Proposal Launched for East Lothian Food & Drink BID: A UK First

East Lothian Council (24/7/15) - Business owners in East Lothian are being invited to create a unique food and drink based Business Improvement District (BID), which would be the first of its kind in the UK.

Making the announcement at the Chocolate Tree shop in Haddington on Thursday 23 July were proprietor Alastair Gower; Robert Knops of Knops Beer; Peter Stuart of Thistly Cross Cider, Louise Elder of Black and Gold rapeseed oil along with Councillor John McMillan, Cabinet Spokesperson for Economic Development and Tourism at East Lothian Council and Ian Davison Porter, Director of the national body for BIDs, Business Improvement Districts Scotland.

Councillor McMillan said:

”This is really exciting news for East Lothian. Our Economic Development Strategy aims to build the strongest local economy in Scotland and projects like this all add up to bring us even closer to that goal. The speciality food and drink sector based here in East Lothian has actually thrived despite tough economic times. We have many wonderful businesses in this sector so it’s a great thing to be able to support and help them grow and encourage new start-ups. I very much look forward to seeing this develop and the business ideas that emerge.“

East Lothian has a thriving food and drink sector with almost 120 businesses and organisations located in the area. East Lothian Council’s ‘East Lothian Food & Drink’ initiative and brand which was launched in 2000, provides support to the sector through a programme of events, promotion and the fiercely contested annual awards, which are in their 10th year.

A BID is based on businesses with a shared interest and a common ambition coming together to generate funds and decide how it should be spent locally. It acts as a local voice and works with, rather than as a substitute for local government services, Scotland Food & Drink, Scottish Enterprise, and Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society.

For the East Lothian Food and Drink BID, a steering group of local sector-based business people will now be established and charged with the task of devising a five-year business plan tailored to their specific needs. The BID framework has been used elsewhere to enhance town centres, tourism and business parks with successful examples bringing a range of improvements such as better promotion and marketing, community events, projects and loyalty schemes, all of which can drive sales and attract more investment.

The development of this innovative Food and Drink BID was welcomed by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment, Richard Lochhead, who said:

“The East Lothian Food and Drink BID is ground-breaking - not only a first for Scotland but for the UK, and possibly the world. I am very much impressed with East Lothian businesses, the local authority and key partners, as they work together to maximise opportunities for further promotion, growth and support of East Lothian’s food and drink sector. The Scottish Government recognises the important role of BIDs Scotland in working with our businesses and communities to help create a more productive, cohesive and fairer Scotland. Scotland’s food and drink sector is growing at an exponential rate. The BID model will further aid the growth and profile of this sector. I encourage other areas in Scotland to follow East Lothian’s lead and consider how they too can benefit from a Food and Drink BID.”

The national organisation Scotland Food & Drink Scotland has ambitious growth plans across the whole of Scotland to grow the national value of the sector to £16.5bn by 2017. Ian Davison Porter is Director of the national body for BIDs, Business Improvement Districts Scotland. He added:

"The development of a Food and Drink BID in East Lothian is another first for Scotland, as Scotland leads the way in the innovative development of the BIDs model. The collective working of the businesses involved in the Food and Drink BID will help drive local and international trade, in one of the key sectors of the Scottish economy, and create an opportunity to reduce business costs. This Food and Drink BID is a clear demonstration of the flexibility of the Scottish model, developed from the outset to be used in innovative and creative ways."

The BID, run independently from the local authority, is open to all businesses and organisations based in East Lothian, from within the food and drink sector with a rateable value. All of which will be encouraged to get involved over the coming months. The process of consultation to develop the business plan will begin this month and all businesses will be contacted to gather their views on how the BID could help them face local issues and create improvements to the local economy as well as individual businesses.

Further discussions with all the sector-based businesses will progress over the coming months and if all goes well the BID is expected to be fully established in around 12 to 14 months’ time.

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