Regenerating People and Place
Scotland's towns and town centres are a defining feature and a vital resource for the country. They provide considerable social and economic benefits, improve the quality of life and meet a number of key government priorities. In a carbon challenged future they enhance accessibility and environmental resource sharing.
Towns and town centres are the beating hearts of Scotland and Scottish life.
They represent key political battlegrounds, but also constitute a shared policy space in which all our main parties find some level of comfort and interest. Given that there is something for all political parties to purchase in our town centres it was hardly surprising that the creation of the Town Centre Regeneration Fund found unanimous support in the Scottish Parliament.
The recognition and importance of towns, and in particular town centres, to not only the economic but the cultural and social lives of so many communities has been a long time coming. Now that political attention is focussed on them, Scotland's towns have an opportunity to promote positive change, through innovative policy initiatives and appropriate radical thinking.
Yet, there is quite a bit of catching up that needs to take place. Many of our town centres are either in a state of arrested decay or suffering accelerating decline. The one-off sticking plaster of the Town Centre Regeneration Fund has done its best, but much more is needed to turn the rhetoric, and our ambitions, into a reality we can be rightly proud of.
Stornoway Town Centre © Donald MacLeod 2009
Indeed, we have to rethink and re-invigorate our town centres. We have to reimagine and redefine their roles. We have to ask fundamental questions as to their function and place in modern society and then decide how we look at, and after, them. Thus, we have to ensure that:
- The Town Centre Regeneration Fund (TCRF) is re-created.
- All action promoting town centre activity is co-ordinated and concerted
- We measure where we are, assess what works and dump what does not.
- Funding streams are repositioned and focused to drive activity within town centres.
- Local solutions are encouraged, tried and supported.
- Policies for town centres are aligned and implemented.
This policy programme will develop policy thinking, whilst also seeking to create a coherent voice for Scotland's towns and town centres through the work of the Scottish Towns Policy Group and the creation of the Scotland's Towns Partnership.
These initiatives provide a range of opportunities for those with a stake in our towns and town centres to engage directly with this policy debate and to participate actively in creating a successful future for Scotland's Towns.