Urban Regeneration

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 10th May 2001.

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Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 2:30 pm, 10th May 2001

The next item is a debate on motion S1M-1922, in the name of Jackie Baillie, on urban regeneration, and two amendments to that motion.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour 3:32 pm, 10th May 2001

Governments in Scotland have been remaking and renewing some of our poorest places for at least half a century. That took place not just in the cities, where the emphasis was on slum clearance and rather soulless urban renewal from 1950 until the mid-1970s, but in rural areas with the forerunner of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which was set up in the 1960s.

Models and fashions in urban renewal change. By the middle of the 1970s, community-based and housing-led rehabilitation became a key route to regenerating our rundown older areas. In due course, similar approaches rolled out to housing schemes and smaller towns through new life for urban Scotland and smaller urban renewal initiatives.

Indeed, it is one of the great ironies of the long period of Conservative government in Scotland that the Tories developed some effective models for the physical regeneration of small places. It would be wrong to say that we have not learned from that experience. We have learned about some effective models, but we have also learned some of the damaging limitations of the Conservative approach. It is those shortcomings of conception and commitment that we have been addressing and reversing.

I want to take time today to explain why our approach is different from and better than what has prevailed in the past—those differences are substantial. The position of our predecessors was that unfettered market solutions were generally the best for Scotland. However, in some cases, concentrations of those who failed to make it in markets required some palliative policy. For them, rural and urban regeneration policy was relatively expensive sticking plaster, patching over some enduring scars resulting from their cuts. Our view is different. Markets do not always work effectively and may undervalue some places and people.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

Has the good lady ever been to Liverpool, which was run by the notorious Derek Hatton and, I believe, the Labour party? Did she know about the model for the regeneration of that city and the rebuilding of its central community, which Michael Heseltine was involved in?

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

Having worked in regeneration for some time, I will not take lessons from anybody in the Conservative party. I have witnessed at first hand the damage that it has done to communities, not just across Scotland, but across the whole of the UK.

We view the people and places I mentioned not as a problem, but as an opportunity, because if the appropriate mechanisms are put in place they can be levered back into social and economic action. For us, poorer places are not just an awkward moral corner, they are an affront to our sense of social justice and to our concern to maximise the contribution of all to our economy and society.

Our approach is not just to fix up estates and hope for the best. Rather it is to reconnect households to each other, to the community, to the education system and to the labour market. Instead of naive Thatcherism, our approach is based on complex local development economics; instead of denying that there is such a thing as society, it recognises that economic success is embedded in strong family and social networks. Yes, financial capital matters, but so does human capital, so does social capital and so does place capital. We are rebuilding the capital of our poorest communities in diverse ways that were unimagined by our predecessors.

The second important difference in our approach is that we wish to create a context in which limited area renewal policies are not simply the unavoidable consequence of cuts in public services and unstable, inadequate economic policies. For us, area regeneration is about building community capacity, making the employment linkages that allow poor places to benefit from steady economic progress, expanding public services and reducing spending on public debt. Area inequalities feature at the centre of our thinking, not at some peripheral margin.

In consequence, our third point of difference is that we have emphasised the importance of joined-up approaches to area regeneration. We have all seen what happens when job opportunities improve but neighbourhoods do not—those with jobs and incomes inevitably move out. We have all seen what happens when homes are improved—some for the second or third time in 20 years—but there is no improvement in policing and no increase in employment. In those circumstances, change is not sustained.

To meet our aim of addressing acute inequalities between neighbourhoods, our approach to urban regeneration deals with the physical, economic and social needs of our most disadvantaged. Our approach is cross-disciplinary, broadening the partnership base and the investment base to harness mainstream services for renewal in enterprise, health, education, justice, housing and transport. We have adopted an approach that stresses not only the importance of connections between health, housing and employment, for example, but the essential vertical joins in policy, because as members who have worked in this area in their previous lives will know, it is only by capturing the policy levers and making connections that we will deliver sustainable solutions to multiple disadvantage in the long term.

I stress that Westminster has given us growing resources and new tax programmes, which potentially are worth £100 million for Scotland, specifically to boost older-area investment and to promote new measures to reduce financial exclusion and promote the role of the social economy. This Executive has put in place social justice strategies and an economic framework that properly values the role of area regeneration. We have strengthened and given extra support to social inclusion partnerships by investing something like £169 million to lever action locally. Even more important, we have expanded service programmes across portfolios which benefit poorer places in particular.

We have also introduced the £90 million better neighbourhood services programme to expand innovation in services in renewal areas. We have put community ownership of housing and the massive uplift in physical renewal resources that that will generate at the heart of our housing policies. We have given the enterprise network a new remit to raise training and employment performance in our poorest areas. All that is mainstreaming and prioritising regeneration.

