Phil Prentice, Chief Officer

Photo of Phil Prentice, Chief Officer

"With 25 years economic development experience across the public and private sectors, my role as Chief Officer of Scotland's Towns Partnership is to drive sustainable change through collaboration and partnership. Towns are clearly back on the political agenda and our work in helping to deliver the Town Centre Action Plan has delivered a step change in thinking and tangible progress. 

Scotland's Towns and smaller settlements account for 70% of our population base and aside from their significant economic contribution in terms of commerce and employment, they provide a living record of our history and heritage, they provide places where communities can meet, socialise and celebrate culture, and are hubs where people can live, access services, leisure, entertainment and transport.

Despite the numerous factors and pressures impacting on our towns I believe that empowered communities can be energised to ensure that Scotland's towns remain vibrant and continue to play a vital role in our nation's future."

Professor Leigh Sparks, Chair

Photo of Professor Leigh Sparks, Chair

"I am Professor of Retail Studies and Deputy Principal of the University of Stirling. I am the current chair of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, a role that has followed on from a longstanding interest in place and community and involvement in the External advisory Group for the National Review of Town Centres (the Fraser Review).  

My academic work is mainly in retailing, but increasingly it involves aspects of retailing in towns and places. I am one of the drivers behind the Understanding Scottish Places work ( and also run a retail blog which encompasses a lot of our towns work ( On the blog you can find copies of presentations, articles and other aspects of my retail and towns work. Towns are the fundamental heart of Scotland, being the place where social and economic value can be best delivered and promoting a sense of identity and place. Everyone comes from somewhere and most people come from, or associate with a town. They need to be nurtured and re-energised to meet modern needs and to strengthen community life".

Mhairi Donaghy, Vice Chair (Membership Services)

Photo of Mhairi Donaghy, Vice Chair (Membership Services)

Mhairi Donaghy is Associate Director at EKOS Economic and Social Research and leads all of the practice’s regeneration and place development studies.  She has considerable experience of towns and town centre research, having delivered a wide range of studies over many years including place audits, strategy and action plan development, project appraisals and funding applications.

Mhairi has a very strong interest in towns as a service user and shopper, as a visitor, and as an economic research practitioner.  She worked with her local Business Association over many years, latterly helping the group to secure a successful ballot and establish the ‘My Shawlands’ Business Improvement District (BID).  Towns are essential in bring together the facilities and services that people want to use in accessible places that people can get to – this helps to promote variety and encourage innovation.  Successful towns have a distinctive offer, are vibrant places, and encourage people to visit through activities, events and marketing efforts, helping to sustain business performance, create new jobs, and strengthen community ties.  Where they can define their purpose and exploit opportunities, all towns have the potential to build a more successful future.

Ian Davison Porter, Vice Chair (Learning, Skills and Education)

Photo of Ian Davison Porter, Vice Chair (Learning, Skills and Education)

Ian Davison Porter's role is to lead the delivery of the Scottish Government's Business Improvement District Programme across Scotland to help empower local businesses and communities and to deliver positive local outcomes which contribute to sustainable inclusive economic growth. 

Ian Davison Porter’s early career was in retail, store development and redevelopment with his career taking him to town centres across the UK. Later he was part of the project and management team of a multi-million pound town centre shopping centre refurbishment and rebuild, part of a wider public and private sector partnership urban regeneration programme. He joined Town Centres Initiative Limited in West Dunbartonshire before joining the Scottish Government in 2006.

Ian has led the BIDs programme in Scotland for over 11 years growing the organisation from an initial 5 BIDs in 2008 to 38 operational and 22 in development BIDs in 2018.

Ian is also Vice Chair and a Director of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, a Director of Economic Development Association Scotland (EDAS), a Director of Improvement and Development Scotland Limited, an Advisory Board Member of SUSTRANS and a Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal.

Tom Sneddon, Treasurer

Photo of Tom Sneddon, Treasurer

Tom is currently treasurer to Scotland's Towns Partnership. 

"As an architect in private practice and as a Director of the Development Trusts Association Scotland [DTAS] I represent both the active practitioner and the can-do community-led ethos of DTAS on the board of STP.

I’m interested in towns because like almost 70% of our population, I live in one. Towns also provide 2/3 of our jobs and businesses and should be the powerhouse of our economy. Our towns are the barometer of the nation’s economic health and social wellbeing.

