Small businesses are the lifeblood of Scotland’s economy and the backbone of our communities across the country. All too often, multinational companies and superstores with well-established reputations are the default choice for many consumers, but small businesses are woven into the fabric of our society.
They keep our high streets alive and they provide a variety of bespoke and artisan services with which large companies cannot compete. Scottish Government figures show that Small and Medium-sized Enterprises account for 55 per cent of private sector employment and 40 per cent of private sector turnover, providing much-needed local jobs and, in turn, economic growth in our communities.
Last year, Rutherglen constituency was home to around 1,600 registered businesses, the vast majority of which were small businesses of all varieties. From mobile food outlets at funfairs and parks run by the Thomas family, to Evissa hair and beauty, and from the gift shops Sweet P and Pandora’s Box to Rysine Joinery Products, a huge variety of small businesses cater to the needs of locals and visitors, as well as driving the local economy.
Last Saturday, 2nd of December, was Small Business Saturday and I spent an enjoyable day visiting and speaking to small businesses across the Constituency. It was great to speak with businesses such as W & J Curley Butchers and Marion’s Flowers in Halfway, and the newly opened Padano restaurant on Rutherglen Main Street.
Small and Medium-sized Enterprises are local job creators, but the way in which they often give back to the communities that they proudly serve sets them apart from some larger companies. One such business is the Tea Bay, on Cambuslang’s Main Street. Not only does Angeline Coyle, the proprietor, run a first-class tea room but she is a pillar of the community.
She does a great deal of work with Cambuslang Community Council and is one of the strongest voices advocating positive change in the town centre. Along with other local business owners, she has been pushing South Lanarkshire Council to tackle the problem of inadequate parking on Main Street, arguing that customers will frequently shop elsewhere because of the lack of parking spaces.
The Tea Bay has a great community spirit and Angeline regularly provides local homeless residents with a free hot drink and food, should they need it. Regulars and new customers are treated as friends, which is especially welcomed by those who live on their own or who have little social company.
Along with other small business owners in Cambuslang, Angeline has worked closely with Cambuslang in Bloom, which has done an incredible job in revamping the appearance of Main Street by adding colour with an assortment of flowers, plants and trees. Urban Alfresco, which is another Cambuslang small business, provided many of the plants and much of the equipment for the project.
I visited the Tea Bay last week and had a chat with Angeline. She said that, in addition to running the cafe, she devotes probably around two full working days a week to serving the community. Many large businesses undertake local work, but personal touches from our small businesses, such as the Tea Bay, keep our communities alive and thriving.
Angeline and many other small business proprietors do not openly broadcast their good deeds or look for any recognition. Their help is given without fanfare or announcement, but their communities are well aware of the great work that they do. On behalf of those communities, I thank them. I also thank the many other small businesses that, by giving their time, and through their generosity and kindness, make the lives of their fellow citizens a little bit easier.
Our small businesses support local people and local projects, and our communities would be worse off without them. Small Business Saturday may be only one day in the calendar year, but it should act as a reminder to shop small and locally not just at Christmas, but all year round.
Date published: 6th December 2017