In working together with Westminster, we witness the highest employment levels since the 1960s and the lowest unemployment levels since the 1970s. Youth unemployment is down by 70 per cent. Long-term unemployment is down by 50 per cent. We are talking about policies that are making a difference that has been achieved by working in partnership.

We believe in devolution.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The minister is now eight minutes into her speech. She talked about partnerships, but the one element that she did not talk about—she may well be about to—is local government. She talked about the importance of investing in public services. Did the Westminster Government's decision to follow Tory spending plans between 1997 and 1999 hamper the delivery of what ministers now want to do and the restoration of public service investment to the levels that are required to achieve the regeneration policies and partnerships that the minister talked about?

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

I hope that the Presiding Officer will afford me some extra time to answer some of those points.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

Prudent management of the economy has meant that we can invest substantial sums—more than the SNP dreamed of in its previous manifestos—in public services and in making a difference for our communities. We believe in devolution, not only for this Parliament from Westminster, but from us to councils and from councils to communities.

We will produce a neighbourhood renewal statement by the end of the year. That will be a key document that will summarise the good and bad lessons from the regeneration work that has been undertaken by many partners in Scotland in the past 30 years. It will also provide a framework for future work within which central Government—including the new executive agency, Scottish Homes—and local partners will operate. We intend to draft that statement in close co-operation with all those who have contributions to make, including the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

Local authorities have a central role in leading the renewal of their neighbourhoods and supporting the development and empowerment of their communities. We need to set efforts to promote neighbourhood renewal in the context of community planning. I expect the neighbourhood renewal statement to make that clear. Some community planning partnerships are thinking imaginatively and constructively about social justice issues and I am keen to support that work.

Community planning is relatively new and is further advanced in some areas than others. As it continues to develop, I look forward to community planning partnerships becoming the central regeneration and renewal mechanism, operating within a national neighbourhood renewal framework. It is important to make those linkages to achieve social justice for all our communities.

Today's debate is an opportunity to engage members of all parties not only in a review of what we are doing, but in a celebration of how ordinary people in those communities are becoming involved in regeneration. We have worked with communities and groups in the past two years to develop capacity and we budgeted in community empowerment from the start.

I am delighted to confirm that, from the resources that were made available to me in last year's spending review, I am allocating £3.7 million this year—about £60,000 per partnership—to provide support for community representatives. That will help them operate as equal partners with their colleagues from the enterprise networks, local authorities and health. Those representatives can determine how best that resource will help them.

The multilevel and multisectoral approach that regeneration needs requires cohesion and partnership working. That is why I am pleased members have the opportunity to contribute to the neighbourhood renewal statement. It is my intention to use that statement to provide the national framework for renewal for all Scotland's disadvantaged communities. I also intend to make the connections to parallel reviews of strategic planning and the cities review. We will engage in a debate with the organisations and individuals who are vital to Scotland's future success in delivering change and renewal.

I am interested to hear members' contributions because, after all, we are interested in what works. We are seeking to build, from communities upwards, faster and fairer progress for Scotland. I commend the motion to the chamber.

I move,

That the Parliament endorses the Executive's approach to urban regeneration and the steps it has taken to enable the people in some of our most disadvantaged communities to become involved in regenerating their areas and welcomes the Executive's intention to engage in discussions to formulate the Neighbourhood Renewal statement for Scotland.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party 3:45 pm, 10th May 2001

I welcome today's Executive debate. For obvious reasons, rural issues have dominated the Parliament of late—which proves how wrong opponents of devolution were to say that the Parliament would be dominated by central belt concerns. However, it is pleasing to be able to discuss an issue of such importance as urban regeneration. I am only sorry that the Executive has allocated so little time for today's debate.

Scotland's towns and cities are where most of our people live. Thirty per cent live in the five cities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh and—our newest—Inverness. Cities can and should be seen as a source of dynamism and creativity that stems from the density and diversity of population and the proximity of firms, homes and institutions. Unfortunately, if cities are neglected, they can become reservoirs of social inequality and economic decline.

The Parliament has a crucial role to play in revitalising urban Scotland by establishing a strategic perspective within which social needs, economic opportunities and environmental problems can be considered together and addressed effectively. That requires that the Executive's stated commitment on social inclusion, economic development and urban regeneration be turned into concrete action.

What issues do we face? In Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, the population has declined from 1,061,000 to 608,000 since 1961. In 1962, the Toothill report recommended a policy of relocating industry and people from our cities to new towns. That policy was slavishly followed by Labour and Conservative Governments. Investment in infrastructure and the ability to build on greenfield sites were incentives for companies to move out of old industrial sites. People were encouraged to move to improved housing. That left Glasgow and Dundee in particular at a competitive disadvantage. Vast numbers left Scotland altogether, with the result that we are the only west European nation to suffer a recent decline in population. Scotland's population sustained a fall of 250,000 over the last generation, which included a disproportionate number of the young, skilled and well educated.

