87. Town centres are a core part of Scottish life. They vary considerably in form, character, function and performance. Town centres are a sustainable heart of a community providing opportunities to live, work and enjoy on a more equitable and socially fair basis, enhancing wellbeing and a sense of community and place. Over the last 60 years though we have focused on a decentralised, disaggregated car-dependent model for many of our developments. This has increased inequalities and has been damaging for people, the planet and the economy. Cost and operating structures have disadvantaged town centre locations.
88. In Scotland we have been attempting to alter this through Town Centre First, the Place Principle, planning change and demonstrating the potential of targeted investments, all stemming from the National Review of Town Centres and the Town Centre Action Plan. This route map has been admired and adopted in part by other governments and authorities. The last decade has seen a sharpening of National Priorities, the recognition of a climate emergency, legislation enhancing community empowerment and a focus on health and wellbeing. Town centres can help deliver on these priorities. They can also be a key contributor to social and economic renewal from COVID-19 and help build a fairer and more resilient society in a post-Brexit world. To make this happen we have to rethink, extend and develop further some of the ideas in the Town Centre Action Plan to take account of these changed circumstances.
89. The current narrative is too often about the decline or death of the town centre. This is not the case in many of our towns but we can do more and better for all towns and all in their communities. Decline is overstated and it is not inevitable. Many town centres are providing valuable functions and people and communities value and identify with them. We have to allow towns to achieve their full potential to deliver a modern, sustainable, equitable, inclusive, fairer, healthier and greener Scotland. This requires hard choices and a high level of commitment from communities, local and national governments and from our business, third sector and community organisations. Above all it requires people to collaborate and work together for their town and town centre. Towns can and should be the heart of the community, delivering for people, planet and the economy. We need to make this happen. We believe our recommendations, if implemented, can help do this.