The Scottish Government and its partners appreciate role of towns. By Alex Neil MSP

Town centres are at the heart of Scotland's economic and social fabric. They offer opportunities for local businesses to thrive, create jobs and strengthen the area's economy.

The Scottish Government is doing all it can to ensure town centres can take advantage of these benefits by helping them to be functioning, well maintained places that support the needs of residents, businesses and visitors.

Through our Town Centre Action Plan (TCAP) we are bringing together new, emerging and existing policies and strategies to reflect the changing scope of our town centres. There is no doubt that this is an ambitious task. But one year on from the launch of the TCAP we have already seen positive progress.

Record numbers of business properties have benefitted from an extension of the Small Business Bonus Scheme with more than 96,000 properties paying zero or reduced business rates. In addition to this we now have 32 Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) helping to support economic growth in town centres across the country.

We will continue to work with our partners to tackle town centre challenges head on, and by putting in place the right conditions we are giving town centres every opportunity to thrive and for them to be at the very heart of public sector decision making. Our agreement with COSLA to take forward the Town Centre First Principle has been a significant step in our collective efforts to revitalise town centres.

This principle calls on central government, local authorities, communities and the wider public sector to put town centres at the heart of proportionate and best-value decision making. It recognises that every town has its own distinct characteristics and strengths and so how it is adopted in practice will be decided locally.

By putting our town centres first, we can build on local town centre assets to help create vibrant places where people want to live, socialise and do business. I continue to be impressed by the scale of activity taking place. From people taking control of regeneration at community level, through to the various business organisations, the Chambers of Commerce and Business Improvement Districts, the efforts of councils and our work with COSLA, it is fantastic to see organisations and people recognising the value of revitalising our towns.

My own home town of Ayr is an example of this great work. We have some of the best coastlines and scenery in the world, we have fantastic schools, a college and university campus. We have desired amenity space and strong transport connectivity. South Ayrshire Council, Ayr Renaissance and other local partners are working to build on our existing assets to help strengthen the role of Ayr town centre.

What is important is that across Scotland this drive to tackle inequalities continues and that communities are working with the Scottish Government and our partners to make sure our town centres continue to be great places where people enjoy visiting, living and working.

Source: Sunday Herald

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