Back in the 1500s, the historic, royal burgh of Linlithgow had more butchers, bakers, shoemakers and tailors than you could shake a stick at. These days, although still busy and prosperous (and with three Scottish government ministers resident there to prove it), the high street lacks what town centre manager, Stewart Ness, describes as “shop diversity.”
He says: “We have a lot of shops but many of them are, for instance, cafes and hairdressers. So for local people and visitors, the town centre isn’t as interesting as it could be; and it’s not as supportive of business start-ups as it could be.
“We’re looking to address those issues by organising a “start-up shop” project where people with interesting business ideas would be offered shop premises in the town centre for a period of six months at a very low rent.
“The sort of people who would be eligible would be those who have what could be a viable idea but the banks aren’t interested in helping.
“We’ll sit down with them or hook them up with support from partners and agencies, and help them work out how much they’ll need to make to cover basic overheads, otherwise it’s not a realistic exercise.
“The idea is that, at the end of the six months, they’ll have discovered whether their idea is commercially viable and whether or not they want to go ahead with it.
“There would be a certain amount of hand-holding during their time in the start-up shop but the aim is to be able to stand on your own two feet when your lease is up.
“Ideally, the project would support three or four shop spaces but even if we don’t get all the money we’re bidding for, we’ll still go ahead with it in some way.
“I found the Can Do workshop in Edinburgh incredibly useful. I like Iain Scott’s approach and it was good to hear what other people are doing and to get a chance to have a blether and exchange information.
“The idea of having regular internet updates from people taking part in the initiative is a good one because it means that if they’ve been able to solve a problem in a particular way, it might be useful to you.”