of commerce and to the many volunteers who sit on town centre forums to support small businesses on our high streets. I also pay tribute to the FSB, which provides vital support to small businesses across Scotland. It is a powerful campaigning voice for business owners throughout country and helps them to flourish, even in the most difficult times.

Let us encourage shoppers to shop local and put those businesses in the spotlight, this Saturday and every day.

17:32  

Clare Haughey (Rutherglen) (SNP)

I also thank Ash Denham for bringing the debate to the chamber.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of Scotland’s economy and the backbone of our communities across the country. All too often, multinational companies and superstores with well-established reputations are the default choice for many consumers, but small businesses are woven into the fabric of our society. They keep our high streets alive and they provide a variety of bespoke and artisan services with which large companies cannot compete. Scottish Government figures show that SMEs account for 55 per cent of private sector employment and 40 per cent of private sector turnover, providing much-needed local jobs and, in turn, economic growth in our communities.

Last year, my Rutherglen constituency was home to around 1,600 registered businesses, the vast majority of which were small businesses of all varieties. From mobile food outlets at funfairs and parks run by the Thomas family, to Evissa hair and beauty, and from the gift shops Sweet P and Pandora’s Box to Rysine Joinery Products, a huge variety of small businesses caters to the needs of locals and visitors, but also drives the local economy.

SMEs are local job creators, but the way in which they give back to the communities that they proudly serve can set them apart from some larger companies. One such business in my constituency is the Tea Bay, on Cambuslang’s Main Street. Not only does Angeline Coyle, the proprietor, run a first-class tea room but she is a pillar of the community. She does a great deal of work with Cambuslang community council and is one of the strongest voices advocating positive change in the town centre. Along with other local business owners, she has been pushing South Lanarkshire Council to tackle the problem of inadequate parking on Main Street, arguing that customers will frequently shop elsewhere because of the lack of parking spaces.

The Tea Bay was recently the subject of a review by the Sunday Post, which highlighted the tea room’s community spirit. The review’s author noted that, while they were in the tea room, Angeline gave a woman a free coffee. When the reviewer queried that with her, she advised that the woman was known to her from a local homeless centre and that she regularly provides residents with a free hot drink and food should they need it. Regulars and new customers are treated as friends, which is especially welcomed by those who live on their own or who have little social company.

Along with other small business owners in Cambuslang, Angeline has worked closely with Cambuslang in bloom, which has done an incredible job in revamping the appearance of Main Street by adding colour with an assortment of flowers, plants and trees. Urban Alfresco, which is another Cambuslang small business, provided many of the plants and much of the equipment for the project.

I visited the Tea Bay last week and had a chat with Angeline. She said that, in addition to running the cafe, she devotes probably around two full working days a week to serving the community. Many large businesses undertake local work, but personal touches from our small businesses, such as the Tea Bay, keep our communities alive and thriving.

A little under 4 miles away from the Tea Bay, my constituent Brian Calderwood runs a small deli called Stacks in Blantyre. Just like Angeline, Brian is a true community champion. On the morning of new year’s day, when many larger stores open late or not at all, Stacks will open and Brian will provide a free breakfast for the homeless and people in need. He would never let anyone go hungry, and he is always conscious of helping locals if they need a helping hand. Stacks is close to local schools, so he has a great rapport with pupils who visit regularly. He keeps an eye out for the kids and watches to see if they have enough money for lunch. If they do not, he will help them out discreetly so that no one else notices.

Angeline and Brian do not openly broadcast their good deeds or look for any recognition. Their help is given without fanfare or announcement, but their communities are well aware of the great work that they do. On behalf of those communities, I thank them. I also thank the many other small businesses that, by giving their time and through their generosity and kindness, make the lives of their fellow citizens a little bit easier.

Our small businesses support local people and local projects, and our communities would be worse off without them. Small business Saturday may be only one day in the calendar year, but it should act as a reminder to shop small and locally all year round.

17:36  

Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green)

I am delighted to have the opportunity to debate small business Saturday, and I thank Ash Denham for securing the time to do so.

This weekend will be one of the busiest of the year. Small businesses across the country hope that it will translate into a strong few weeks of sales in the run-up to Christmas. Small business Saturday, which is now in its fifth year, is an excellent initiative to highlight the importance of supporting our local shops, family businesses, small manufacturers and all kinds of other small, independent businesses, not just during this crucial period but all year round, as we have heard.