The result of such policies, coupled with decline in heavy industry and massive structural economic change, is that Glasgow and Dundee—and, indeed, Greenock and Coatbridge—have been left bereft of much of their industrial base, with high levels of unemployment and, in Glasgow's case, almost 60 per cent of Scotland's most socially excluded communities.

Regrettably, the process of decline still continues. Last Sunday, I took my eight-year-old son and four-year-old daughter on a powerboat cruise along the Clyde. It leaves from Stobcross quay and costs £5 for adults, £2.50 for the kids. On a sunny day, I assure members that they will love it. It was a beautiful sunny day and the children enjoyed the sights, but I found them disheartening. All the way from Glasgow down to where the QE2 was launched, we saw scenes of unmitigated dereliction on both sides of the Clyde. Indeed, the guide told us that today the Clyde's biggest export is scrap metal to Russia and Sweden.

The Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning said in a recent parliamentary answer that only 65.2 per cent of Glaswegian males of working age are in employment. That compares with an average of 77.3 per cent across Scotland. As the minister herself stated, that means that Glasgow will have to find 24,000 additional jobs just to equal the Scottish average. For women, 14,000 additional jobs are required. That is the equivalent of 12 Motorola factories, yet the Glasgow Alliance strategy, which was set out in 1999, set a target of only 15,000 additional jobs by 2003. As the creation of full-time, well-paid jobs is the key to prosperity, health and community, it is little wonder that Glasgow is struggling. Half of new jobs in Glasgow are likely to go to non-residents, so there is a real mountain to climb to turn Glasgow round.

It is regrettable that little progress has been made with school leavers. A report last week from Glasgow careers service shows that in each of the past five years, the proportion entering work, training and higher and further education has remained in the 70 to 72 per cent bracket—far lower than the Scottish average. The Executive has mentioned the better neighbourhood services programme and its plan to allocate £90 million over three years to local authorities. That is welcome, but relative to needs and Executive action in the opposite direction, that sum pales into insignificance.

Members do not need to take my word for it. On 13 March, the Local Government Committee took evidence from George Black, director of finance at Glasgow City Council. In response to a question from me, he said:

"I can confirm that from 1996-97 the council's share of aggregate external finance reduced. Our research showed that, in real terms, the level of aggregate external finance for Glasgow at the end of 2003-04 will be about £50 million less than in 1996-97. The impact of that reduction is well documented. We have had council tax increases of 19 per cent, 22 per cent and 9.4 per cent in the three years since 1996-97. We have had about 4,500 council job losses."

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

I will finish the quotation, but I will let the member in. He knows, because we discussed it earlier, that I will quote him in a minute or two.

Mr Black continued:

"We had what is commonly termed a double whammy; we had to reduce services, while dramatically increasing council tax. That is hard for the public to understand. The evidence can be seen."—[Official Report, Local Government Committee, 13 March 2001; c 1665.]

That puts the real situation in perspective.

Dundee presented a similar picture to the committee only last Tuesday. Such is the level of decline in that city that the population is expected to fall by 15.3 per cent over the next 15 years. Areas of greatest need continue to sustain relative decline in their resource base—a situation that must be reversed.

What should be done? There is little purpose in reinventing the wheel. That is why the SNP amendment emphasises learning from achievements and mistakes here and elsewhere, to ensure optimum use of the public pound. In November 1998, the policy and resources committee at Glasgow City Council, which Mr McAveety and I attended, was advised that a report had been produced that showed that, in the previous 10 years, £500 million spent in Glasgow on regeneration had produced no discernible improvement. At my suggestion, the committee—and subsequently the council—agreed unanimously to investigate how that money had been spent. If we could learn from the successes, and indeed the failures, we could ensure a better bang for our buck in future. Two and a half years later we still await that report.

Other cities, from Sunderland to Lille to Baltimore, have successfully turned around a steep economic and social decline using broadly similar methods. We must consider those successful strategies and adapt them to Scottish circumstances. Glasgow has 74,000 fewer manufacturing jobs than it did in 1974, yet Sunderland has 8,000 more. We must analyse how that and comparable successes have been achieved.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

I do not for a minute underestimate the scale of the problem in Glasgow. The member paints a bleak picture. I wonder whether he recognises the current picture, which I am about to paint for him. Over the past 10 years, unemployment in Glasgow city decreased by 9.4 per cent—faster than across Scotland as a whole. There is a higher proportion of people of working age in Glasgow: 64 per cent, which is much higher than in Scotland as a whole. Average earnings in April 2000 were 3 per cent higher than in Scotland as a whole. It is a good picture in Glasgow.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

The minister should take the issue up with Wendy Alexander, because Ms Alexander gave me the answer to the parliamentary question I referred to.

