The Scottish government is investing £250,000 to enable the Scotland Loves Local (SLL) gift cards to operate digitally via devices such as mobile phones.
The gift cards, part of a scheme aimed at boosting trade in town and city centres, can be loaded with credit and used in participating shops and businesses within users’ local council area.
By going digital, the government said the cards can be used by businesses to reward loyal customers and encourage repeat custom. The new system may also be made compatible with transport providers’ ticketing systems, allowing relatives or businesses to gift train and bus fares into town centres for shopping trips.
Cards are currently utilised by more than 20 councils – including six which have used them to distribute more than £13 million of Scottish government coronavirus economic recovery funding to lower income households.
Visiting Barrhead, where the SLL cards have helped boost business in the town centre, Community Wealth Minister Tom Arthur said: “Going digital is an important step forward for the SLL gift card. The scheme has already delivered millions of pounds of extra spending to help businesses recover from the pandemic and by increasing their useability I am sure even more people will be encouraged to shop locally.
“The cards have made a real difference in places like Glasgow, where thousands of cards have been used to access Scottish Government funding for economic recovery.
“They represent a step towards the creation of local currencies to be invested and retained within areas. Digitalisation will accelerate that process and help support fairer and more prosperous local economies.”
Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) delivers the SLL initiative – which includes the gift card – encouraging people to support their communities by spending locally.
“The Scotland Loves Local campaign is a force for good – galvanising communities to support local people and businesses at times when they have never needed that more,” Kimberley Guthrie, interim chief officer of STP, said.
“The need for us all to think, choose and spend locally is critical, not only in our ongoing recovery from the impact of Covid-19 on businesses, but in helping us all through the cost of living crisis and in responding to the climate emergency.
“Continued support from the Scottish Government allows businesses and communities to innovate, invest and embrace opportunity, building better, stronger places.”
The Scottish government launched the SLL programme in August 2021 to help Scotland’s towns and neighbourhoods recover from the pandemic through support for local economies. So far 6,659 businesses have registered to accept gift cards. Of those, 75 per cent are independent or franchised businesses. On top of those issued by local authorities, almost 5,000 SLL gift cards were purchased during 2022-23.