As Alison Harris said, small business is about much more than business. The chance to have a chat in a small business might be some people’s only opportunity for a chat in the day. Small businesses have know-how about the products. Folk in them get what they are selling and have real expertise. It is important that we get out there and do what we can to support them this Saturday.

To ensure that our small businesses flourish and our high streets benefit from increased footfall and trade, our towns and cities need to be designed in a way that creates really healthy and vibrant high streets that allow pedestrians, cyclists, people on public transport and people with mobility issues to move around freely and safely. It is really important that the Parliament, the Government and local authorities continue to work together with our communities to maximise access to high streets, ensure that people have the bus and rail services that they need, and invest properly in active travel to boost the numbers of people who walk and cycle around our high streets, because business is boosted when that happens—it gets rid of air pollution, too. As members know, my colleague Mark Ruskell is progressing his proposed member’s bill for a 20mph limit. Its provisions would have a really positive impact on the atmosphere and environment in our local high streets.

Members have done a very good job in selling local businesses in their areas. It is fair to say that there are many fantastic small businesses in Edinburgh and across Lothian that are vital to our local economy. Big retailers have no incentive to prevent their profits from leaking out of the local economy. We need to do everything that we can to provide small, independent businesses with a level playing field. Money that is spent in a local business will benefit local people and services, not distant shareholders. Let us therefore work to see public bodies using more of their procurement budgets to benefit local firms, and let us have more support for small and microbusinesses, which Gillian Martin mentioned. Let us ensure that we are doing everything that we can so that everyone has access to a good broadband speed and that we reach across Scotland to keep small businesses connected and reaching more customers.

The small business Saturday campaign conducted a United Kingdom bus tour again this year. In October, that tour stopped in Edinburgh and gave people the chance to learn more about the initiative. This year, the small business Saturday mentoring programme was launched on the bus, offering free business mentoring to small businesses at each stop. That programme was launched after feedback from small businesses, and it will continue into next year to encourage communities to develop their own mentoring programmes and to allow experienced small businesses to share with others the knowledge that they have gathered. That kind of information and knowledge sharing is important. It gives me great hope that our local high streets want to work together in such a positive way.

Let me name a few businesses. I will be heading to my local high streets this Saturday. I hope to drop into Colinton Arts, where local art is at the heart of the business, the stunning Dandelion and Ginger, which is in Tollcross—I urge members to go there; the shop turns small business Saturday into quite an event—and the Edinburgh Bookshop in Bruntsfield, which has won too many awards to name in the time that I have remaining.

I will continue to do all that I can to encourage local businesses in Lothian to register with and take part in the campaign. Let us all shop local this Saturday and every Saturday and do all that we can to publicise efforts to make small business Saturday an important fixture in our calendars.

17:40  

Graeme Dey (Angus South) (SNP)

I congratulate Ash Denham on securing the debate, which provides an excellent opportunity for me to follow members in highlighting the importance of small businesses across Scotland—in particular, in Angus, where about 4,000 SMEs provide employment for in the region of 20,000 people.

This year’s small business Saturday will take me to the Sacred Grounds Coffee Company in Arbroath, Angus’s only coffee roastery, which sources premium beans from ethical and sustainable sources and roasts them to the highest standard. The company started operating in December 2015 and is building a reputation for quality, excellence and attention to detail. I look forward to meeting Kathryn Baker and her team, although I am working out how to break the news that I am not a coffee drinker without upsetting them.

Like so many SMEs the length and breadth of Angus, the Sacred Grounds Coffee Company has received vital support from the economic development department of Angus Council. In my experience, it is quite rare these days—rightly or wrongly—to hear council departments being proactively and universally praised. That department receives such praise, which reflects well on Alison Smith and her team.

Let me refer to another SME success story from my Angus South constituency, which is outwith the highly successful food and drink sector. Before I do, I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests, as I am a season ticket holder at Carnoustie Golf Links. That is relevant, because I want to highlight the work of Blair Precision Engineering. The company started manufacturing Steelmaster tines in 1987, after Carnoustie Golf Links approached it looking for custom shapes and sizes of tine to fit its aeration machines. The firm’s tines are now used by greenkeepers and groundsmen all over Europe, on everything from championship golf courses to pitch and putts, premiership football grounds and country parks. Blair Precision Engineering is headed up by managing director Alan Jeans, and until recently its focus was on the domestic market. Now, the company is looking to export its products. It is looking to the southern hemisphere, in particular, because that will help to address the seasonality of its ordering books.