City tax rises in Glasgow have been curtailed, allowing nearby authorities less of a competitive edge. In 1998, at the count for a local government by-election at Garrowhill, Frank McAveety asked, "Why did we lose this by-election, Kenny? It was the Lally situation, wasn't it? It was sleaze and so on." I said, "No, Frank. It was the council tax." To Frank's great credit, he went to the Labour group and persuaded his colleagues that Glasgow City Council's tax was ridiculously high. They agreed to reduce it to a more reasonable level.

Significant investment in new infrastructure, industrial and commercial property, skills, training and education are crucial. The Executive's failure to provide adequate resources for derelict land reclamation is cause for concern. In Glasgow, discussions on setting up a land renewal programme have been going on for more than five years and no progress has been made. Sending the M74 extension back to the drawing board and initially ignoring the road's potential as an industrial corridor—a key strategy in the economic renaissance of Chicago—is worrying, given the new lead time on the road.

The doughnut effect, wherein a prosperous core is surrounded by poor estates, which are surrounded by wealthy suburbs, should be avoided by investing in quality of life initiatives such as improving community policing, de-littering, removing graffiti, addressing loitering, establishing children's play areas and allotments, and—although it is not popular these days in Glasgow City Council—establishing community facilities.

A housing-based regeneration strategy without comparable quality-of-life improvements or job creation is not sustainable. Stimulating demand for local jobs evokes a sense of community pride in towns and cities, especially when people from one neighbourhood work together in a nearby firm. Public transport systems must allow people cheap and easy access to work.

We must focus not just on the sexy high-tech sector, but on positive measures to attract industry and retain it as a way of protecting and creating blue-collar jobs. Scotland cannot survive on screwdriver jobs alone, as Motorola has shown. Tourism is vital, but a chambermaid economy based on low-skilled, low-wage, seasonal work, coupled with very high-tech jobs is not enough. Economic diversity is essential and stimulation of indigenous business is crucial.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

You are now well over your time limit, Mr Gibson.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

I am just about to finish, Presiding Officer.

Unfortunately, joined-up government remains a myth in most of Scotland's towns and cities. Local people should be put in charge of the highly paid, highly trained professionals who believe that they know best but whose priorities are in conflict with those of local people.

Initiatives that have been successfully employed in Phoenix, Baltimore and Indianapolis include low-interest loans, a business infrastructure assistance programme, provision of façade rebates, tax increment financing and the creation of a support network between industrial and non-industrial sectors. The SNP amendment is positive, not self-congratulatory or condemnatory, and I urge all members to support it.

I move amendment S1M-1922.3, to leave out from "endorses" to end and insert:

"notes the activities being undertaken by the Executive with regard to urban regeneration; congratulates the key agencies, organisations and citizens involved in regenerating urban Scotland; recognises that despite these efforts, levels of poverty, sickness and unemployment remain stubbornly high across much of urban Scotland, and undertakes to carry out a comprehensive review of regeneration policy in our towns and cities with specific regard to infrastructure and employment, examining the successes and failures of the past and including an analysis of thriving models of urban renewal across the United Kingdom and beyond."

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative 3:56 pm, 10th May 2001

As stage 2 of the Housing (Scotland) Bill grinds on and on and I find myself in constant conflict with Jackie Baillie and her deputy, perhaps I can begin my speech by congratulating the minister on her consensual approach to the matter that is being debated. In particular, I pay tribute to her generous recognition of the achievements of the previous Conservative Government. It is true that where the Conservative party has gone, the Labour party has followed with alacrity.

The regeneration of our urban areas is a major and vital priority for the Parliament, and our approach must be one whereby we benefit from the good experiences of the past as well as learn from the mistakes that have been made. Like Kenneth Gibson, I make no apology for dealing at some length—but not at the same length as he did—with some of the problems that face the city of Glasgow. Not only is Glasgow Scotland's largest city, but it has suffered because of the failure to recognise that a different approach to the inner cities had to be taken. Sadly, it seems that, in some instances, the lessons have not yet been learned.

It is very easy to have 20:20 vision in hindsight, and I am aware that the post-war choices that had to be made in Glasgow were stark. They were not easy choices, and the decisions took place against a background of appalling housing conditions, poor health, lack of infrastructure and poor educational attainment. Having said that, the disastrous planning decisions of that time left us with an awful lot to do, and the misconceived peripheral schemes are testament to a disaster that lives with us to this day. The equation is this: bad housing equals bad health equals high unemployment plus law and order problems.

It would have been so much more constructive, and easier, if the lessons had been learned earlier and if we had recognised that communities had to be retained. In that respect, I take some encouragement from the fact that the Executive has built on the line that was taken by the Conservative Government, and by the Conservative Administration on Glasgow City Council in 1970, whereby communities were retained. The private sector grants that were made freely available in the 1980s built on those earlier decisions, and the eventual realisation that Glasgow's problems could be sorted from the outside moving in, rather than in the other direction, has definitely prompted significant improvements.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

Having worked in those communities and witnessed Conservative policy at first hand, I am stunned to hear that the Conservatives' answer to problems was simply a lick of paint for many houses and communities. Bill Aitken claims to address matters and to recognise that they should be addressed from the inside out. Why then did the Conservative Administration leave us a legacy whereby a third of children were born into poverty, lived their lives in poverty and died in poverty?

