The depute provost of Aberdeen has called on councillors to “work together” to support businesses in the city amid fears over the future of the high street.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the city centre has been dealt a series of blows, with a number of high-profile closures.
The Disney Store in the Bon Accord shopping centre has also since confirmed it will not reopen.
Jennifer Stewart, the city’s depute provost, admitted she was “very concerned” about the trend of businesses closing down, and said she was “really worried” about the future.
However, she called on councillors to “work together” to support the high street ahead of some being able to reopen on April 26.
“I am very much concerned, as I’m sure everyone is, about what’s happening in the city and all the closures there are,” Mrs Stewart said.
“Lots of people are speaking to me in both capacities [councillor and depute provost] to say they are concerned about what’s happening to our city as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and all the businesses that are closing.
“I would like to be able to do anything we can to assist businesses. I would like it to be all businesses – retail, hospitality, architects, everybody who is operating [in the city]. Everyone could actually work together.
“I really feel their pain. I hear what young people are saying, I hear what older people are saying and I wanted to try and impart that.
“I want to do everything we can to help all businesses. This is our city and I really am worried about the future of Aberdeen. It’s given me a home for 36 years – I am not an Aberdonian but it has given me a home and my family has been brought up here.
“For me, it is very important everybody works together to assist all businesses and not set one against another.
“I am genuinely worried, as everyone else is, and I wanted to say that as a council we can offer that confidence to business that we will certainly do what we can to support everyone to get the high street up and running again and to get businesses up and running again.”
Revitalising the high street has been a key issue for north-east candidates in the run-up to next month’s Scottish Parliament election.
Scottish Labour has pledged to introduce an economic stimulus plan, which would see every adult over the age of 16 given a £75 pre-paid credit card to spend in stores.
The scheme would be launched alongside a “shop local” campaign.
The party’s Aberdeen Central candidate Barry Black said: “Even before the pandemic, we know the struggles our city centre faced, and this last year has made the challenges even greater.
“The announced closure of stores like John Lewis and Disney makes the situation even more precarious.
“This stimulus package – the largest in devolution’s history – could be the shot in the arm our city centre needs on its road to recovery and renewal.”
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are proposing to make changes to the business rates system and lower taxes to aid businesses to boost the high street.
The party wants charges to focus on the value of land and make it payable by the owner, rather than the business based there.
They believe the plans will help businesses compete with online retailers.
Rosemary Bruce, who is standing for the party in Aberdeenshire West, said: “The pandemic may have been good for Amazon and other large online retailers, but it’s been devastating for the local businesses that are at the heart of our local communities.
“The Scottish Liberal Democrats want to make sure that vibrant high streets can flourish and that means creating a system that allows them to succeed.
“I want to help build and preserve a successful high street provides jobs and a sense of community.
“Reforming business rates will ensure that online retailers and big developers pay their fair share while helping the small businesses that are at the heart of our community here thrive.”