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Work Place Chaplaincy Scotland Blog

Talk of the town(s)

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WPCS attended Friday’s: ‘Regeneration 2014: breathing new life into Scotland’s town centres’ conference at Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh and picked up some interesting points, especially later in the programme.

Speakers for the four sessions ranged from Government ministers to planners and policy makers and they provoked some thoughtful questions. Among the speakers was MSP Kevin Stewart, convener of the Government’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee and member for Aberdeen Central at the Scottish Parliament, who has led the year-long enquiry into the delivery of regeneration in Scotland.

Malcolm Fraser, director of Malcolm Fraser Architects – chair of the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Review which is described as seeking to use simple, structural change to reinvigorate communities – outlined some of the ways new life has been and can be breathed into existing townscapes. Read it here: National Review,

In response, the Scottish Government has launched the Town Centre Action Plan designed to address the decline of Scotland’s high streets.

It was clear from talking to some of the delegates that it is essential that politicians at local and national level see town centres as a priority – and a vote winner.

Of particular interest to WPCS were presentations by Barry McCulloch, senior policy advisor to the Scottish Federation of Small Businesses and Professor Leigh Sparks, of the Institute for Retail Studies at the University of Stirling who also blogs under http://stirlingretail.com/author/leighsparks/

Quoting the Government’s published figures for businesses in Scotland http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Business/Corporate McCulloch said there were an estimated 343,105 private sector enterprises operating in Scotland. Almost all of these enterprises (98.3%) were small (0 to 49 employees); 3,705 (1.1%) were medium-sized (50 to 249 employees) and 2,270 (0.7%) were large (250 or more employees). As at March 2013, there were 340,840 Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) operating in Scotland, employing an estimated 1.1 million people. SMEs accounted for 99.3% of all private sector enterprises. He argued that reducing costs in town centres such as business rates and rents is key to helping breathe new life into communities.

Three projects already off the drawing board: Dundee Waterfront; The Stromness Townscape Heritage Initiative and the Helix and Kelpies Project in Falkirk, drew positive responses from the floor as Allan Watt (Waterfront), Miriam Frier (Stromness) and Mike King (Helix and Kelpies) shared their experiences of the benefits already accruing to their areas due to these initiatives.

Holyrood magazine’s conference was billed as ‘an opportunity to hear from the experts and participate in thought- provoking debate on the policies and actions which aim to redress the decline of Scotland’s town centres’. WPCS chaplains, on the ground in the high streets and Scotland’s shopping centres, know first-hand what is happening across the country. We help deal with the consequences daily and can inform that debate.

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