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

I question whether "a lick of paint" is an appropriate description of some of the rehabilitation work that was carried out in Govanhill, Partick and Dennistoun—areas with which the Deputy Minister for Social Justice will be familiar. Let us be blunt about one thing: one of the major factors in the city's degeneration was the successive Labour Administrations, which presided over a complete and utter shambles. That cannot be gainsaid.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

It should be mea maxima culpa, because Mr McAveety presided over the continuation of that shambles.

Inner-city regeneration is not only a matter of bricks and mortar, or crumbling stone and derelict land. Much more requires to be sorted out and much more requires to be done. Attitudes have had to change and must change again. I am clear, in my own mind, that the only way in which we can make a difference in some of our cities is by calling on the people who live there to be more responsible for their own lot. In that respect, we fully endorse the moves towards a housing stock transfer to build upon the progress of the housing association movement. That movement is a classic and eloquent testament to what happens when people are given ownership of problems and it demonstrates clearly that people will invariably respond positively. At the same time, the Executive must respond much more positively and robustly to cope with the difficulties that are caused by, for example, anti-social tenants.

Although there seems to be a growing realisation, especially on Margaret Curran's part, that there is a problem, the lack of determination and resolve in dealing with it fills me with all sorts of fears for the future. Until the law-abiding majority is defended from the anti-social minority, people in many parts of Glasgow and other cities will continue to live along the lines that they do at present. That extends to criminality in general. Our inner cities have been subject to a high level of criminality and the growing and sinister drugs menace. The Executive is soft on law and order. Unless a more robust approach is taken, we will not make progress.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

I am in my last minute.

We must consider the national health service and recognise that many of the problems are historical. Heavy drinking, heavy smoking—if I dare say that to the minister—and poor diet are significant contributing factors. The Executive is not approaching the problems properly. We left the Executive a successful legacy in Glasgow and other cities. Please do not squander that.

I move amendment S1M-1922.2, to leave out from "endorses" to end and insert:

"notes the Scottish Executive's approach to urban regeneration but considers this to be inadequate to achieve the desired result of regenerating both inner city areas and peripheral estates."

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

I will have to keep members to their predetermined times.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat 4:03 pm, 10th May 2001

This is one of the debates when, behind all the party rhetoric, there is more consensus than might be imagined. Nevertheless, there are major disputes between us.

I was struck by the simplistic analysis that we heard from Bill Aitken on the anti-social tenant issue. He does not seem to recognise that such matters have many and complex causes. It should not be a matter of the Mr Plod response. I was struck, too, by the forward-looking and comprehensive approach with which Jackie Baillie began the debate—I congratulate her on that—and the general response that there has been from colleagues in other parties.

The main point that has been recognised is that, in the words of an old Liberal slogan, "People count". This is about people; people are, in a sense, the problem, but are also the dynamic to the resolution of the problem.

This is a worthwhile and, in some senses, overdue debate. It is somewhat ill focused, as it concentrates on a neighbourhood renewal statement that is yet to come, but we can see the outline within which the debate is being conducted.

Although the success of the Scottish Parliament will be tested on many issues, it will stand or fall on its ability to tackle the issues that we are discussing today: the problems and challenges of urban Scotland, especially our cities and in particular Scotland's largest city, Glasgow.

As I indicated, the matter must be approached with some humility. I do not think that any party has covered itself in glory, in the post-war period, in the approach that it has taken to the problems. Some of the soulless estates that we have inherited from past generations, in areas such as Glasgow, should be cause for concern to anyone who proposes simplistic solutions to the problems. However, the debate should not centre on a whinge that particular areas do not get enough money for particular problems or priorities, or that they compare badly with other areas. Although certain issues about funding must be addressed, it is up to the Parliament to set out the vision and the direction of how to build on the positive aspects of city life. I will attempt to highlight the broad context, with a sideswipe at what is going on in the outside world now that a general election is coming.

Although the arguments are not all black and white, the plain fact is that, after 18 years of Conservative Government and four years of Labour Government, the gap between rich and poor has become wider than ever. As the minister mentioned in an intervention, in 1979, 9 per cent of the UK population was below the poverty line of half the average income. By 1995-96, that figure had risen to 24 per cent; 4.5 million children across the UK were living in poverty, almost one in five of whom were suffering from multiple deprivation. What a challenge—and an opportunity—for a radical Government, but instead the Labour Government in London stuck to Tory spending limits for two years and continued the income tax-cutting agenda. The resources that could have made a major impact on the problem were used for debt repayment. At the start of this general election campaign, the Prime Minister has ruled out any tax increases at the top end of the scale that might fund social reform. That view certainly contrasts with the position of the Liberal Democrats.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

Does not Robert Brown recognise—as he has done in the past—that, since Labour came into power both in the UK and in partnership with the Liberal Democrats in Scotland, we have lifted 100,000 children out of poverty, which is something that should be commended? Does he accept that we have achieved that aim by working in partnership?

