Siobhian Brown has led her first meeting of a cross-party group (CPG) at the Scottish Parliament on towns and town centres.

The Ayr MSP hailed the importance of town centres and creating a viable future for them to thrive.

Brown is convener of the group. Speaking after chairing her first meeting on Wednesday, December 8, she highlighted the challenges to be addressed and opportunities which can be embraced to reinvigorate communities.

She said: “The importance of town centres needs to be recognised. For many they are where they earn their living. These people, in turn, contribute to the very economy they are helping to grow, many times and directly into the town centre – even if it’s just their morning coffee from the local shop.

“We must also remember that there are people living in and around our towns who don’t have access to their own cars and that the town centre is their lifeline.”

Ms Brown added: “It’s important that we move forward with ideas to regenerate our town centres and make them vibrant places to be in whatever form that takes.”

The group is administered by the Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP). Its role is to analyse policy as ideas and innovations are developed.

“Spending habits have changed over the years,” Ms Brown continued.

“We now have online shopping, retail parks and big shopping centres with excellent transport links.

“The face of the high street has changed and we’ve lost big chains and independent businesses. We need, however, to embrace this change and look at ways to make our town centres attractive places for shopping, leisure and hospitality. In that respect I believe the biggest challenge we face is changing our mindset. We need to move away from the notion of what the good old days were like and discuss ways in which we can drive forward a new and vibrant future for these places.”

Highlighting her hopes for her time as convener of the CPG, Ms Brown added: “We want to listen to the views of the businesses in towns and the customers who go there, whether it be for retail, hospitality, or leisure.

“We want everyone to work together.” to bring in a new era of bright, vibrant, sustainable town centres.”