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
Professor Leigh Sparks is Deputy Principal (Education and Students) and Professor of Retail Studies at the University of Stirling. He was a geography undergraduate at the University of Cambridge and completed his Ph.D. (on retail employment) at the University of Wales. Leigh is Board Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership (2013-date), was a member of the External Advisory Group on the Scottish Government’s National Town Centre Review (2012-2013) and on the Expert Advisory Group advising the Scottish Government on the lessons to be learned from the Horsemeat Scandal (2013).
During 2020, Leigh was a member of the Scottish Government’s Social Renewal Advisory Board, the report from which (If Not Now When?) was published in January 2021, and Chaired the review of the Town Centre Action Plan for the Scottish Government, the report from which (A New Future for Scotland’s Towns) was published in February 2021. He was a member of the Scottish Government’s Ministerial Retail Strategy Group, which wrote the Retail Strategy for Scotland, published in March 2022. Leigh runs a blog on retail matters.
Mhairi Donaghy, Vice Chair (Membership Services)
Mhairi Donaghy is Associate Director at Scottish Futures Trust, working in the Place, Housing and Economic Investment team. She has considerable experience of towns and town centre research, having supported a wide range of projects over the past thirty 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 and local jobs, and strengthen community ties. Where they have a clear purpose and can harness opportunities, all towns have the potential to build a successful future.
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".
Pete Cheema, Board Member
Pete was then appointed as Chief Executive of the Scottish Grocers Federation in 2015, and since then has revolutionised it into a modern, relevant and highly influential trade body which has the ear of Scottish Government on retail matters as well as having influence at UK Government level (working with ACS). The organisation has also become a beacon for diversity across gender and ethnicity; Pete was also recently appointed to Police Scotland’s Independent Ethics Advisory Panel.
Pete is currently a Board member of the Scottish Retail Consortium and Scotland’s Town Partnership, as well as being a former lay adviser to Police Scotland from 2000 to 2018. He also sits on a number of Scottish Government committees and Glasgow’s Licensing Forum.
Pete was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2018 for services to Business, Community Cohesion and Charity, and was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Stirling University for his services to the retail sector in 2019.
Caroline Warburton, Board Member
I am the Regional Leadership Director for the East region at VisitScotland, covering from Fife up to the Moray Coast. My role is to ensure that VisitScotland’s activities contribute to strengthening the region’s visitor economy. This involves working closely with key regional stakeholders, such as local authorities and destination organisations, to ensure alignment of strategic priorities, identify opportunities, support the sector in the region and champion the region internally in VisitScotland.
Scotland’s towns are an essential part of Scottish tourism. They provide focal points for visitors, be it with visitor attractions, activities, places to stay or places to eat, or simply to see how we live. Vibrant towns make vibrant and successful tourism destinations. Visitors come to Scotland to experience our places, our culture and to meet our people. Towns are essential to that.
Claire Daly - Board Member
I am Head of Policy & Communications, Sustrans Scotland. I am interested in towns as places where people live, work, play, meet and socialise. I am also very interested in the role the urban environment plays in promoting people’s health and wellbeing. Towns that work at a human level, with lots of green space, and good walking and cycling routes, are also great towns for business, for housing, for families, children and visitors.
Towns occupy an interesting space between rural and city-dwelling. Many have the challenges of a large urban environment (traffic congestion, lack of green spaces, pressure on services) but without the advantages of a larger city (own local authority, good public transport links, wider range of facilities) . Making towns more people-centred, with good walking and cycling infrastructure is key to making towns successful, and overcoming the challenges of an urban environment while taking advantage of the benefits of shorter travel distances.
Carol Ann Anderson, Board Member
I am the Branch Distribution Director for TSB. Towns have been and to a large extent, still are, the heartbeat of our communities and with the increased pace of change and development of technology, we are finding that the whole meaning and being of towns are changing also.
It is important that we can define the purpose of what we expect a town to provide and how we know if this is successful. I am really keen to be part of debates around this and be part of finding the right decisions to create a vibrant and sustainable place for people to meet and live.
