As Chair of Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) I get to put a Christmas message in the final bulletin of the year which goes out to members. This is an appropriate opportunity to reflect briefly on the last year generally and for STP in particular and I thought I might reproduce it here. More widely may I wish all readers wherever you are in the world, season’s greetings and a Happy New Year. May 2022 be an improvement.
“The continued rampaging of Covid19 throughout the world and its effects on economy and society need no rehearsal. We have all been touched by it, and with the emergence of Omicron, are now facing up to dealing with yet more pressures. Towns across Scotland have had a better year than 2020, with something more closely approaching normal, especially after the first few months of the year, and the relationship of citizens with place has deepened further.
But we still need to support our towns and STP has been delighted to play a leading role in this. The Town Centre Action Plan Review, published in February 2021 as ‘A New Future for Scotland’s Towns’ sets out a medium term vision and path for our towns. Whilst we await the formal response from Scottish Government and COSLA, we can already see some impact and alignment via the draft National Planning Framework 4 and the Place Based Investment Programme. It was a pleasure to lead and write the Review report and to see STP engage throughout 2021 with obtaining reactions and identifying practical ways forward to deliver the vision the Review provided.
More immediately though, STP has been instrumental in the Scotland Loves Local delivery programme and now the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card programme. We have also been responsible for managing recovery funds (over £6m) targeted at local initiatives including via the BIDs.
STP exists to further the position of Scotland’s Towns and to coordinate, amplify and celebrate the great work that is done at the local level in towns across Scotland. There have been many challenges over the last 20 months, but I have never been but amazed and humbled by what has been done on the ground in communities across Scotland. It is that which makes me more convinced than ever that our towns have a bright, vibrant and successful future. Thanks to all for all your efforts.
May I wish you all the very best for this festive season and for a successful, prosperous and hopefully more normal 2022. “
Leigh Sparks, Professor of Retail Stduies and Chair, Scotland’s Towns Partnership