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 2023 be an improvement on 2022.
The last year has been a busy and interesting time for Scotland’s towns and Scotland’s Towns Partnership. Whilst there have been some very positive steps, the situation remains challenging, not least because of the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis and the steep rises in costs, inflation and the cost of living for consumers.
In May we saw the joint Scottish Government/COSLA response to “A New Future for Scotland’s Town Centres”, accepting the approach and adding their endorsement for change and action in the form of TCAP2. As well, some of the new policy landscape had emerged in the Draft National Planning Framework 4 and in November the revised version added further strengthening.
STP’s leadership and delivery of Scotland Loves Local and the Loves Local gift card programme has proved highly effective. Whilst more can be done to, and with, the platform, Scotland Loves Local has lodged itself firmly in the consciousness of consumers, businesses and in the armoury of local authorities, not least in helping tackle the cost of living crisis with targeted interventions.
We also finally were able to hold our first in-person Annual Conference since 2019 when a sell-out crowd descended on Kilmarnock. TCAP2 and Scotland Loves Local were used to structure the day and it was incredible to see the positivity and energy around Scotland’s towns.
The progress we have made in recent years in the teeth of a global pandemic, major disruptions such as Brexit and geo-political disturbances has been phenomenal. Scotland’s towns have pulled together despite these wider challenges, and whilst there is more to do nationally and locally, we should not underestimate what has been achieved. With stability in these external events, a more positive policy framework and government support, who knows what more can be done.
Town by town, local people and communities, businesses and place-makers are making a real difference to their places and people’s lives. STP exists to coordinate, amplify and celebrate the great work that is done at this local level. Again this year I have been amazed and humbled by what is being done across Scotland. Thanks for all your efforts.
May I wish you all the very best for this festive season and for a successful, prosperous and hopefully more peaceful 2023.
Professor Leigh Sparks, Chair, Scotland’s Towns Partnership
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