It was good to get back out and about and to be in Galashiels on the 31st May for the launch of the Town Centre Action Plan. Last Autumn I wrote about the Great Tapestry of Scotland and its stunning (now award-winning) setting in the heart of Galashiels. It was great to hear how successful it has been and its role as a catalyst for further enhancements to the town centre.
The main business of the day was the launch of the Town Centre Action Plan by the Minister Tom Arthur. He was joined at the initial part of the launch by myself and by the Chief Executive of South of Scotland Enterprise Jane Morrison-Ross. We were then followed by an expert local panel, all ably chaired by Professor Russell Griggs.
The whole event was live streamed by Scotland’s Towns Partnership and is available to watch again on their YouTube channel. There is also a short summary on the STP website.
To be honest the main presentations, and especially my piece, went over well known ground. I spoke about how we got to this point (in towns and policy), the framework and approach of the revised Town Centre Plan and the importance of collaboration at local levels to implement the actions and produce real change. Much of what I said could be predicted from my report and earlier blog pieces, so I am not repeating it here.
What was notable however was the enthusiasm and commitment of the local voices, groups, organisations and council to ‘grasp the nettle’ and to make a real impact in local towns. Galashiels was a good illustration of this, with local groups working with South of Scotland Enterprise and Scottish Borders Council.
Is there more that could be done? Of course. A discussion on the unfair balance of VAT on new build and refurbishment/renovation chimed with so many people (as it did later in the evening with politicians at the Scottish Grocers Federation Convenience Retailing Cross Party Parliamentary Group), is one example of something the UK Government could act on quickly.
The main theme that shone through however was that of local commitment making a difference within a clear framework (with more strengthening and support for town centres to come). That local activity is the focus of the series of roadshows on the Town Centre Action Plan being organised by Scotland’s Towns Partnership. Confirmed dates (a mixture of online and F2F – and it was great to be back in person speaking ‘live’ in Galashiels) thus far are below and in each case a showcase of local action will highlight what can be done and the opportunities.
North East Focus
7 June 2 – 3.30pm Online
East Focus (as part of Scotland’s Towns Partnership AGM/Tea Party)
8 June 2.30 – 4pm Online
Highlands and Islands
24 August 10am – 12pm Inverness + Livestream (in person attendance by invitation only)
31 August 10am – 12pm Stirling + Livestream (in person attendance by invitation only)
14 September 10am – 12pm Ayrshire + Livestream (in person attendance by invitation only)