Talking point: Growing pains

Written by on 27 May 2014

Recent research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland has revealed almost 100 towns and cities across the country are facing, or have been hit with, the closure of a local service because of big business and public sector reorganisations. 

Clydesdale Bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Post Office, Police Scotland, HMRC and the Scottish Courts Service either have or plan to close services to the public, or shut local buildings across the country.

As Scotland’s towns struggle to redefine themselves and work out what their role is in our ever changing modern world, the research is concerning. Colin Borland, FSB’s head of external affairs in Scotland, said: “Over the last few years, we’ve seen large public and private bodies evaluate their operations and come to the same conclusion – they can no longer afford to operate at the same level in towns and high streets across Scotland.

“We are concerned about this trend and are encouraging those in charge to consider the cumulative impact of their decisions on local economies. We also fear that colleges, the Ministry of Defence and other large organisations may be making decisions which will put their hometowns under additional pressure.”

He added that public servants tasked with turning high streets around are being “undermined” by their colleagues in other bodies looking to rationalise their estate.

He said: “These institutions cite our modern habits including increased use of communications technology and declining town-centre visitor numbers. We know that how we shop, live and work has changed for good – the challenge is to ensure that our local towns and economies thrive despite this shift.”

So what is the answer? Research on the role and purpose of our town centres was carried out last year, and there are a large number of people working hard to ensure the issue remains at the top of the political agenda.

Town centres used to be the place where you would go every day to work, shop and socialise but times have changed and their role is now less defined. If our towns are to thrive once more, decision makers need to start thinking about them in a completely different way. Whether this is about moving council offices back into the town centre or redeveloping housing, it needs to be done soon.  

Since last time... cheered on my sister-in-law who was running the Edinburgh Marathon... made the most of the good weather with a hike in the Tweed Valley ....trailed round a well known carpet shop – twice - looking for some decent inexpensive kitchen vinyl (it doesn’t exist)

About the author

After graduating from Glasgow University with a degree in English and Scottish Literature, Kate has been working as a journalist since 2005. She started out in the colourful world of local newspapers, both in her home region of Dumfries and Galloway and in Fife, before working for a national news agency based at the Scottish Parliament. Kate joined the Holyrood team in 2011 as Local Government Correspondent, covering everything from the nuances of the planning system to quizzing council leaders and chief executives. She is passionate about Scotland's varied and interesting local government landscape and is an advocate of social media. Kate is particularly devoted to Twitter and likes to mix the two worlds by tweeting from major events and on the local government announcements of the day.

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