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

I accept the minister's comments, but my point is that much that required to be done has not been done, and that the ability of the Scottish Parliament and the Executive to deal with such issues has been hampered by some of the failings of the Labour Government in Westminster.

There is no magic solution to the problems. The Conservatives made a valiant start with their £0.5 billion investment in the new life for urban Scotland initiative, which was in many ways the precursor of later policies. However, the Central Research Unit reported recently that the outputs on the ground were less impressive, with no significant improvements in any of the aspects relating to quality of life on the estates. The social trends behind all those issues show greater breakdown of family units and communities, which means that more challenges must be met.

The Scottish Parliament and the Executive have brought about an increased focus on urban regeneration issues through social justice targets, voluntary sector initiatives, health promotion themes, student support arrangements and community-based housing and stock transfer. A lot is happening, and those measures will lead to a long-overdue step change in the general quality of life for future generations.

We must keep several issues clearly in view as we proceed. First, there is the crucial importance of community control and the ability of local people to shape their local environment. Secondly, there is a need for community. There is no gain to community life if local shops and services wither; if successful projects are disbanded when their funding expires; or if local banks close and people go elsewhere to shop or to play. Thirdly, economic regeneration is extremely important. There must be employment opportunities, and we must ensure that income is retained in the local area and that family income is built. Finally, there is the need for choice. Although the monopolistic, soulless, choiceless estates of the 1960s might have been physically better than what went before, I welcome unreservedly the arrival of the community-based approach to the problem, the diversification of housing choice and the local control of housing. Furthermore, we must keep the green lungs of our cities and not lose sight of other aspects beyond the bricks and concrete of housing development projects.

At the end of the day, people count. That notion should be the hallmark of all our policies, and I think that it is beginning to infuse everything we do. We must proceed on that basis and the framework that the minister outlined in her opening speech is a good step in that direction. I support the Executive motion.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

We move to open debate. Because of overruns, I will have to keep members to four minutes, with a warning tap at three and a half minutes.

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour 4:09 pm, 10th May 2001

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate. Although the temptation just to talk about my own home city of Glasgow is powerful, I recognise that the debate also centres on urban communities outwith cities. Forty-three per cent of Scots live in or just outside a city, and we must recognise the tensions and dualities that that creates.

I am not tempted to dwell on the year zero approach of the Tories, in which they eliminate the reality of the supposedly golden period of Scottish political, social and economic life in the 1980s and 1990s, under Thatcherism and John Major, whose loss is much lamented. We are speaking on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Glasgow eastern area renewal project in the east end of Glasgow. That project came to a shuddering halt with the introduction of a Tory Government in 1979; that, if anything, was a symbol of the change in attitude—from comprehensive urban regeneration to a piecemeal, non-strategic approach—that was indicative of Bill Aitken's political predecessors. I would never define Bill Aitken as a Thatcherite Tory, but trying to define the Thatcher years as a period of greatness in Scottish political history is a denial of the reality that we all suffered from.

Shakespeare once wrote:

"What is the city but the people?"

That is the theme that has come across in speeches by Robert Brown and others. We are learning from previous strategies that regeneration is not just about things that are done, but about encouraging individuals to take ownership of their communities and to change them for the future. The GEAR project managed to achieve some stability in unpropitious economic circumstances in the mid to late 1970s, following the oil crisis and the economic dislocation. It managed to mitigate against some of that weakness, but the regeneration was housing-led and other issues that needed to be tackled were not identified.

Bill Aitken mentioned one important thing about which Labour politicians in Glasgow have learned. We have learned that we must focus on educational opportunities and the quality of education in our city. That is a massive challenge, not only in Glasgow but in Dundee and other major UK cities. Unless we tackle that, we will have a double problem: the aspirational families will not use the state education system, and their not being in that system will work against the interests of families from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds, who might find self-improvement through education.

I thank Kenny Gibson for his—alleged—contribution to the great vision when there was a change in the political leadership in Glasgow. Allegedly, the advice that I received from him swung the Labour group in Glasgow. That would be a unique achievement, if it were true.

We require—members from other cities in Scotland will identify with this—a critical strategy for city regeneration. I shall touch on a couple of related issues, as those connections need to be made. The great problem for Glasgow and other cities is that there has been prosperity for those who have been in work, but significant poverty for those who have not. The challenge is to redress the balance. My experience, and that of my colleagues, my friends and my family, is that education is the only route that makes a difference. We must deal with education issues.

