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Scotland’s Improvement Districts – 6 Months On

Phil Prentice, Programme Director of Scotland’s Improvement Districts, updates on progress made in the first six months since the launch of SIDs, and plans for the future.

It has been six months since Scotland’s Improvement Districts (SIDs), the new national centre for Improvement Districts in Scotland, was launched by the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell MSP.

Scotland’s Improvement Districts was established under the Scotland’s Towns Partnership umbrella, to take forward the Scottish Government’s ambition for a dynamic, robust and responsive national home for Improvement Districts in Scotland.

Following a period of strategic review conducted with Improvement Districts and wider economic stakeholders, the new generation model, under the banner of Scotland’s Improvement Districts, was launched in Autumn 2018 to better reflect the changing economic landscape in Scotland and breathe innovation and fresh thinking into the project.

Supported by the Scottish Government, our role is to foster the development and continued success of Improvement Districts across Scotland by:

  • Providing national leadership and strategic direction for Improvement Districts across Scotland;
  • Championing the success of Improvement Districts and communicating their impact with Government and other national public and private sector stakeholders;
  • Building new and innovative partnerships at a national level;
  • Providing high quality support, training and funding opportunities for Improvement Districts; and,
  • Offering advice and support on the legislative framework to new and existing Improvement Districts.

In the first six months, our priority has been to hit the ground running by providing an enhanced, responsive and focused advisory service to Improvement Districts. In tandem, we have been working on a series of more proactive work strands to consider how best to implement many of the changes to the national programme that were recommended during our strategic review.

Working together with Improvement Districts across Scotland, some of the key achievements of our first six months are listed below:

  • We’ve held the first regional gatherings as a forum for Improvement District management and Directors to informally catch-up and consult with national SIDs support officers.
  • A series of free online training webinars for Improvement Districts staff has been developed, delivered from March – May 2019. These focus on key aspects of local media, political and online communications strategies.
  • We’ve launched the Scotland’s Improvement Districts website (, including a resources section with tailored guides, training, and best practice documents for Improvement Districts in Scotland. 
  • A series of successful ballots have been held: Alloa First (renewal), Visit Loch Ness Tourism BID (renewal), Discover Lanark (first ballot), Milngavie (renewal). 
  • Improvement Districts have been gaining significant national and international recognition. For example, Aberdeen Inspired was awarded an International Downtown Association Achievement Award of Excellence for its cultural work and initiatives related to Nuart Aberdeen 2018, while in February 2019 Essential Edinburgh was Highly Commended at the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce Awards for its partnership with Cyrenians to help address homelessness.
  • Improvement Districts were invited to attend the Scottish Government’s Scotland’s Place Leadership Summit with the Cabinet Secretary, held at BT Murrayfield during November 2018. .
  • Improvement Districts from Small and Rural Towns were showcased at the Cross Party Group on Towns’ annual reception at the Scottish Parliament, 26 March 2019.
  • A tailored Introduction to Economic Development course has been developed for Improvement Districts by Economic Development Association Scotland.
  • The Scotland Improvement District’s City Forum has been formed, involving all seven cities.

In addition, it is important to look ahead to our plans for the coming six months. The 2019 Scotland’s Towns Conference will be held in Aberdeen, in partnership with Aberdeen Inspired improvement district as well as city and shire councils. At the conference this year, there will be an emphasis on showcasing the improvements and impact of Improvement Districts in both council areas and nationally.

Our focus for the next six months will be to:

  • Continue to deliver a responsive and high quality advisory and support service to Improvement Districts;
  • Offer new and better training opportunities and resources;
  • Providing further opportunities for Improvement Districts to share best practice and work together;
  • Develop further and deeper national partnerships;
  • Champion and communicate the impact Improvement Districts have across Scotland to Government, Parliament and the media.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all Improvement Districts and partner organisations for their support and efforts in the first six months of our journey at Scotland’s Improvement Districts, and for their enthusiasm for our vision for a thriving national landscape of Improvement Districts in Scotland. Collaboration is at the heart of this project and we simply would not be able to deliver on our ambition without their support. 

I look forward to providing further updates in the near future. In the meantime, our door is always open to provide support and advice – please do get in touch with the team if we can help in any way.

Yours sincerely,

Phil Prentice

Programme Director

Scotland’s Improvement Districts