Plans to revive Scotland’s town centres seem to be formulated roughly once every 10 years. There was for instance the idea of having a Town Centre Manager in just about every town in the country. In some places, it worked – at least in part. Today, the Scottish Government’s latest proposals were unveiled – and were promptly greeted by half-hearted enthusiasm by the small business sector.
The ideas put forward included £2 million to help bring empty town centre properties back into use along with increased rates relief for companies that took on such premises. The government says that it will work with Cosla to develop a town centre first principle, illustrated by demonstration projects. It also wants to encourage fresh ideas through what it describes as “community involvement” and launched a competition for entrepreneurs.
Launching the plans, the Local Government Minister, Derek Mackay, described the proposals as marketing “a new era for Scotland’s town centres.” He added that his department would continue to work in partnership with local authorities, private and community organisations to ensure they were vibrant places to live, work and socialise.
However the Federation of Small Business in Scotland dismissed the ideas, pointing out that many of the measures where re-announcements of existing policies, adding that others would not be implement it for some time. In the view of Scottish Policy Convener, Andy Willox, “the proposal to develop Town Centre Investments Zones, for example, will require legislation not scheduled until 2014 and, even then, will require consent and funding from councils. Independent businesses expecting the town centre cavalry will be waiting a while longer.”