Colin Smyth MSP
Colin Smyth MSP

South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy & Transport & Rural Affairs Colin Smyth has highlighted the key role that a culture-led approach can play in regenerating our High Streets, calling on the Scottish Government to provide more support for town centre regeneration in Dumfries and Galloway.

Speaking during portfolio question time in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, the local MSP asked Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development Jenny Gilruth what discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues regarding culture-led regeneration of town centres- and urged the Government to provide extra support for culture-led projects that focus on regeneration, including funding for new art galleries and other services if they are built in town centres.

With more and more big retailers closing shops, the local MSP believes the Scottish Government should adopt a town centre first rule when funding arts and culture facilities within towns to encourage councils and organisations to locate new developments within town centres to bring more people into the High Street. He highlighted the Wigtown Book Town and the Stove Project in Dumfries which had led to the development of the Midsteeple Quarter as examples of culture-led regeneration in the region.

Speaking in the chamber, Colin Smyth said: “From Wigtown book town to the Stove Network in Dumfries, which led to the development of the Midsteeple Quarter, there are many good examples of culture-led regeneration across Dumfries and Galloway.

“However, given the big crisis that our town centres face, does the minister share my view that we need to redouble our efforts by increasing the support that we give to culture-led community-driven regeneration?

“We need a town centre-first approach not just in planning but in funding new cultural facilities in our towns.”

After the debate, Colin Smyth continued: “The pandemic and the subsequent restrictions and lockdowns have been terrible for retail and we’ve seen so many shops in our town centres closing.

“This has resulted in empty properties and obviously the knock on affect is that footfall in our town centres has dropped significantly.

“However, there were big problems before Covid and we now need urgent action to stop further decline.

“Town centres should be the heart of our communities but this won’t happen without more support.”

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