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Friday, 18 November 2011

Scotland’s Towns Conference

The only conference in the UK to focus on national and local issues facing Scotland's towns took place this week in Dunfermline. CSPP policy director Ross Martin chaired the event and I tweeted throughout it using the hashtag #scottowns .

Due to internet problems the tweets ended prematurely. Some of the key points from the remaining speakers can be found below. A video of the event and presentations will be available in due course.

George Pye, Thinking Place

• Place is the hero. Irrespective of what you are doing, place is the glue.
• Almost every council says their area is a great place to live, work and invest. This is not a brand. It is a given.
• Develop a shared story that is rooted in the past but points forward.
• It is not simply about listing your assets. Be distinctive, be attractive.
• A high quality public realm is imperative.
• The core audience for a town centre, ultimately, is the local people.

Scotland’s towns have got talent

Each ‘act’ had 3 minutes to pitch an idea or priority for surviving & thriving. Cross examination and voting followed.

1. Mary Goodman, FSB Scotland, pitched for an audit of public buildings to identify gaps and promote mixed usage (pub/private sharing space) of these spaces.

2. Fiona Kell, EDI Group/Edinburgh Council, took on the role of “nasty Simon Cowell” for the event and said:

“Let’s accept that we cannot sustain the same number of town centres (some may need to go) and instead create a well-connected structure of attractive and successful towns”.

3. Jim MacDonald, AD+S, called for “Start up Streets” to be rolled out across Scotland, a measure that was co-designed by people of Stirling to re-think the city centre.

The idea is simple: re-consider King Street as a ‘start up street’, which enables business start-ups, scaling of small business and curating events and activities in the public space.

4. Aidan Murphy, IGuide, pitched for Scottish towns to use their app that offers a completely managed interactive digital service - basically a virtual, interactive walkthrough companion.

The guide can be used by consumers, retailers and town centre managers and be tailored to their own specific needs.


Mary - clear majority in favour; Fiona - 50/50 split; Jim - huge majority in favour; and Aidan - huge majority in favour = draw between the last two pitches.

Arthur Potts Dawson, The People's Supermarket

• Food is a conduit for making people aware of where you are in the world and a conduit for communication.
• Concept - create a people’s supermarket, a not-for-profit community owned supermarket. People pay £25 per year to become members and provide four hours of their time per month to reap a dividend (discounted food - 10% off your shopping).
• Spent a year and a half failing to get positive responses. Today, 1450 members with local becoming a key issue.
• Connecting urban consumers with rural producers.
• Empowers and energises the community. The glue that held communities together is no longer there; food can provide the social capital to bind people together.
• “Invest in people and your town will flourish”.

Heather Fargo, State of California's Strategic Growth Council

• Be selective in lifting policy ideas from the US. We are trying to rectify the mistakes we made in the past.
• You need money and in Scotland you cannot easily raise revenue. Thus, why don’t you become a BID?
• If we do not invest in our towns and cities our economy will not turn the corner.
• If it doesn’t match the style of the town, say no to developers. How your town looks is crucially important.

Ian Lindley, Scotland’s Towns Partnership

• Ian fleshed out the STP and explained where they fit in the current policy landscape and why people/organisations should join.
• The key role of the STP is to create a unified voice to campaign and lobby on towns and town centre issues; a co-ordinated voice for change to establish a common ground.
Find out more.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Independence, Devolution Max, or No Thanks?

Monday, 5 December 2011, 0945-1315
Raeburn Room. Old College, University of Edinburgh

Latest findings from the Scottish Social Attitudes survey on attitudes towards Scotland’s constitutional future with Professor John Curtice and Rachel Ormston from the Scottish Centre for Social Research.

"The SNP’s success in winning an overall majority in the Scottish election in May means it now seems inevitable that a referendum on independence will be held at some point between 2014 and 2016. Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has indicated that it remains open to the idea of also including a second alternative on the ballot paper, so-called ‘devolution max’.

The Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) survey has been tracking how Scots feel about the way that their country is and should be governed ever since the advent of devolution in 1999. It has secured the reputation for itself as the most authoritative independent source on what Scots want their constitutional future to look like.

At this seminar the first results from the most recent SSA survey, conducted in the weeks immediately after the May election will be presented. Thanks to funding from the Nuffield Foundation, the 2011 survey not only charts whether the SNP’s victory was accompanied by a swing towards independence, but also makes it possible to undertake the most detailed investigation yet into what Scots think independence might bring. It also brings new evidence to bear on what the public might make about devolution max.

Amongst the questions that will be addressed:

• Has the nationalist success in May heralded increased support for independence?
• What do people think would happen if Scotland were to become independent?
• How far do people’s views about independence depend on their expectations of its likely economic consequences?
• Which constitutional option would satisfy most Scots?
• Are Scots happy that their taxes and benefits might be different from those in England?


09.45 Registration and Coffee

10.00-10.45 Independence: Trends, hopes and fears. John Curtice
Has support for independence increased? What do people hope and fear would happen if Scotland did become independent?

10.45-11.30 Independence: A pocket book issue? Rachel Ormston
Who is winning the economic argument about independence? How much does support for the idea depend on whether or not people think they would be better off?

11.30-12.00 Devolution Max: United but apart? John Curtice
How popular is devolution maxt? And how different from England do they really want policies in Scotland to be?

12.00-12.30 Final Discussion

12.30 Lunch and informal discussion


The cost to attend this event is £50.00 (no VAT applicable). This includes all refreshments. To book a place contact Lindsay Adams.

By email –

By post – Institute of Governance
University of Edinburgh
Chisholm House
High School Yards
EH1 1LZ"