As the world economy has shown turbulence, it is important that we not only improve local services but also re-localise services that may have been lost to town centres. Social mobility and community cohesion are two areas which have suffered from these demographic changes. Many towns in East Lothian are used as dormitory towns for Edinburgh and as such their town centres have receded and become predominantly tourist centres. East Lothian’s jobs density per population is 0.56, which is much lower than the Scottish average, highlighting the number of East Lothian workers who commute out of the area.With large retail parks in the neighbouring county, it is difficult to attract people to town centres. Sadly, anti-social behaviour, change from retail to services, and proliferation of betting and charity shops has become the trend. Once the shops begin to disappear, it creates a domino effect. The service sector, especially food and drink, then struggles due to the downturn in foot flow, this can lead to a downward spiral that leads to empty units, often left vacant for years.
East Lothian has a growing population. Estimated at 101,360 in 2013, it is forecast to grow at one of the fastest rates of all 32 local authorities in Scotland, according to East Lothian council. The number of households is projected to grow by 26.5% between 2012 and 2037 compared to a growth of 16.6% in Scotland.
Supporting entrepreneurial spirit
East Lothian has the lowest number of businesses per head of population of any county in Scotland. The number of new businesses in East Lothian declined by 15% in 2006 and remained relatively stable for 4 years before increasing to a 10-year high of 350 in 2013. Sadly, there was a 10% decline the following year. The barriers to entry are simply too daunting for many people. With the right support, we think the true entrepreneurial spirit of local communities will show through and we can redress this imbalance.