East Lothian Courier (01/04/2016) - A ground-breaking food and drink Business Improvement District (BID) proposal is on course to take a major step forward today (Thursday).
Ballot papers and a business plan are being issued to all eligible food and drink businesses across the county. A decision will be made by June 16 on whether to move forward.
If successful, the East Lothian Food and Drink BID, backed by the local authority, aims to promote the county’s food and drink, support local business and create a unified voice to market themselves and East Lothian as a quality provider of outstanding produce.
Louise Elder, chairwoman of the steering committee behind the group, encouraged people to get involved.
She said: “Voting YES will release the huge potential to grow and develop our food and drink sector both within and beyond the county.”
Should this lobbying association receive sufficient support in June, not all local food and drink producers will be required to sign up.
Food and drink businesses operating from non-domestic rated properties that are producing, processing, manufacturing or adding value to food and drink products in East Lothian will be eligible to vote and, if the BID is successful, will be asked, as a member, to pay a sliding scale levy of between £350 to £650, based on the number of full-time equivalent employees.
There are 37 eligible food and drink producers located in the East Lothian BID area.
All East Lothian food and drink businesses, however, will be able to pay a voluntary levy and receive the full membership benefits.
The levy income will remain in the county and be spent on the things food and drink businesses have identified as a priority to help their businesses grow.
The county offers some of the finest food in Scotland, from award-winning organic fruit and vegetables, to choice cuts of beef and game.
Home to one of Scotland’s finest malt whisky distilleries, East Lothian also produces first-class gin, beer and cider.
The county’s 40 miles of coastline provide a plentiful supply of freshly landed fish and seafood. Less traditional produce includes spices, oils, ice cream and chocolate.
Food and drink producers in East Lothian are now preparing to share their best-kept secrets with the rest of the world.
A group of local producers have been working on the ground-breaking scheme for some months, developing a detailed business plan outlining the projects to be delivered over the next five years, which has now received the approval of BID Scotland and the Scottish Government.
Up until now, BIDs in Scotland have applied mainly to urban high streets, encompassing a number of different businesses.
The East Lothian Food & Drink BID is pioneering a new type of BID involving a single sector with a wider geographical area and is challenging the current legislation to make it a viable proposition.
Jackie McCreery, from Yester Dairies, said: “I’m supporting the BID because East Lothian has an unrivalled reputation for its food and drink sector and this is a way of the sector itself continuing the good work the local authority has begun in promoting and helping food and drink businesses develop – hopefully at an affordable cost – the benefit of which will be shared by everyone involved.”