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STP Chairman: We need to be bold and rigorous to revive Scotland’s Towns

More needs to be done to meet the challenges Scotland’s towns face in order to achieve ambitions to realise the potential for their renaissance.

That was among the views shared by Scotland’s Towns Partnership Chairman Professor Leigh Sparks with a Scottish Parliament Committee.

Prof Sparks, who is also Deputy Principal and Professor of Retail Studies at the University of Stirling, gave evidence to the Economy and Fair Work Committee as part of its current inquiry into town centres and retail.

In an opening statement to MSPs, he highlighted the opportunities that exist for policies and actions to be developed which have the potential to make a “sustained and major impact” for communities.

He also called for more to be done to implement the recommendations in the report A New Future For Scotland’s Towns, which highlighted how the nations towns and town centres could be made stronger. You can read that report here

Prof Sparks said: “Towns are socially, culturally, economically inclusive; environmentally they are the most sustainable development form and place.

“The Scottish town is a distinctive feature of our country, adapted for our needs. Towns are unique places, each with their own assets and opportunities.

“We need leadership and direction to harness their local potential. However, we have neglected them for far too long, and need now to refocus our energy, policy and development on our towns and town centres. We have a sound base but need to do so much more to meet the challenges we face.

“Towns are the potential solution to so many of our issues, but we need to get more people, more economic and social diversity, more local ownership and more pride back into them. This requires us to be bold and rigorous in our approach to development of all forms.

“Our towns say much about who we are as individuals and as a country; they need to reflect more clearly our aspirations and ambitions. There is no reason why with collective will we cannot achieve their renaissance.”

Read Prof Sparks’ full opening statement on his Stirling Retail blog here.

Prof Sparks answered questions from MSPs about the opportunities and challenges which exist. You can watch the full committee session here.

You can read the official report from the Committee session here. 

The Economy and Fair Work Committee is investigating the impact of the changing face of retail and e-commerce on Scotland’s town centres.

STP is among the organisations which responded to a call for evidence as part of the inquiry. You can read more about our submission here.