Scottish Town’s Partnership – 9 November 2016

Scottish Town’s Partnership held a very interesting meeting in Kirkcaldy on 9 November.

The meeting featured rejuvenating the High Street and new directions in Town Planning; these session where given Steve Millington from Manchester Metropolitan University and the Institute of Place Management and Andy Milne from SURF, and Jarmo Suominen from Finland and Kelvin Campbell @massivesmall) respectively. I was particularly interested in one of the breakout sessions covering broadband at Auchterarder which is really taking off.

You can read more at:

Mike Vickers

Benefitting from Business Mentoring

Do you have the ambition to grow your existing business? Do you find yourself with more problems than solutions? Is there a market out there you would love to tap into but don’t know how? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you would benefit from Business Mentoring. A funded service directed at managers, business owners or directors who could benefit from the advice and knowledge of a mentor to help grow their company or their own personal development.


Business mentors understand how difficult it can be to run a business, and how lonely you can sometimes feel. Mentors can help you stand back from your business and look at the “big picture”. They can offer helpful advice, caution against potential pitfalls and build your confidence in your own abilities.   “Mentoring has been a rewarding experience for me.  I really enjoy helping my mentee think through the different approaches that he could use to help grows his business.  I find his energy and enthusiasm infectious and always come away from our sessions motivated to tackle some of my own tricky issues.”  Business Mentor, Anne Farr, Rothera Group   For more information click here or  contact Brenda or Heidi at

Leaving the EU

So the UK has voted to leave the EU. It remains to be seen what this means for the economy, both local and national. A drop in the value of the pound will mean imported materials will go up in price, but a UK-wide slow-down in the economy might mean that labour costs go down to even out the balance. Will the Euro also drop in value, against non-EU currencies? Will there be a rush for immigration or emigration? House prices may be affected, and interest rates may rise, throwing debt-equity calculations into a spin for a while. Business plans will need to be reviewed in every business in the country, whether exporting, importing or not.

Will exiting the EU lead to a reduction in red-tape, or just a change from where the red tape comes?

There are sure to be calls for another Scottish referendum on independence. What might that mean for Scotland’s economy?

We’re in uncharted waters and whichever way we look at it, uncertainty lies. If there’s on thing that investors don’t like it is uncertainty so whatever happens, let’s hope it all settles down quickly.
Democracy has had its way and we’re all stuck with the result so let’s hope the promised prosperity outside the EU isn’t just a mirage!

Can Do Places

I attended a Can Do Places Enterprise Mash Up on the 20th April at the Drygate brewery.
Despite the location the event was sober!

The Can Do Places vision is “to help people create Can Do Spaces in towns across Scotland. Not innovation spaces, not creative spaces but messy spaces. Spaces where people can make their own work, try out new ideas and collaborate. Places where the money stays in the local economy”
Well that might be the vision but the people who made the event were people dedicated to their community , innovative and entrepreneurial and who were keen to tell us all what they hope for and how far had they got.

Ailsa Campbell, chair of the Crieff Community Development Trust spoke of the trials the Trust is having in trying to take over a derelict hotel for Can Do, The Drummond Arms, from an owner while the owner is happy to sit on the property rather than sell at a realistic price. The trust would like to convert the building into a fruitful place where people can create new and existing businesses, undertake entrepreneurial and community initiatives bringing money into the local economy which the Trust estimates at £1.5million.
You can read read what Ailsa is up against at where she speaks to Iain Scott, Director of Can Do Places.

Crick Carleton, on the Community Council and Community Development Trust of Peebles, drew our attention to the fact that Peebles which on the surface was the most delectable town to live in south of Edinburgh is not so delectable below its surface veneer. Problems of commuters, no local employment, housing which has grown by 1/3 in the last 15 years but no affordable housing and the last open land gazumped under the Development Trust’s noses because they could not meet the price. You may recognise a resemblance to Linlithgow. Crick considers that Peebles has one last chance at Can Do. The last mill in the Town is closing, it’s an ideal site of 3.5 hectares and the Development Trust has the chance of taking it over. Their plans are to include areas for core business services, quiet places for thinking, smelly places for cookery and noisy places for music. Crick asked us: Should they go ahead and make an offer; 2/3 of us agreed.
You can get some idea of where Peebles as a Town sees its concerns at

