It is not that I want another job – honest – but I really was delighted and honored to accept an invitation to become the Chair of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, which was announced this morning. I was also very flattered by the kind comments in the announcement by various people including the Government Minister Derek Mackay.
Speaking on behalf of the Scottish Government, Minister for Local Government & Planning, Derek Mackay MSP said, “We welcome the appointment of Professor Leigh Sparks as Chair of Scotland’s Towns Partnership. In the face of ongoing economic pressures, channel shift and out of town competition, Scotland’s towns are at a crossroads and need to be ready to act. Our towns are a key element of the economic and social fabric of Scotland, we need to secure the future of our towns; and STP, under the direction of Professor Sparks, can be a leading light and a real driving force to help us achieve this.”
Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) was formed to provide one strong voice for all organisations with an interest in improving, developing and promoting Scotland’s towns. Its ethos is one of reflecting on policy but converting that knowledge into practical action. STP develops the knowledge, skills and capacity required by anchor organisations across Scotland’s towns; enabling them to deliver: best value, sustainable project development and to empower their business and wider communities.
Scotland’s Towns are a vital component of the Scottish economy and society, as has been well recognised in the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Action Plan response to the Fraser Review. I am therefore delighted to be asked to take on the role of Chair of Scotland’s Towns Partnership at such a critical yet exciting time. STP has through the work of its partners been a valuable resource and encouragement for those working in and with Scotland’s Towns. I am really looking forward to working with colleagues in STP, Government and elsewhere to continue to secure a strong, positive future for Scotland’s Towns.
STP is a spin out of the Centre for Scottish Public Policy’s (CSPP) Towns Group, and I was chair of this for the last four years. CSPP believes it is time to retire the Group, and hand over the policy reins to STP, to complement the expanding influential role played by the Partnership. In the announcement, CSPP Director, Professor Richard Kerley added, “We’re delighted that STP has achieved such success since its original inception at the Centre. This is due in no small part to Leigh’s astute direction and policy acumen – he will be a tremendous Chair, bringing STP the kudos and respect it now firmly deserves.”
STP’s Co-Vice Chair, Phil Prentice, who heads East Renfrewshire Council’s economic development service, and is SLAED spokesperson on towns, also welcomed the news, saying, “The STP Board is excited and honoured to welcome Leigh as our Chair. STP is the leading collaborative supporting the regeneration, renewal and renaissance of Scotland’s towns. Given Professor Sparks’ pedigree in retail and his widely acknowledged work around towns, we warmly welcome this appointment as a positive step forward in developing support for Scotland’s Towns.”
I am taking up the post with immediate effect. One of my first acts is thus to invite members and STP’s wider network to join me on May 14th for the Partnership’s first Annual Meeting. Delivering the positive message ‘Scotland’s Towns…just do it!’, the Meeting will be a blend of two high profile speakers taking a different perspective on the future of our towns. I will also share the STP’s exciting and ambitious forward plans, as it continues to grow and develop its support for the profession; to promote Scotland’s towns; and to extend its role on policy development and influence.
The Annual Meeting will be on 14th May (3 – 5pm) at ADS, Edinburgh. I will be joined by guest speakers who will share their fresh perspective on the future of towns – Rob Hopkins, Founder of the Transition Network (on film – Oscar-style!) and Janet Archer (in person!), Chief Executive of Creative Scotland. For updates, please check the STP website. Further information about STP and its work areas can be found here and you can follow STP at @ScotlandTowns
And as a further plug, the Annual Meeting will be followed by the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group (CPG) on Towns & Town Centres which is running from 5.30pm – 7pm in the Parliament. Linking with the theme of STP’s Meeting, the CPG will focus on Community-Led Towns. If you’re not a member of the CPG but would like to be, please contact the CPG Secretary firstname.lastname@example.org