Businesses across Cupar have voted emphatically to back CuparNow and create the world’s first Digital Improvement District. At this week’s count – of the businesses and organisations who cast their votes – more than 60% gave their support …

Alison Strachan, Chair of the project’s Steering Group, expressed her delight at the result, saying: “We are absolutely thrilled that the vast majority of those voting have voted yes. And we’re delighted on all fronts as the 60% by number equates to more than 75% of the rateable value who voted. That’s an emphatic YES in support of what has been done so far and, more importantly, what we will be delivering over the five-year term.

Cupar was chosen as the demonstration project as a result of the town’s involvement in the Digital Towns Programme 2017-18. Alison explains: “ABCD, Cupar’s Business Association, championed the idea of the town becoming the pilot project. As a group of businesses, we’d spent many years looking at ways in which the town could best support businesses and shout about Cupar to a wider audience. The idea of a Digital Improvement District – delivering managed, integrated digital communication across multiple platforms – really appealed.”

The Scottish Government, Digital Scotland and Fife Council backed the 15-month demonstration phase with three-way seed corn funding. Since CuparNow launched it has built an engaged audience across digital channels that exceeds 11,000. Daily engagement, sharing of bespoke content and interaction with multiple audiences has ensured a reach of more than 1m, with video being the key driver. In the last 12 months, videos featuring the town’s businesses, events and community projects have clocked more than 300,000 views on Facebook alone – all amplifying the town as never before.

The demonstration project had three core objectives: encouraging new strategic collaborations, increasing digital participation in the town as well as improving the digital skills of those engaged – all with an ambition to showcase how digital can be best deployed to support towns across the country. The Steering Group has conveyed successes on all these fronts at a series of Open Meetings held each month since the early summer.

Alison Strachan adds: “The task ahead is considerable. We have got off to a flying start with a very successful demonstration project capped with a winning ballot. We know just under 40% of those voting chose to vote against the project – and the fact that their rateable value share was less than 25% means many are smaller businesses in the town. We will be working hard to prove the value that can and will be delivered in support of all businesses. In the coming weeks, we will be reaching out to encourage everyone to take full advantage of the opportunities this now provides – whether they are small, medium or large businesses, based in the town centre or on the industrial estate. This project is designed to support each and every one.

Businesses, organisations, community partners, local charities, fund-raising initiatives, cultural and tourism projects, the town’s schools and college, environmental groups as well as health and social care partnerships have all benefitted from CuparNow’s delivery so far – and that work will now continue.

So what next for CuparNow? Alison says: “We have a number of exciting projects to announce after Christmas including digital workshops for the benefit of businesses and organisations who require advice and training on how to make the very most from their engagement on digital channels. We will also be continuing with our Open Meetings and will publish these dates in the New Year to make all aware of our plans going forward.”

Phil Prentice, Chief Office of Scotland’s Towns Partnership – and National Programme Director for Scotland’s Improvement Districts says: “We are extremely pleased that the Cupar Pilot DID has delivered a successful ballot result. Technology is changing everything we do, from retail to banking and from leisure to how we gather and share information. As the project develops we hope to see how Smart Town concepts can benefit levy payers and the wider community. The internet has transformed society, let’s see if by harnessing this power on Cupar that we start to see economic, environmental and community positives.”

Cllr Altany Craik, Convener – Economy, Tourism. Strategic Planning & Transportation Committee, Fife Council, says: “I am pleased that businesses in Cupar have voted in support of the town becoming the UK’s first Digital Improvement District. This innovative pilot will showcase the value of digital connectivity to businesses, communities and individuals. Digital access is essential for Fife-based firms and residents to increase connectivity, boost business growth and drive competitiveness. With the scope now to look at how we support the digital economy through innovation in Cupar, the possibilities are great.” He adds:“We will continue to work hard with the business community and other partners to ensure this is a success. Fife’s town centres are a priority, and this follows significant investment and sympathetic regeneration of this beautiful market town.

Alison concludes: “We’d like to thank everyone for their support to date – including Fife Council for their support not only in helping to fund the demonstration phase but also to the Area Committee who gave their unanimous backing to the project. The ballot result is testament to the fantastic community spirit in Cupar – a spirit that the Digital Improvement District is harnessing for the wider benefit of all in our community.”