The Connecting MSPs to Scotland’s Towns Campaign took place during recess this year to encourage MSPs to go into their town centre for the day and to raise the profile of our towns, to MSPs. Thank you to those who shared their town centre visit with us and thank you for supporting Scotland’s towns.
Hugh Henry MSP
I relish being out and about in my constituency and was delighted to meet and get the views of so many enthusiastic and forward thinking people involved in a project to drive the local economy in Barrhead to new heights.
During a tour of Main Street and Cross Arthurlie Street I was given an insight into plans for a Business Improvement District (BID) for the town - a move that promises to deliver new opportunities for businesses and customers alike. I know how the BID framework has been used to enhance town centres, tourism or business parks with successful examples bringing a range of improvements such as better safety and security measures, community events, marketing and loyalty schemes, all of which can drive footfall and attract more investment. When you look at the work that East Renfrewshire Council has done in Barrhead, with the regeneration of the town, it is amazing.
The Main Street is transformed, the new Barrhead Foundry looks absolutely fantastic and there is a real air of positivity. My time chatting to many people at the heart of the initiative makes me even more convinced that the town centre has a lot to gain from following in the footsteps of neighbouring towns. It was an extremely informative tour and I know members of the BID steering group and all those people I met who run businesses in the town are determined to make it a better place.
I was given a wonderful insight into what those who are serving the community are doing to ensure Barrhead continues to thrive. The steering group has already launched itself headfirst into discussions on kick-starting the festive feeling within Barrhead. Barrhead has the population to support a thriving business community, and this is a positive step towards it.
Margaret McCulloch MSP
The regeneration and growth of Falkirk is really encouraging. This is a fantastic town with loads to offer and going forward I’m confident that Falkirk has a positive future. The retailers, the council and the BID team all understand the importance of developing the town centre and then making sure the town centre is connected to all the destinations and amenities around the town.
Tourism and leisure is now key to the local economy and the vibrancy of the town centre. Having people like Tom Jones playing in the town and having the Kelpies and the Wheel all linked up with the town centre through the new Loop service is fantastic. I’m also really pleased that Falkirk Council is putting the Town Centre First principle into practice. They are building their new headquarters in the centre of the town, instead of going out of town and taking footfall away from local shops.
The Townscape Heritage Initiative is hugely impressive. I’ve visited it before to see apprentices with traditional building skills exhibit in the churchyard. The way the churchyard has been turned around is incredible. I would encourage anyone with an interest in architecture or local history to make the most of Falkirk’s historic buildings.
The town centre itself is becoming a destination – not just a place for shopping. I know it can be depressing to hear news of another retailer pulling out of the high street, with WH Smith now closing their doors, but the truth is that retail is changing and town centre managers everywhere are having to be imaginative in deciding what can replace those empty units. Falkirk is ahead of the curve. The town centre is diverse and it has character and that’s something to build on for the future.
Stewart Stevenson MSP
One of the more enjoyable and most important aspects of being an elected representative is meeting with the people of Banffshire and Buchan Coast. I was fortunate to meet with a great many local business owners and volunteers in Buckie recently as was happy to hear their views regarding the town.
Walking around Buckie I was aware of some of the challenges it faces but what struck me was the determination of local people to make their town a successful place to do business and to visit. I noticed that despite these challenges Buckie has a vibrant town centre and indeed I was relieved that I booked a table for lunch.
Buckie is in a transitional period at this time with new industries seeking to establish themselves. I was encouraged by the way in which several businesses have utilised the roll out of superfast broadband to expand their business to markets which they would not normally have access.
Buckie has seen a number of new public service improvements recently including the opening of the 8 to 8 Dentists and Moray Hearing Centre.
I was impressed by the sense of community and the majority of the business owners I met were active in community events. I must praise the dedication and hard work that goes into organising local projects such as the Buckie Classic Show and Six Harbour Walk.
I met with the Chair of the Buckie Regeneration Group who has informed me of the many ways in which Buckie is moving forward, including taking over management of the Town Hall. This will ensure that the hall is made available for all who wish to use it.
One of the highlights of my visit was the Buckie Fishing Heritage Centre where the knowledge and enthusiasm of the volunteers at this local attraction and valuable service was both invaluable and infectious.
Overall I was impressed in the way in which the community is working towards making Buckie better.