Getting our towns and town centres right is important not only for that particular place but also for a socially inclusive and vibrant national economy. Therefore, towns matter – they matter a lot.

Towns form an important and integral part of Scotland’s landscape. Big towns, small towns, beautiful towns, unremarkable towns, seaside towns – the list goes on. They provide a broad diversity in terms of size, scale, location, landscape setting and character including layout and building fabric. Towns are the lifeblood and sole economic drivers to many rural areas and are essential components to the hinterland of our 7 cities.

There is a great deal of pride in Scotland’s towns, which offer a way of life at a scale, which is often rich in identity and social interaction with a deep local sense of place. The opportunity exists to harness this local pride, knowledge and enthusiasm to improve the overall social, economic and physical environments within these places".

Annique Armstrong, Board Member

Photo of Annique Armstrong, Board Member

Annique has worked in tourism for almost 15 years across a variety of disciplines including roles in Marketing and Account Management.  She currently works as a Regional Director with VisitScotland covering Ayrshire & Arran, Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and Inverclyde and acting as a local champion, representing VisitScotland in all its strategic stakeholder engagement activity at regional and local levels.

Annique is particularly interested in the role towns can play in helping to grow the Scottish visitor economy.  Vibrant towns can draw visitors who come to experience our history, culture and sample an authentic experience.  The quality of our built environment as well as the vibrancy of the creative and food and drink scenes in our towns is important to the visitor experience and continued investment helps create a positive environment in which to enjoy the cultural offerings.

Craig McLaren, Board Member

Photo of Craig McLaren, Board Member

Craig is Director of Scotland of Ireland in the Royal Town Planning Institute. He took up post with RTPI in January 2011 and works with around 2,500 RTPI members in Scotland and Ireland to shape and inform policy and practice to ensure that planning helps to create great places for people.

Prior to this Craig spent almost 8 years setting up, and then managing, the Scottish Centre for Regeneration in Scottish Government and its agency Communities Scotland, as its Director. Between 1997 and 2003 Craig was Chief Executive of the Scottish Urban Regeneration Forum (SURF), the independent network promoting best practice in regeneration. He was Scottish Planning Policy Officer with the RTPI between 1994 and 1997, and before this he worked as a planner and economic development officer for the London Borough of Kingston upon Thames.

Carole Noble, Board Member

Photo of Carole Noble, Board Member

Carole is Operations Director at Keep Scotland Beautiful and is responsible for local environmental quality and education. With 20 years’ experience in environmental health, cleansing and waste management within local authorities she has a strong interest in place.

“I am particularly interested in the value of high quality local spaces in terms of our health, wealth and happiness. My passion, as well as my job, is to promote clean, safe and welcoming places for the people of Scotland and to support the communities, councils and businesses that contribute to them. I am pleased to be a member of the STP Board and hope to use this opportunity to highlight the value of excellent local environmental quality for communities and for business.”

Leigh Brown, Board Member

Photo of Leigh Brown, Board Member

City Centre Manager, Perth and Kinross Council’s City Development team.

"As part of Perth and Kinross Council’s City Development team I have responsibility as City Centre Manager for the growth and development of Perth city centre. My interest in towns and cities is how we create social hubs that meet the needs of the local communities and offer a quality experience for visitors. I believe that towns and cities are important as they provide social centres and express the personality of a location to the outside world".

Daisy Narayanan, Board Member

Photo of Daisy Narayanan, Board Member

"In my role as Deputy Director, Built Environment for Sustrans Scotland, I believe passionately in the importance of placemaking - creating good quality spaces which deliver economically, socially and environmentally sustainable design. This is crucial not just for enriching our daily lives but also to help make an invaluable contribution to the continued success of our towns.

Drawing on my previous experience working in India, Singapore, England and Scotland, I am keen that our walking and cycling projects are responsive to a broader opportunity, to design and create places that reflect and complement the communities that live in them.

In a well-connected and permeable town, the full potential of walking, cycling and other sustainable travel solutions need to to be realised in order to ensure that our towns are as healthy, economically vibrant, and socially cohesive as they can be. I look forward to working closely with the STP Board, to be able to contribute by sharing the best of our projects, research and thinking, and to look for ways to further integrate sustainable transport expertise into the valuable work that STP does".

