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The Power of Partnerships: Harnessing collaboration to build a better future

Chief Officer’s blog by Kimberley Guthrie

 

At Scotland’s Towns Partnership, we are firm believers that no one person – or no single organisation – has the answer to everything. That is why we are such powerful champions for collaboration. There is always something we can learn from someone else, whether that be in our own community, elsewhere in the country or abroad.

And that really has been highlighted to be by a series of events I’ve had the pleasure of being part of recently.

I was delighted to be invited to attend Co-operation Ireland's recent conference on sustainable town centres in Dublin

It’s always wonderful to get an opportunity to pay a visit to our neighbours across the water, and at the end of May, myself and STP Chairman Leigh Sparks, received a warm Irish welcome as we were invited to present and participate in the Cooperation Ireland Conference, focussing on sustainable town centres – an issue in which we, obviously, have a genuine and mutual interest. 

For our team at Scotland’s Towns Partnership, a key part of our role is sharing and informing of best practices, in particular taking forward the recommendations laid out in the ‘A New Future for Scotland’s Town Centres’ report, to drive innovation and positive change for our towns and the people who live, work and visit them.

It was fantastic to hear of Co-operation Ireland’s focus and commitment to the ‘Town Centre First’ Principle’ – of which communities across Scotland are such keen advocates – and of their commitment to implementing these principles to create thriving, sustainable places. 

The Town Centre First Principle was established and agreed by the Scottish Government and COSLA back in 2014 to ensure collective, cross-sector responsibility for putting the health of town centres at the heart of all decision making. 

It is testament to our efforts here in Scotland that our Irish counterparts are putting these principles into action with vigour, and heralding some fantastic results in New Ross, County Wexford and Tubbercurry, Sligo. 

What struck me the most from hearing about how both town centres have committed to the policy framework is the difference that taking a holistic approach to place can make to the communities who live and work there.

 

Using the Town Centre First approach to engage various stakeholders was central to this, contributing to a shared vision which everyone could feel a part of, and taking into consideration the different elements of what makes a place special. 

 

It was clear that the communities were at the very core of the decision-making process – a testament to the power of partnership working to ensure sustainable, long-term success.

You can view Leigh’s presentation here

As part of the discussion panel I talked about the Paisley Vision, Backlands, Stranraer, Scotland Loves Local and Repurposing assets.

We were delighted to host a delegation from Sweden to showcase the work of BIDs across Scotland

The power of partnerships was further highlighted to me during a recent event with Scotland’s Improvement Districts, where we hosted a delegation from Sweden at the end of May. The event focused on sharing our work, ideas and examples from Business Improvement Districts in Milngavie, Stirling, Falkirk and Linlithgow. 

As the Swedish Government considers legislation around implementing BIDs, it was a proud moment to showcase the fantastic work being carried out by our Scottish BIDs, and to share examples of the profound economic impact their efforts have on the communities they serve. 

STP are continuously seeking new ways to develop and refocus our attention on the regeneration of towns with transformative and partnerships and projects. 

The recent Town Centre Living and Investment Roadshows, delivered in partnership with Architecture and Design Scotland, Scottish Futures Trust and the Scottish Land Commission, saw us collaborating with over 220 practitioners and 80% of Scottish Councils. We had the chance to explore 27 case studies along the way, each of them highlighting different challenges and opportunities. 

We partnered with Scottish Futures Trust, Architecture and Design Scotland and Scottish Land Commission on a successful Town Centre Living Roadshow series

Reflecting on the five key themes which emerged from the culmination of the roadshow findings – Leadership & Collaboration; Holistic Planning & Placemaking; Funding & Resources; Local Engagement & Partnership and Risk Mitigation – these themes continue to shape our work with our strategic partners and future collaborations. 

Ultimately, this allows us to influence a greater number of people living, working, enjoying and crucially investing in our towns to ensure sustainable and more prosperous futures. 

All of this is a timely reminder that only by acting together will we make a significant difference and build better places.

If you’d like to discuss opportunities about how STP could work with you or your organisation, please do drop me an email – kimberley@scotlandstowns.org.