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

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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 ofScotland'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 is currently a workstream leader on the Scottish Government’s Ministerial Retail Strategy Group. Leigh runs a blog on retail matters (

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.

Tom Sneddon, Treasurer

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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".

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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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Graham Campbell, Board Member

I am the General Manager for Ayrshire and Clyde South District within SP EnergyNetworks, responsible for ‘keeping the lights on’ in 360,000 homes and businesses across the three Ayrshire Local Authorities, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire and Inverclyde.

What is my interest in towns: Being from a town myself and leading a business whose customers and communities are at the heart of everything we do, towns are fundamental to our future, both as a nation and for the towns and communities themselves.

Why are towns so important: It is vital that we continue to invest in our towns across Scotland to ensure these vital communities prosper in today’s world. As the world becomes ever smaller in this digital age, our towns should not lose out rather flourish from the opportunities that the digital age brings

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Barry McCulloch, Board Member

Barry McCulloch is the Senior Policy Advisor for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland – the country’s largest and most influential direct-member business organisation.

A passionate advocate of the importance of small businesses in the economy, Barry has a keen interest in the success of towns and cities, as well as issues such as transport, immigration and climate change.

Barry’s career has predominantly focused on local and national economic development across the public, private and third sectors, having previously advised think tanks, quangos and economic development bodies.

A graduate of three Universities, Barry lives in the Southside of Glasgow with his wife and two daughters.

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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 key 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.  

Previous to this, I was the Police Commander for Aberdeen and led the transition in the north-east from a local to national entity.  

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Jennifer Wallace, Board Member

I am Head of Policy at the Carnegie UK Trust where I manage the Wellbeing and Towns team. I am a recognised expert on wellbeing in public policy, with a recently published book on Devolution and Wellbeing (Palgrave MacMillan). I currently advise the Scottish Government on societal wellbeing and sits on the Cabinet Secretary’s Roundtable on Measuring Scotland’s Progress. I also advise What Works Wellbeing and the OECD on wellbeing metrics. I was a key player in the development of the recently revived Northern Ireland outcomes approach for public services, formalised in the new devolution deal

I both live and work in a town so have a very personal interest in what makes towns flourish. I care passionately about evidence-based policy but find that towns are often ‘hidden’ in the evidence, literally lost between rural and urban interests. I am also a strong believer in cross-sectoral collaboration and believe that towns operate at a human level where people can come together to build solutions. Better data on the wellbeing of towns is a key interest of mine.

More people live in towns than the current policy and media narrative suggests (our estimate is over a third of people in Scotland). It is harmful to social cohesion and trust to both crowd their interests out of public policy and to portray these places solely as negative places (and by extension, people). As we move into a different phase of economic, social and environmental policy (catalysed by climate change) we must seek new policy and practice solutions to supporting towns to set their own path for future development.  

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John Giblin, Board Member

John Giblin is Head of Public Sector for BT in Scotland, with responsibility for all public sector business across Scotland, including health, national and local government, emergency services, justice, local councils and universities.

John joined BT in 1997 from Siemens Business Systems and since joining, John has worked across a number of roles, including technical sales support, sales, channel management, product and proposition development, marketing and sales management.

An industry veteran with 33 years of experience, John is passionate about making Scotland a better place to live, work and visit, and he believes digital technology and building key strategic partnerships can enable this.

BT is heavily invested and a key stakeholder in every town and community in Scotland. Modern towns face tough challenges, with rising populations and a growth in e-commerce placing rising pressure on local services, housing and transport. John is passionate to help alleviate some of these challenges and help towns and communities in Scotland to thrive, by leveraging his skills, experience and network to help digitally enable towns and places in Scotland and make smarter use of technology.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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