There were of course other speakers; George Boyle, an Irish lady who has set up the Fumbally Exchange, a community for design and innovation focused on small businesses, sole traders and start-ups aiming to cultivate an open, professional atmosphere for creative and regenerative growth. You can read more on Fumbally at

So what has Can Do Places to offer Linlithgow: well Crieff and Peebles though smaller than us, suffering from commuting , no affordable housing, poor infrastructure, are trying to take over derelict sites for vibrant community hubs; reminds you of Victoria Hall?
Michael Vickers

New Workplace Pensions auto-enrolment regime

Many LBA members will be wrestling with the new Workplace Pensions auto-enrolment regime There’s not much advice out there for small businesses. If you have just 2 or 3 employees and you’re investing 1% of their salaries into a “master trust” scheme then you’ve probably got a pension pot of less than £1000 to invest annually. Trying to find a financial advisor who will give you affordable advice for that kind of investment can be a thankless task, and none of the big pension providers are interested.

So how do you do it and where do you put your money?

For most of us, our accountants will offer an affordable service to manage the process of monthly payments as an add-on to the normal payroll service. So now in addition to sorting out PAYE, National Insurance and Student Loan repayments for each employee they can also include Workplace Pension payments, and the related admin that involves.

But an accountant isn’t a Financial Advisor, and an accountant can’t offer advice us on where those pension contributions should be invested.

According to a recent report on the BBC, industry regulators have fears that dozens of companies providing auto enrolment pensions are too small to survive. The BBC has also uncovered evidence that employers and workers are being deliberately misled by some providers. “There is a risk of these schemes falling over; there is a risk that members might lose their money,” Andrew Warwick-Thompson, executive director for regulatory policy at the Pensions Regulator told the BBC. However, he said scheme assets invested through asset managers regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) would be safe. This will be “the vast majority of cases”.

Some of the small pension providers “may not be run by competent people”, Mr Warwick-Thompson told the BBC. Even where directors are qualified, providers do not always make it clear where the savings are invested, or who owns the schemes.

Unlike big pension providers – known as contract-based schemes – master trusts are not regulated by the FCA. Instead they are overseen by The Pensions Regulator (TPR), which provides a much lower level of supervision.

“There’s not so much member protection in the master trust world, versus contract-based schemes,” Nick Keppel-Palmer told the BBC, the strategy director of Husky Finance, an independent advisory service for small employers.”If they go down, the members’ money won’t be protected.”

However the government has said it was aware of the issues related to some master trusts, and was working to protect employees’ savings. The BBC quotes Baroness Ros Altmann, the pensions minister: “We are determined to ensure the necessary protections are in place. Doing nothing is not an option, as ensuring long term security and protection are paramount in pensions.”

Apparently those whose savings are invested with mainstream City firms have much higher levels of protection, thanks to FCA regulation. Some such savings are also protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), but only up to a limit of £50,000.

“It is very easy to register as a pension scheme with the tax authorities, and that’s part of the problem,” Malcolm Small, chairman of the Retirement Income Alliance told the BBC.

In a report for the industry, Mr Small claims only around 10 master trusts are reliable operators – out of a total of 80 – because many are too small or not sufficiently profitable.

Of the master trust providers registered with the Pensions Regulator, only five have currently been given a “kite mark” known as the Master Trust Assurance Framework. These are the official government-backed scheme, National Employment Savings Trust (NEST); NOW: Pensions; SEI Master Trust; The People’s Pension and Welplan.

The Treasury has also said it is looking at whether supervision of master trusts should be beefed up. It is considering whether there should be an approved list of providers – what it calls a “whitelist”- to make choosing a pension company easier.

The BBC gave the following advice to Small Employers

  • Use one of the larger master trust schemes to provide a pension
  • Report any concerns about your pension scheme to the Pensions Regulator
  • See the Regulator’s website for further details of the Master Trust Assurance scheme.

Linlithgow’s Party at the Palace will return in 2016

Organisers of Party at the Palace have vowed next year’s festival will be bigger and better than ever before.

Despite the company going into liquidation last week, organiser John Richardson is determined to make next year a success.

He said: “Restructuring the company is to allow for fresh investment. In 2015 we made huge improvements to the event itself and in 2016 we need to improve the finances.

Read the full article in the Linlithgow Gazette>