INDEPENDENT businesses are helping to revive high streets in Scotland, according to a new study.

Research from Visa found confidence in Scottish high streets has increased, with 85% of small high street businesses surveyed optimistic about the future of their local high streets, up from 39% 12 months ago. Despite recent high-profile retail chain closures, Visa’s research shows an encouraging outlook for the future of high streets in Scotland with 43% of small high street businesses surveyed planning to open another high street store over the next 12 months, with 29% looking to employ more staff. Across the UK, 34,511 independent high street shops opened for business last year, up 4.5% on 2017. More than half (57%) of Scots visit their local high street at least once a week, with those in Aberdeen visiting most regularly (75%).

It was also revealed that 61% of customers in Aberdeen are optimistic about the future of the high street, the most optimistic in the UK. Looking to the future, Scottish shoppers said that they would like to see more book shops (38%), clothes shops (36%) and pop-up shops (32%) on their local high street. The figures coincide with the launch of the Government-run Great British High Street Awards 2019 – a campaign to celebrate the UK’s leading high streets.

High Streets Minister, Jake Berry MP, said: “The Government Awards celebrate the dedicated shop keepers, the committed volunteers and forward-thinking councils who together are creating vibrant and dynamic high streets that are loved by their communities.

“Last year more than 200 high streets across the land battled it out in a hotly contested competition to be crowned Britain’s best.

“I would encourage communities across the nation to enter, so their high streets and the people working in them gain the recognition they fully deserve.”

Jeni Mundy of Visa added: “We’re delighted to partner with the Great British High Street Awards for a second year, particularly as our research shows that there is plenty to celebrate on our high streets, and we’re very encouraged to see independent shops playing such an important role in this.

“We’ve witnessed the huge strides that high streets are making in transforming themselves, with many adapting to changing consumer demands for new goods and services whilst maintaining their status as a hub for local communities. Today’s consumers expect a great deal from their shopping experiences, and it is those high streets demonstrating adaptability, resilience and creativity that are setting themselves up for success.”

Nominations for the Great British High Street Awards, run by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government in partnership with Visa, can be made by local authorities and groups of high street retailers. Shortlisted entries will be announced in August 2019.

The initiative includes a competition to find the UK’s best and most improved high streets within two categories: the Champion award to celebrate the UK’s best high streets, and the Rising Star award for those taking the lead and working to adapt and diversify. For each, a winner will be named in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Alness High Street was last year’s Scottish winner.