Mixed views on town centres agreement

The Scottish Government’s agreement with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) regarding public sector investment in town centres has received a mixed response.

South of Scotland MSP Jim Hume attacked the SNP’s record on protecting public services in the Borders after the Scottish Government endorsed the ‘Town Centre First’ principle, which encourages public and private bodies to consider the consequences of removing town centre facilities.

“Frankly it’s a bit rich for the SNP to claim they’re encouraging the public sector to invest in town centres, a sentiment which is totally at odds with what they’ve actually done in government,” said Mr Hume.

“The reality is that the SNP have overseen the withdrawal of key police, court and fire services across southern Scotland, which is not only damaging to community safety but also strikes a cruel blow for rural employment where every single job is at an absolute premium.”

Andy Willox, the Federation of Small Businesses’ Scottish policy convenor, said the commitment was a ‘good start’ but added more needs to be done.

Mr Willox also warned that the FSB in Scotland will keep an eye out to ensure the ‘Town Centre First’ principle is respected.

“We recently highlighted that close to 100 towns across Scotland are facing a local closure because of a big business or public sector re-organisation – removing vital demand from our local economies,” he said.

“We have to make our high streets attractive to all sorts of organisations: large and small, public and private. Premises need to be affordable, accessible and appropriate. Our centres need to be safe, well-maintained and digitally connected.”

Mr Willox called for a ‘renewed commitment’ from local and central government on town centres, adding: “An important next step is securing the footfall and revenue generated by the public sector in our towns.”