The support that is being provided to small businesses in Angus, which is necessary, is not confined to the support that is on offer from the council’s economic development team. I was extremely pleased to see the latest figures on the backing that the Scottish Government provides for local businesses under the small business bonus scheme. Those figures show that the number of businesses in Angus that benefited from rates relief rose from 2,475 in 2016-17 to 2,536 in 2017-18—that compares with 1,854 in 2008-09. All told, the scheme delivered £4.9 million in relief in 2017, which was up from £4.1 million in the previous year and £1.8 million in 2008-09.

Although some small businesses that have benefited from the scheme for many years take it for granted, there is no doubt about the scheme’s value and the extent to which it remains appreciated by the majority of beneficiaries. One small business owner described it as making

“the difference between surviving those early years when we were establishing ourselves and failing.”

In the light of how much the small business bonus scheme means to my constituency, I must say in passing that I was amazed to learn that Richard Leonard’s manifesto for the Labour leadership questioned its continuation. I hope that, just as he has come to realise that Scottish Water is already publicly owned, he will come to realise how deeply damaging the removal of the SBBS would be to local economies, not to mention our small town high streets such as those we have in Angus.

As members have said, although small business Saturday provides a focal point for highlighting the importance of small businesses, there is a more lasting message to take away from it as we approach Christmas: small businesses are there and deserve our support 365 days a year, not just on small business Saturday.

The Presiding Officer

Due to the high level of interest in the debate, I am minded to accept a motion without notice under rule 8.14.3 to extend the debate by up to 30 minutes.

Motion moved,

That, under Rule 8.14.3, the debate be extended by up to 30 minutes.—[Ash Denham]

Motion agreed to.

17:45  

Liam Kerr (North East Scotland) (Con)

I am delighted to speak in the debate, and I thank Ash Denham for lodging the motion. I was not meant to be speaking, but I kicked my colleague off because, like Stewart Stevenson, Gillian Martin and Graeme Dey, I am keen to talk up the north-east and the contribution of local enterprises.

I declare an interest, as I run a small business that provides employment law advice and solutions to Aberdeen and beyond under the Law Agency banner, just like Lili Norris of Lili Hunter Consulting and Linda Beedie of First Employment Law in Aberdeen, who do an equally good—and possibly better—job.

According to the FSB, as of 2017 in Angus, Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire, there are 26,190 small businesses that employ fewer than 50 employees and around 800 businesses that employ between 50 and 249 employees. We need to look after them as—again according to the FSB—40 per cent of Scotland’s private sector turnover can be attributed to SMEs, which provide four out of five private sector jobs in areas such as rural Angus and Aberdeenshire. Many of those businesses have already visited smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com to sign up their businesses—free and without obligation—to promote themselves for this Saturday’s big event.

So, how will I spend this Saturday? In the same way as members can if they visit the area. I will start in Montrose, where I shall take breakfast at Rosie’s Pavilion Cafe in Melville Gardens. From there, it is a short walk to The Flower Pavilion to pick up a bouquet to congratulate my wife on securing another sale of one of the hats that she makes and sells from her Miss Muirhead millinery Facebook page. I will then go over to Rust, a concept homeware store in the Old Ropeworks that is an extraordinary centre for homeware, upcycled furniture, gifts and interior design—but as art. If members do not know what I mean, they should come up and check it out for themselves.

From there, I will pick up the ScotRail to Stonehaven. That is not a small business, of course, but it is vital for the north-east and it does a good job. The new high-speed trains that are coming in look great, and if Alex Hynes wants to email me and tell me that we are getting the full 20 cycle spaces that we were promised, I promise that I will say even more nice things about ScotRail in the next relevant debate.

So to Stonehaven, where I will go straight to Nikki’s cafe on Market Square for a great lunch. I had better sort out my evening—a quick dive round to the Cool Gourmet bakery and Charles McHardy butcher should do the trick. I will need a few drinks for Saturday evening, so I will go up to see my old friend Murray at Dunnottar Wine and Spirits. It is fair to say that his politics are about as far from mine as it is possible to get.

