During the Covid crisis, local social media has come into its own, not least as the go-to source of information about toilet roll or flour availability! Shared with almost as much enthusiasm have been the stories about local businesses and organisations going above and beyond.

Every community has seen examples of small businesses manufacturing PPE or hand sanitiser, donating equipment and refreshments to care homes and key workers, or working with local charities to provide meals for vulnerable citizens. Undoubtedly, small firms have played a remarkable role in local communities.

Perhaps the most striking change has been our increased reliance on local businesses, particularly for food and drink. While once we preferred the convenience of shopping in one place, we now seek out reliable supplies of products and responsive, home delivery services to avoid any unnecessary contact.

Working for an organisation representing thousands of small businesses across Scotland, it’s not surprising that I’ve become a new customer of even more local businesses in recent weeks. I know I’m not alone, as business organisations and local authorities alike are promoting lists of local firms who’ve nimbly changed their business model to begin, or expand, online and home delivery services. Butchers, greengrocers, bakeries, breweries, coffee roasters, grocers – too many to list – have provided a lifeline for so many who can’t shop in the usual way.

For years FSB has highlighted the importance of having resilient, diverse local economies and perhaps now we can be confident about the value of reliable, shorter supply chains. As priorities shift in local economic development – as they certainly will – not least in supporting new business and employment opportunities, a much stronger focus is required on working with the small businesses providing core services and products in our communities. We have undervalued their contribution for too long.

Susan Love is the Policy Manager for FSB Scotland @susandlove @FSB_Scotland

(Update provided by Susan Love, Federation of Small Businesses)

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