A New Future for Scotland's Towns is an independent report, chaired by Professor Leigh Sparks of Stirling University.  It highlights the challenges of town centres to not only contribute to a healthy economy, but to help our wellbeing by giving us a sense of history, community and environment. Town centres are a sustainable heart of a community providing opportunities to live, work and enjoy on a more equitable and socially fair basis, enhancing wellbeing and a sense of community and place.

A New Future for Scotland's Towns calls on the Town Centre Action Plan process to recognise that many of the good things that used to be in town centres have moved to other parts of towns and sometimes the needs of locals are not being met. It calls for the Scottish Government to help fund the reversal of a decentralised model which has disadvantaged town centre locations and increased inequalities.

Town centres can help deliver on National Priorities such as the recognition of a climate emergency, legislation enhancing community empowerment and a focus on health and wellbeing. They can also be a key contributor to social and economic renewal from COVID-19 and help build a fairer and more resilient society in a post-Brexit world.

 “… COVID-19 has brought new and serious economic challenge to our towns and places and has required us to look again at how we support them… we have a range of outcome indicators all driving action on inclusive development, climate change and equalities…There are exciting opportunities to empower our communities… The report develops a new vision for the future of our town centres, capturing some of the new found sense of localism, and develops ideas and recommendations to help achieve the healthier, fairer, greener, successful towns our communities deserve.”

Aileen Campbell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government

A summary of the report:

  • Town Centre Plans need to be made with the local community and the focus should be on the wellbeing of people, the planet and the economy.
  • Active travel - town centres need to be designed to be accessible, both to and from but also within the town centre. Town centres are often full of car traffic, challenging foot and bicycle travel aswell as creating pollution. A commitment to the 20-minute neighbourhood concept should be applied through revised planning policies.
  • Climate change needs to be addressed by making more green and social spaces which also create potential for local and circular economies.
  • Redevelopment tax and rates demands of town centre businesses, community initiatives and creating/redeveloping housing in town centres is higher than they are in other parts of towns. Business use of the internet is also addressed and digital inequalities discussed.
  • Sharing Good Practice – with the uniqueness of every town centre in focus, there is a need to have more approaches to use demonstration regeneration projects. The learning from existing and new projects needs to be clearly disseminated to, and used by, local authorities and others.

Read the full report here