A SCHEME which aims to boost trade in town centres across East Renfrewshire is going digital.

Gift cards issued through the Scotland Loves Local (SLL) initiative can be loaded with credit and used in participating shops and businesses within the local area.

Now the Scottish Government is investing cash to enable the cards to operate digitally via devices such as mobile phones.

By going digital, 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.

Details were unveiled by Renfrewshire South MSP Tom Arthur during a visit to the Social Blend cafe run by the Include Me 2 Club at the James McGuire Building, in Barrhead.

Mr Arthur, who is also Community Wealth Minister, said: “Going digital is an important step forward for the SLL gift card.

“The scheme has already delivered 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 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.”

East Renfrewshire Council distributed £100 SLL cards to more than 4,500 low-income households in the area late last year.

The vast majority of them have since been activated, with hundreds of thousands of pounds redeemed in local businesses – giving them a much-needed boost after the Covid pandemic had a negative impact on trade.

Kimberley Guthrie, interim chief officer for the Scotland’s Towns Partnership, which delivers the SLL initiative, said: “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.

“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 places.”