The second issue that we need to address—which is close to the heart of Robert Brown, who spoke about it recently—is civil leadership and how we use the language of civic leadership to deal with the many concerns that come from the communities. Any critical examination of city regeneration must identify how we can get forms of governance that make a genuine difference and that are about stakeholders and people participating.

I will conclude with a story that should touch the heart of the Deputy Minister for Social Justice. When I was a councillor in the Easterhouse area, a Polish cinematographer came to make a film about crime, violence and gang fighting. He planned to call the film "Easterhouse". We complained, as we thought that that title had negative connotations for the community, and the title was changed to "Small Faces". However, the Polish cinematographer, who came from a Catholic Christian background, said that he thought that Easterhouse was a beautiful name—Easter meaning resurrection and renewal, and house meaning something that people come home to. If we can similarly redefine our city communities in a much more positive way, we will make a genuine difference.

I commend the Executive's approach to urban regeneration, and I hope that it will listen to members who have experience—Des McNulty, myself, perhaps even Kenny Gibson—and allow them to contribute.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party 4:14 pm, 10th May 2001

What a team, eh?

I was pleased to hear that the minister is interested in hearing what all members have to say. I take that in the spirit in which it was offered. The vast majority of us in the chamber care about urban regeneration and want to find a solution that will make a huge difference to our country in the long term—and we have to think about the long term if we are being realistic. Kenny Gibson's amendment was put forward in the same spirit of genuine co-operation and I ask members to consider the amendment in that spirit. One part of the amendment, in particular, that strikes me as eminently sensible is the suggestion that we should undertake

"to carry out a comprehensive review of regeneration policy in our towns and cities with specific regard to infrastructure".

The infrastructure of our cities, which has been declining, is one of the most important elements of this discussion. There seems to be a Glasgow bias in today's debate and I can speak about Glasgow as much as any other member. Having said that, Glasgow is a major city in our country and has suffered most from deprivation over the piece.

There are, of course, positive stories in Glasgow, particularly in relation to the folk who take on board the community responsibility ethos and work to improve their areas. Bill Aitken mentioned the idea of individual responsibility. Individual responsibility is fine and we should all have it—although we might disagree about what it entails—but only collective community responsibility can make real differences in the regeneration of a city that has been run down in the way that Glasgow has.

It is sad that many people believe that we can regenerate some areas but forget about the cities. I do not believe that. The only way in which we can regenerate west central Scotland is by regenerating Glasgow and examining the services that it provides, not only to the people who live there but to the peripheral areas.

I am concerned by suburban creep. In my area, people in towns such as East Kilbride, Cumbernauld, Bothwell and Hamilton are not happy about some of the development processes that are going on. A lot of the problems are caused by the fact that Glasgow, which is the main hub—

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

Linda Fabiani talks about urban creep and the perception that Glasgow is a problem. Does she agree that Glasgow should instead be perceived as a place that generates huge amounts of wealth that is not necessarily directed towards the most needy communities in the city? I recognise that there is a strong case for examining the business rates, but we should at least acknowledge that the Scottish Executive is attempting to target resources appropriately within the city, despite the protests, from those who complain about urban creep outside the city, that Glasgow is being treated as a special case.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I am not sure why Johann Lamont felt it necessary to make an intervention, as we appear to be on the same side of the argument. I believe strongly that, to help west central Scotland, we must consider the positive parts of Glasgow and use them in our attempt to build a good and strong community in the area of which Glasgow is the centre. No one will ever hear me criticising input into Glasgow because, if anywhere deserves it, Glasgow does. Everybody should recognise the part that Glasgow plays in Scotland.

Some concerns have been expressed in today's debate. The minister mentioned community planning. It is good for such a scheme to have a name, but, often, communities feel that they are being failed by their planning process. That is why I would like a review of urban regeneration. We have to ensure that people have an input. The process is about more than simply putting money into small communities and telling people that they have input and ownership and should get on with the task. We have to consider the wider infrastructure of the country. The planning regulations at present do not promote the regeneration of cities or their peripheral small towns. Many such small towns are dying and the only generation that is going on within them is housing; we are forgetting about the shops and the community facilities that have to be put in place as well.

I ask the minister to take that in the spirit in which it is meant. I admire much of what is going on; I think that some of it could be done better, but that is the nature of politics—other colleagues will speak about that.

We need to look at the whole picture, not just identify specific areas to put money into. Let us have a plan and a real vision for the future.

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour 4:20 pm, 10th May 2001

I am delighted to participate in this debate on urban regeneration, and I very much welcome the comments that the minister made in her speech.

The Parliament has spent much of its time dealing specifically with rural issues, and that is perhaps understandable in the context of the foot-and-mouth epidemic. It is vitally important that we specifically discuss urban issues, because the people who suffer most from long-term unemployment, from poor health, from inadequate educational opportunities, from child poverty and from drugs misuse are found in urban areas. Almost every one of the major priorities that the Scottish Executive has identified for Scotland to tackle is found in its most acute form in urban areas. We should explicitly recognise the urban dimension of problems, because that often frames the way in which we can achieve results.

