City Centre Recovery Task Force: report

Co-produced with the Scottish Cities Alliance, this report sets out the specific impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on city centres, and identifies the immediate priorities to support city centre recovery.

Chapter 5: Conclusion

Covid-19 has changed the face of our city centres. Businesses and streets, normally packed with people, transformed overnight as necessary public health measures restricted trade and kept people at home.

Thanks to progress with vaccinations and treatments for the virus, we are now in a position to rely much less on legal restrictions. Instead, the focus is on managing Covid-19 effectively through adaptations and health measures that strengthen our resilience and recovery. The approach set out in the Scottish Government's Strategic Framework will help to ensure that businesses and society are much less affected by the virus as we rebuild for a better future.

Considerations about how to achieve this better future have raised important questions about the nature and role of city centres. For example, who are city centres for? What makes city centres special? The answer is people. Without people, city centres are just empty spaces and buildings – as we have seen so strikingly during the pandemic. What makes our cities flourishing, vibrant, social, creative, interesting and resilient is that they are places where large numbers of people come together. The principal challenge considered in this report is how to attract people back into our city centres.

The findings of the Task Force clarified the scale and urgency of the work that lies ahead of us. During our work, we consulted with a number of stakeholders across the public, private and third sectors, who shared their views on what cities need: for their people, their communities, their built environment, their transport, their services, their resilience, their culture, their institutions, and above all their vitality and ability to flourish.

With this publication, the City Centre Recovery Task Force itself is now concluded, but its work continues. The Task Force has established the foundation to deliver the actions that will support city centres through their immediate recovery and beyond, as places that people will want to keep visiting, working and living in. As we move into a delivery phase, it is right that delivery of this work should become part of the ongoing workplan of the Scottish Cities Alliance, alongside its other work on cities.

As commuters and visitors start to return in greater numbers, it is right, too, to consider our longer-term ambitions for city centres and indeed cities as a whole. The pandemic has heightened awareness of inequality, poverty and disadvantage, and there is clear evidence that harm has been felt unevenly.

The Scottish Government has set the national direction with its ten-year National Strategy for Economic Transformation, which will build on the Covid Recovery Strategy to create a greener, fairer, more inclusive wellbeing economy. Together as national and local governments, we must continue the leadership and partnership working demonstrated through the City Centre Recovery Task Force to deliver on this ambition as we rebuild after Covid and create a brighter future for all.




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