We simply cannot accept that towns become ghost streets without a purpose and working together to take towns forward is important both socially and commercially. I am really excited to be playing an active part in this.
Adrian Watson, Board Member
I am the Chief Executive of Aberdeen Inspired, the city centre Business Improvement District (BID). I represent over 900 levy paying businesses and accrues some £850, 000 per annum, but this is more than doubled through numerous other funding streams to give an annual operating budget of over £1.8 million. This makes it one of the largest BIDs of its kind in the UK.
I am a strategic partner in the delivery of the Aberdeen City Centre Masterplan and other city/regional collaborations and has brought a wide range of festivals and events to the city, not least Nuart (Aberdeen) International Street Art Festival that has brought global acclaim, with Aberdeen Inspired winning the European BID of the Year award in 2017/18. We are also the first organisation outside of London to introduce an Evening & Night-Time Economy Manager, as part of a wider award-winning ‘Alive after 5’ strategy.
I also hold the National Chair for Scotland of the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM) UK and Ireland.
Alison Turnbull, Board Member
I am Director of Development and Partnership at Historic Environment Scotland. My role covers a wide range of areas including community engagement, strategic partnerships, research, policy, strategy implementation, international working, equalities and fundraising.
I created a new Directorate with a fresh approach in HES. I led the process to develop Heritage for All, HES’s corporate plan using service design methods and engaging seldom heard voices. The style of working can be characterised as innovative, collaborative and facilitative. The Directorate works across HES and with external bodies to draw in best practice and ensure efficiency of delivery.
Fergus Murray, Board Member
Fergus is a chartered town planner and member of SLAED. Currently Head of Development and Economic Growth with Argyll and Bute Council he has a responsibility for a range of council services including planning, regulatory services, housing, economic growth and area regeneration.
Fergus has worked in Glasgow and Shetland prior to coming to Argyll and has throughout his career been involved in area regeneration projects including the regeneration of the Broomielaw and Merchant City areas, the regeneration of Lerwick Waterfront and Town Centre and latterly Argyll and Bute’s CHORD project that helped regenerate the town centres of five main towns.
Fergus has a particular interest in the viability of small rural towns and how they support the wider rural economy. He strongly believes in encouraging new business in our town centres and providing local people with the right skills to take best advantage of the places where they live.
Claire Carpenter, Board Member
I am the Founder & CEO of The Melting Pot – Scotland’s Center for Social innovation. Our aim is to stimulate and support social innovation.
I created ‘TMP’ to enable social innovators to work, meet, learn and connect. This Award winning social enterprise, located in central Edinburgh, is one of Europes’ first ‘coworking hubs’.
Our other services include Good Ideas - an incubation programme which helps people make change; and the Coworking Accelerator - tooling up placemakers all over the world to build the next generation of coworking businesses, developing the ecosystem supports to create resilient enterprising communities locally.
I grew up in a huge declining market town, with terrible transport infrastructure, urban planning and vision for identity. A sprawling & commuter town. There was not enough to stay there then. But the world is different now. I believe towns have an opportunity to become desirable and even a ‘destination’ again. We’ve a long way to go - but the future is coming - how, where and when we work is changing. Better towns can facilitate a better quality of life for many and for our collective future. Let’s crack on with it.
Hilary Kidd, Board Member
Hilary Kidd is Smart Services Director at Young Scot, leading on the strategic development and implementation of Young Scot’s smart-service programmes including the Young Scot National Entitlement Card, digital assurance and the Proof of Age Standard Scheme (PASS), membership services and local authority partnerships.
Having grown up in towns across Scotland and now living in Motherwell, Hilary strongly believes that young people should have more opportunities to participate effectively in the future planning of their town centres. With a particular interest in tackling inequalities, Hilary wants to ensure that we are connecting young people to the heart of town centre regeneration policy.
A qualified Solicitor, Hilary has spent the majority of her career in the third sector and is a former Board member of the Scottish Youth Parliament and YouthLink Scotland.