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Scotland’s Towns Partnership Chief Officer to step back from role

Praise for Phil Prentice as he announces end of tenure in prominent post as organisation’s leader

The Chief Officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) is stepping back from his role after eight-and-a-half years.

Phil Prentice will complete his current job at the end of this month (March) to pursue other interests in place-making.

He will, however, remain involved with STP as a part-time strategic consultant and Programme Director of Scotland’s Improvement Districts, with work including that to support the development of new and emerging districts.

Kimberley Guthrie, currently STP’s Director of Operations, will become Interim Chief Officer of STP while the process to appoint Phil’s successor takes place.

STP is the national organisation that champions Scotland’s town centres, providing expert support on policy, best practice and achieving practical action.

Phil, an economic development professional who held senior roles including those with Scottish Enterprise and East Renfrewshire Council before taking charge of STP in November 2014, has been widely praised for his role with the organisation.

He has overseen the development of Scotland’s improvement districts into the world’s most expansive network, as well as being an influential voice in developing blueprints to create a new future for Scotland’s towns and putting town centres first – boosting businesses and creating better places.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, he also led the launch of the Scotland Loves Local campaign, encouraging people to support businesses in their communities to help them recover from the devastating impact of Covid-19. It has built into a significant force for good in the long-term financial fightback and levered millions of pounds-worth of support, including the creation of the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card.

Phil said: “It’s been an energising experience leading STP at a time of significant challenge, change and opportunity. I’m incredibly proud of what our small team and expansive network of stakeholders have achieved. My thanks go to everyone I have worked alongside.

“The decision to step back has been a difficult one, but I feel the time’s right and am confident that STP is in good hands.

“Localism has never been more important. We have never appreciated the places we live more.

“We are a nation of towns – and a successful, stronger, more sustainable Scotland will be one that puts towns first. By doing so we will continue to build back from coronavirus, better respond to the climate emergency and get through the cost of living crisis.”

STP Chair, Professor Leigh Sparks, thanked Phil for his dedication, enthusiasm and leadership.

He said: “Phil has been an incredible champion of Scotland’s towns and played a pivotal part in ensuring the vision to create a new future for them has not just been developed, but is being acted on.

“Communities across the country have benefited from his insight, influence and determination.

“The STP board is grateful for all that he has done and wish him well for the future. We know that he will continue to fly the flag for the importance of our places.”

Kimberley Guthrie has more than 25 years’ experience in business and retail, including as an owner and director. Well-known among STP stakeholders, she was part of the team which gathered evidence for the influential New Future For Scotland’s Towns report and has since been heavily involved in implementing actions from it. 

Kimberley, who has worked with STP for almost three years, said: “Working alongside Phil is energising and always entertaining. His hard work and natural flair for engaging people has not only helped protect jobs during some of the most difficult times in our communities, but has placed our localism agenda front and centre.

“As a team, we look forward to building on this, ensuring the voices of Scotland’s towns are heard as they become even better places in which to live, work and visit.”