TWO Scottish high streets have been entered into a UK-wide awards two weeks before the deadline.

Dunbar in East Lothian and Turriff high street in Aberdeenshire are the only entries from Scotland in the 2018 Great British High Street Awards.

Dunbar high street, which has entered the “Rising Star” category, has undergone significant regeneration in recent years, with many local groups working together to improve the aesthetics of the area and its economy. The programme of improvements includes volunteer-led high street paintworks, the creation of a sensory garden, regular live music and arts events and the launch of the annual European Stone Stacking Championships in 2017, which have already reached an international audience and put Dunbar on the map.

Turriff High Street, which has entered the “Champion” category, boasts a vibrant local economy and a street full of thriving shops and businesses. Its Turra Coo statue is synonymous with the town’s heritage and has become a meeting place and event space for the community. Initiatives to improve and maintain the high street include planting hanging baskets, enhancing the shopping experience for visitors, providing better disability access and hosting annual events such as the Christmas light switch-on.

The bids by Dunbar Trades Association and Turriff Business Association follow recent research commissioned by Visa, sponsor of the 2018 Great British High Street Awards, which revealed promising signs of renewed confidence in the country’s high streets despite a challenging retail environment.

Visa found in Scotland, more than a third (39%) of retailers are “optimistic” or “very optimistic” about the future of their local high street.

But the view from Scottish shoppers is less positive, with more than three quarters (76%) describing their high street as “staying the same” or “getting worse” and 21.9% claiming there aren’t enough shops and services on it to meet their needs. When asked what would encourage them to visit their high street more, more than half (56.2%) said more shops, four in ten (40.4%) said a better mix of shops and services and more than a third (36.5%) said better parking or

public transport facilities.

High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP said: “The Great British High Streets competition this year will celebrate the creativity of the many businesses in the UK which are providing the shops and services so vital to our economy.

“The previous awards were hugely successful, proving the Great British public really cares about the centres of their cities, towns and villages. I’d urge everyone to get involved in this important competition.”

Suzan Kereere of Visa, added: “Visa is very proud to be supporting the Great British High Street Awards at a time when the nation’s high streets are transforming as consumers look for a range of different experiences on their high streets. Businesses and communities such as those in Scotland have shown themselves to be highly adaptable, resilient and creative in meeting these demands.

“Visa is committed to finding innovative ways to support merchants and consumers and helping communities and economies to thrive. High street merchants help to establish and preserve bonds within communities that are as valuable as the economic benefits they generate.”

The awards deadline is August 22.