Jackie Baillie

Yay!

Liam Kerr

That is cruel.

Murray’s inability to see sense is more than compensated for by his encyclopaedic knowledge of wine and ales.

I will then stop off at Aly Bali to do some early Christmas shopping. The company, which employs 18 people—mostly locals—offers customers a unique array of contemporary and designer jewellery. I have just realised that I have just told my wife what Christmas present she is getting this year.

Finally, it is back to Aberdeen to pick up my car from AW Autotech next to Pittodrie, where Alan Wallace will remind me that I agreed to host the blast from the past vintage car festival for him at Thainstone on 21 July next year. Members can find the festival on Facebook, where they can enter their car or book tickets. I look forward to seeing Gillian Martin there.

I will then have a quick jaunt to Gordon Bell Pianos, to thank Gordon for the excellent Yamaha U3 that he sold me in August and compliment him on the perfect set-up that he delivered.

All of that is why I am delighted to support small business Saturday this weekend. I wish all small businesses a very successful day and urge every member of the Parliament—and everyone outside it who can—to go to smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com and to support their local small businesses not just this Saturday but the whole year round.

17:49  

David Torrance (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)

I, too, thank Ash Denham for lodging the motion and allowing us to celebrate the fifth small business Saturday.

We hear a lot in this chamber about big businesses and industries, but small businesses are the engine of the Scottish economy. Four in five private sector jobs in rural areas of Scotland are provided by small and medium-sized businesses. They account for 99 per cent of all businesses in Scotland, with microbusinesses alone accounting for 500,000 jobs. That number is increasing post-devolution, with over 100,000 more businesses now than in 2000. Those figures highlight the crucial importance of smaller businesses in our economy and society.

Following the economic downturn that the world has faced in the past 10 years, small businesses in Scotland have proven themselves relatively resilient by creating jobs and looking for new markets to expand into while taking on additional employees.

Although the economic potential of smaller businesses is often the topic of discussion, I would like to highlight the importance of small businesses in supporting an inclusive and diverse workforce. The role of smaller businesses in helping to achieve more inclusive employment is often overlooked. Smaller businesses are more likely to facilitate pathways to employment for marginalised groups by creating jobs in disadvantaged communities, where around 50 per cent of them have hired people who were unemployed. In addition, over half of all small businesses in Scotland pay their employees above the living wage. Over 40 per cent of people who work in the private sector work for small businesses, which play a substantial role in creating a more inclusive economy and diversify it to include both rural and urban areas. In addition, the informal and flexible working environment of smaller businesses leads to higher job satisfaction. In fact, employees in smaller businesses are the most satisfied group of workers in the labour market.

The Scottish Government’s small business bonus scheme has helped a variety of small businesses to thrive in local high streets by removing many of them from business rates and allowing them to flourish. Local councils can also provide additional relief, and in certain parts of the country that has proved successful at regenerating small local high streets, keeping them in place and supporting them through economic hardships. It is important that we continue to support our local businesses, as over 60 per cent of the money that is spent in local independent businesses stays in the local economy.

I would like specifically to highlight Kirkcaldy4All, the business improvement district that has been helping to support and develop Kirkcaldy town centre since its establishment in 2010. The effects of the economic recession and customers’ changing retail habits have undoubtedly impacted on Kirkcaldy town centre, as they have on many other high streets, and the current economic times are challenging and extremely competitive. It is, therefore, vital that town centres and small businesses do not lose out. Kirkcaldy4All gives businesses a voice and provides invaluable guidance and support. It facilitates businesses such as restaurants, shops, cafes, and health and wellbeing centres, as well as specialised services, working together to identify collective opportunities for investment for their own benefit and for the benefit of the wider area. It has succeeded in creating a well-promoted, lively, diverse and dynamic environment that I am proud to represent.

As a founder member of Growing Kirkcaldy, it has also played a major role in the town’s continuing success at both the beautiful Fife awards and the beautiful Scotland awards, as it enhances Kirkcaldy and encourages visitors to the town. Since its inception, Kirkcaldy4All has been instrumental in securing and organising many large-scale events including the Halfords tour series, Fife’s first pride festival and the UK’s only beach Highland games, all of which have attracted amazing numbers of visitors to the town, increasing business footfall and boosting sales.