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Chris Bell, Board Member

"I am a Chartered Civil Engineer, Town Planner and Fellow of ICE. I took up a new post as Strategic Economic Development Director at Northampton County Council’s service delivery partner Northamptonshire Highways (Kier WSP Joint Venture) based in Northampton in January 2017. I have 28 years’ experience in both the public and private sectors, and relocated from Scotland, where I was Development Director in WSP’s Edinburgh Office.

I support a holistic approach towards planning for growth bringing together various stakeholders to deliver social infrastructure projects in a coordinated way to benefit all partners. This approach helps create places which are attractive and interesting for communities to live work and socialise providing benefits for the health and wellbeing of everyone as well as seeking new ways of working to maximise funding opportunities.

Over the years I have developed and implemented projects to improve accessibility, safety and encourage sustainable travel for residents, shoppers, visitors and commuters. I have always tried to create places which are interesting, attractive and safe for people to live, work and move around as well as raising awareness of good street design and place agenda.

I feel that towns are important to encourage people to live, work and socialise through good quality housing and employment opportunities, providing local access to services and facilities and having attractive green spaces which are adequately connected to neighbourhoods." 

Martin Valenti, Board Member

Martin Valenti is Head of Strategic Initiatives – Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)

"With over 30 years’ experience in a variety of senior management roles, I have developed significant experience in environmental, economic and regulatory policy including project managing major projects and initiatives. I have successfully delivered high profile projects for the Scottish Government on environmental noise, contaminated land and climate change. More recently, I served a four-year secondment as Project Director for Scotland's 2020 Climate Group and played an instrumental role in setting the group up. 

Scotland’s towns have a major role to play in the overall economic success of our nation. SEPA is driving a comprehensive agenda that would see Scotland leading the world in delivering social, economic and environmental prosperity and works with a range of partners including the STP to support initiatives for success across the nation. The success of a town will not come via appropriate and sensible regulation alone which is why strong collaborative leadership is key to success".


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Stephen Gemmell, Board Member

Stephen is a chartered surveyor and director with Currie & Brown’s asset management team. He also heads up its industry group for oil, gas, utilities and renewables.

“I have a significant breadth and depth of knowledge and experience across the whole asset/ project lifecycle, particularly in relation to asset strategies, business cases, procurement, transformational change and transition management. That experience has been gained in client, consultant and constructor roles across the public and private sectors.

I grew up and still live in a former industrial town that has seen many challenges but continues bounce back through its community spirit at a local and business level.  Having also had responsibility for a significant transformation programme in one of the country’s largest social housing associations, I believe firmly in building sustainable communities through empowerment and asset ownership”. 

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Pete Cheema, Board Member

Pete Cheema is CEO of the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF), the national trade association for the independent convenience store sector in Scotland. There are 5,300 convenience stores in Scotland, they provide over 41,000 jobs and contribute some £520 million to Scotland’s economy in Gross Value Added.

An award-winning retailer in his own right, Pete’s key role is to set the strategic direction of the organisation and ensure it advocates effectively on behalf of its membership.  Scotland has more convenience stores per head of population than in the rest of the UK. This high density of stores means that they are embedded in – and provide vital services to – every town in Scotland and every community in Scotland. Convenience stores make a vital economic contribution to towns and help to ensure their vibrancy and sustainability. Planning, local development and the town centre first principle are key issues for convenience retailing and SGF is committed to making these things work for retailers and our communities.

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David Wallace, Board Member

David is a senior BT executive who heads up the Public Sector business in Scotland. His remit is to implement a new strategic direction to increase local focus nationwide. David is part of the BT leadership development programme. He is passionate about supporting SMEs in Scotland and is a non-executive director and advisor to a number of these. An industry veteran with over 30 years international experience he is originally from Bo’ness and now lives in Edinburgh with his young daughter.

Why towns are my interest:

Modern towns face tough challenges, with rising populations and rapid growth putting pressure on local services, housing and transport. Smart use of technology, including data collection and interrogation, will help address these big issues. Collective action is needed to help Scotland’s towns to thrive, and being part of STP is important to explore how ICT can contribute. One way or another, BT is a stakeholder in every community in Scotland. The rapid expansion of high-speed services will revolutionise work, leisure and the economic life of our towns and places.

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