Small businesses play an increasingly vital role in high streets and town centres. In many cases, large retailers have abandoned the high streets for retail parks on the outskirts of towns, but that creates opportunities by opening up spaces for small, local businesses. That is why it is crucial to support small businesses—not only on small business Saturday, but throughout the year—and to encourage people to visit our high streets and town centres to support the local economy.

17:53  

Daniel Johnson (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)

I, too, thank Ash Denham for lodging the motion. As a former independent retailer, I feel that this debate is somewhat made for me. The only issue is that my declaration of interest is something of a large hurdle for me to overcome, as I am a director of a business with interests in independent retailers in the city centre of Edinburgh. I would like to remind members that if for any reason I lead people to think that there are no other options for creative, independent card shops in Edinburgh, that is entirely a misunderstanding. There is a wide range of businesses to which members can take their custom.

This debate is a fantastic opportunity, because independent business is really important and it is really important to my constituency. As a member of the FSB, I thank it for the briefing that it provided to all members. Throughout today the FSB has been both briefing and tweeting, and in its tweets I notice that it asked two questions. First, what is the best high street for independent retail in Scotland? I assume that that is a rhetorical question, because it is obvious that the answer is Morningside Road and Bruntsfield Place—I think that there is no better example of two flourishing high streets full of independent retailers. The second question asked members to single out particular businesses, but because those high streets are so full of fantastic, creative, independent retail businesses, it would be unfair of me to single out just one. However, I encourage all members, if they have some time in this city, to visit those high streets, as they are fantastic venues for shopping.

Although one in 10 retail units in Scotland lies unlet, units on Morningside Road do not lie empty for any longer than a matter of weeks. It was a surprise to me when I noted from the FSB figures that Edinburgh as a whole has almost 18,000 small businesses, employing 70,000 people, which is higher than any other local authority area in Scotland, including Glasgow. That is quite a testament to the success of the thriving economy of small and independent businesses in Edinburgh.

These are challenging times for retail. The past decade has been particularly difficult for many retail businesses around the country, which is why it is so important that, on small business Saturday, we recognise and celebrate the success of small businesses, and encourage people to shop.

Independent retail provides a much better shopping experience and, as a former small business owner and retailer, I feel that small businesses are businesses with personality. They have a point of view, and a sense of creativity and fun. At this time of year, when we seek to buy presents for our loved ones, people want to buy their gifts in businesses like that, which have a bit of personality. After all, it is the thought that counts. We should not do the unthinking thing and shop in a bland multinational chain retailer; we should use our local high streets and our independent retailers, because that makes for a much more thoughtful present.

I want to make two small political points. First, retail needs to be looked after. In the evidence that the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee received recently, it was striking to hear that the enterprise agencies are not particularly supporting retail and that retail is a very small proportion of what they do. We need a much greater emphasis on supporting those businesses, because they employ so many people. If we want an increase in productivity, that needs to be achieved through businesses such as retail and certainly through SME businesses as a whole.

We must also think about retail workers. As members might be aware, I am introducing a bill to protect retail workers. This time of year is challenging and many retailers will face assault and verbal abuse, which we should not tolerate. If members think that that is important, I urge them to support my forthcoming bill.

17:57  

Stuart McMillan (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)

I congratulate Ash Denham on securing this important members’ business debate on small business Saturday, in which I am delighted to take part. I thank the team at the FSB for the information that it has provided.

Small business Saturday has one simple aim: to celebrate and support small businesses and what they do for their communities. As the motion states, small business Saturday started in 2010 in the US and it is now in its fifth year in the UK. Its contribution to the economy has been massively helpful, with 80 per cent of local authorities around the UK actively supporting the campaign last year.

In 2016, £717 million was spent on small business Saturday in the UK, which was up 15 per cent from 2015, and tens of millions of pounds were spent in independent businesses here in Scotland. Small business Saturday has had a positive effect on the economy of Inverclyde in my constituency and on other parts of the country, and we have heard from members about how important it is in their communities. As the member for Greenock and Inverclyde, I whole-heartedly welcome the contribution that small business Saturday makes.

As small and medium-sized companies account for 99 per cent of all Scotland’s businesses, small business Saturday reaches millions of customers each year. Those firms provide 1.2 million jobs, which is 55 per cent of private sector employment, and data shows that there were 365,000 private sector businesses operating in Scotland during 2017, which was up 3 per cent from 2016.

In Inverclyde alone, there are 1,710 local small and medium-sized businesses operating and providing employment to approximately 9,610 people, whether it is in Jumbo Card Centre in Port Glasgow, the Cottage coffee shop in Greenock—it makes a fabulous Mac burger, and I encourage anyone who goes to Greenock to pop into the Cottage—or McCaskie Butcher, which is an award-winning butcher in Wemyss Bay.

After heading back up the road into the Inverkip area, where there are plenty of small businesses dealing with the marine tourism sector, the visitor can finish off on Kempock Street and Shore Street in Gourock. The vast majority of shops in Kempock Street and Shore Street are small, independent traders and there has been a huge amount of investment there in recent years to help to regenerate the town. I can assure Daniel Johnson that Kempock Street could give Morningside Road a huge run for its money when it comes to being the best street in the country for shopping.

Small business Saturday highlights the benefits of going to our towns and villages, as well as our cities, instead of shopping online. As a member who has an Amazon warehouse in his constituency, I genuinely appreciate how important Amazon can be, but I also absolutely and whole-heartedly support our town centres and villages and I encourage people to get out of their houses and actually go and shop in the shops. If they do not, we will lose even more valuable jobs in our high streets.

I am committed to the small business sector in Inverclyde and in Scotland. Alison Johnstone touched on the issue of small businesses and Graeme Dey spoke about the small business bonus. In Inverclyde in 2008, we had 604 businesses benefiting from the small business bonus scheme. That has now increased to 1,063 businesses, contributing an extra £2.6 million to the economy.

I support the small business sector in Greenock and Inverclyde and I would like to encourage everyone to come to Greenock and Inverclyde to do some of their Christmas shopping. They will have a very warm welcome, and they should bring their friends because they will have a day to remember.

18:01  

The Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy (Paul Wheelhouse)

I add my thanks to Ash Denham for bringing this important debate on small business Saturday to the chamber. I also thank the members of all parties who have taken part. As they have demonstrated, small business Saturday is vital because it shines a light on the needs of the small business community. We do this once a year in this format but, as a number of members have said, this is a debate that applies 365 days of the year, and during the run-up to Christmas it is important for all of us that businesses are supported throughout the year.

Small business Saturday gives us a great glimpse of the fantastic range of small businesses across Scotland. We got a good taste of that today in members’ speeches. I have to thank Stewart Stevenson and Stuart McMillan in particular for making me feel extremely hungry with examples that they gave. Sadly, I cannot travel to Banff and Buchan today to get produce from there, but maybe I could order online from Granny Bakes, which sounds promising. Those examples help to demonstrate the variety of local businesses and the vital contribution that they make to our economy. It also reminds us of the importance of supporting small businesses, which are the lifeblood of our economy, with our spending power as consumers, as Ash Denham said.

The Scottish Government welcomes small business Saturday. The campaign encourages people to support their local businesses, which are vital to their communities. It is a great example of partnership working across the public and private sectors within communities, and I warmly welcome the commitment of the Federation of Small Businesses and our local authority partners, including the business gateway, to the campaign. Graeme Dey mentioned the business gateway’s services in Angus: I commend the work that he identified there, as I commend all partners in the campaign, including my ministerial colleagues, for promoting small business Saturday this week.

The campaign helps to raise the profile of small businesses, but we hope that it also helps to raise their income. I join Jackie Baillie in confessing that I contributed to beer consumption through small business Saturday last year at the Tempest Brewing Co in the Borders.

Small business Saturday is now in its fifth year, as Alison Johnstone and Stewart Stevenson mentioned, and it continues to grow in impact, with 2016 seeing a 15 per cent increase in sales on the previous year.

The people who are involved in the campaign work tirelessly throughout the year to ensure its success. In some respects, that reflects the tirelessness of people who work in small businesses. As Ash Denham identified, small business owners take great pride in their businesses and work extremely hard. As Alison Harris said, great sacrifices are made by people who run small businesses, and we have to recognise that. In the run-up to the day, small business Saturday highlights a range of small businesses in its small biz 100. Nine Scottish businesses featured this year, from Kelso, Dumfries, Barrhead, Anstruther, Fochabers, Aboyne, Motherwell, South Lanarkshire and Dunbar. Those businesses operated in sectors as diverse as food and drink and the creative industries, and I congratulate them all for making the list.

Ivan McKee (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)

Is the minister aware of which constituency, according to a recent FSB report, saw a 43 per cent increase in the number of local businesses—the second highest in the whole of Scotland?

Paul Wheelhouse

I am going to hazard a guess that it is Glasgow Provan. Perhaps Mr McKee will confirm that.

Ivan McKee

Yes, indeed.

Paul Wheelhouse

I congratulate all in Glasgow Provan on that.

Like other members, I plan to be out on small business Saturday visiting small businesses in my region. At Tartan Plus Tweed, in Galashiels, I hope to top up my kilt accessories. I will also be going to Rebz Ltd motorcycles in Tweedbank, although if my mum is watching this, I confirm that I am not planning to ride a motorbike. She is always telling me not to do that, but you never know—I might get a shot.

I know that the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work plans to visit the Newfangled Glass Company Ltd in Alloa on Friday, and that the Minister for Employability and Training will be out and about visiting Castle Comics and Sparkling Flowers & Events Ltd in Cumbernauld. Other ministers will also be taking part.

I hope that this year builds on the success of previous years in raising the profile of small businesses the length and breadth of Scotland. The debate has made it clear what a vital part of our economy small businesses are.

There are more than 365,000 small businesses operating in Scotland, which is an increase of more than 11,000 since March last year. Small and medium-sized firms account for 99.4 per cent of all Scotland’s enterprise, and provide 1.2 million jobs in their local communities.

As other members have said, it is important to emphasise the lower leakage from local businesses. They tend to recycle services and to use local electricians, plumbers and other services for their premises. Those jobs contribute to inclusive growth and to prosperity.

Although we celebrate their success, we know that it is not always plain sailing to run a small business. As Alison Harris rightly said, some businesses do not succeed, sadly, and we need to support those who go through that process. Those people often come back stronger and found new businesses, going on to succeed the second time around.

The Government is committed to helping such businesses to grow. We want to ensure that we nurture them and that Scotland is the best place to do business. Our future economic success lies in the strength of our SME community.

We offer a range of support to small businesses through the business gateway and other enterprise agencies, and we offer support to small businesses and microbusinesses, helping them to start up, survive and grow. Last year, almost 700,000 people visited the business gateway website—an increase of 13 per cent on the previous year. I hope that that is a sign of increased interest in starting businesses. Almost 2.6 million pages of business advice were accessed and business gateway helped almost 11,000 new businesses to start up. I therefore thank all those who work the length and breadth of the country to provide those vital services.

It is crucial that viable SMEs can access a range of finance to start and grow their businesses. Despite current levels of business support, more is needed, so we are investing in our future through the Scottish growth scheme, targeting over three years high-growth, innovative and export-focused SMEs. Graeme Dey gave a good example of a precision engineering company that is widening its net and is not just servicing Carnoustie golf course, but is now looking to export. We want to support companies in that.

I could spend time talking about business rates, but they have been covered. Suffice it to say that we continue to look at how we can continue to keep the business rates environment as competitive as possible. We had a debate today about one specific aspect of that.

Before closing, I want to touch on the wider work that is being undertaken to promote entrepreneurship. Our prosperity depends on new ideas and successful new businesses being created here in Scotland, so it stands to reason that entrepreneurs will be fundamental to generating jobs and future economic growth. During the past four years, we have worked with partners across the public, private and third sectors to develop and further the “Scotland can do” approach, which sets out our shared ambition for Scotland to be a world leader in enterprise and innovation and aims to ensure that people in every part of Scotland have the confidence and courage, and the support that is needed, to become entrepreneurs. If today’s debate shows anything, it shows that there is a huge amount of political support across the parties for small businesses and those who lead them.

I welcome the opportunity to recognise the small business Saturday campaign today, and to celebrate the success of small businesses across Scotland. I am sure that this year will build on the success of previous years, recognising the vibrancy and vitality of our small business community. As almost all members have said, and as I am sure we all agree, everyone should shop local this Saturday and support their local businesses throughout the year.

Meeting closed at 18:09.