It is important to note—and I take issue with Bill Aitken on this—that urbanisation is not just about the inner cities and the peripheral areas. Clydebank, which I represent, suffers from all the urban problems that are identified in Glasgow. In some dimensions, notably unemployment, the problems are more acute. That is a product of the area's history. In responding to that particular history and situation, we must find the appropriate solutions, and they have to be a combination of elements, because no single policy or group of policies will deal with the problems that we face.

The question of how we bring the different policy initiatives together and of how we manage them will determine the effectiveness with which we deal with the problems. Across the range of problems that the Government is trying to solve, it has generally identified the correct issues to tackle, and I have no quarrel with the priorities that have been identified. However, some serious questions need to be asked about how some of the priorities are being addressed. There is a question of whether enough attention is being devoted to each dimension and of whether the various dimensions are being brought together properly.

In Clydebank, it is important for there to be a programme of environmental consolidation, particularly of the area that Kenny Gibson mentioned. He went down the Clyde; I have been down it frequently. There is dereliction, and we need to bring some of the riverside areas back into economic use. That requires infrastructural investment. We also require housing investment, which is vitally important if we are to improve the conditions in which people live. We need to combine physical, economic, housing and social regeneration with initiatives that focus on improving the circumstances of people and on giving people skills and support to come back into employment.

We have to do that on a partnership basis, but we really need partnership plus. If I was given a pound for every time that I sat in a room with 10 people from different agencies talking very generally about what they would like to do, but without an outcome being reached, I would be a lot better off than I am. Partnership has to lead to outcomes. Part of the way in which we need to achieve that is through the Government giving a clear steer. It can do that by saying explicitly to the various agencies that it does not want them to discuss problems or issue policies, but to deliver definite change for people. That needs to be done in my area, and many other people in the chamber who represent urban areas are asking for the same thing. We want action, we want delivery, and we want it quickly.

We also require sustainability and need to move from a position where much of the regeneration budget is coming through challenge budgets, so that the need for it can be demonstrated through various criteria, to one where there is an actual process of sustainability. That means that it is embedded locally, is appropriate to local needs and brings about medium-term and long-term change. That is what we are looking for. We are moving in the right direction. I only express impatience that we are not moving forward more quickly.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative 4:25 pm, 10th May 2001

I am very glad to say a few words on this subject, which I had to deal with at first hand at the Scottish Office a few years ago. I remember vividly one year looking to see whether there were any end-year savings and finding about £3 million. I was told that the best place for the money to be allocated was Glasgow, because Glasgow could spend it immediately, so that is where it was allocated. However, the headline in the evening paper said "Insult to Glasgow", so I thought that sometimes one just cannot win. Then the telephone rang. It was Pat Lally, who said, "I just want you to know privately that I made a mistake. I thought that the supplementary allocation that you have just issued was the main allocation and I wish to withdraw what I said." I have to say that he did not do so publicly, but after that I got a very good welcome in Glasgow.

I learned that partnership is the key to success. If the skills of the private sector, the local authorities and the Administration are drawn in, a great deal can be achieved very quickly. The need for job creation must be taken into account as well as the desperate need for shops and access to shops. Planning mistakes were made originally. When Easterhouse was planned, it was not planned as a new town, with jobs to go with it. We have to address job creation in great detail. We have to consult the local communities. Local house condition surveys are terribly important. The profile of housing—for example, whether it is for the disabled or people with special needs, for low-cost rent or home ownership—can be determined after full consultation with the electorate.

I will tell a story about the late John Smith, with whom I happened to be on a visit to India, during which he asked what I would describe as an urban regeneration question. We were visiting a nuclear power station alongside tremendous squalor. He asked the director how he justified all the expenditure on an experimental nuclear power station when there was unbelievable squalor on a tremendous scale. The director replied, "It takes time." If we wish to accelerate progress, we require partnership at local and national level. We need to bring in every sector to maximise the success that can be achieved.

This is a subject on which there should be continuity. I was very glad that the Minister for Social Justice took on board one Tory creation and absorbed it. I see that she is shaking her head, but I shall tell her what it is: Scottish Homes. Not only has Scottish Homes been absorbed by the Executive, it is now part of the Administration. Some ideas are good ideas regardless of where they come from. With that, I wish the minister success. I hope that she will accelerate progress in this area.

Photo of Colin Campbell Colin Campbell Scottish National Party 4:28 pm, 10th May 2001

I will build on Frank McAveety's reminiscence about how Easterhouse got its name. When I was appointed as a head teacher there, I piled all my children into a car on a very wet Sunday and took them out towards Easterhouse. The youngest one asked whether that was where the Easter bunnies come from. When we got there, I saw from the depth of the water on the playing fields that they would have to be amphibians to live there.

Before I entered politics, it struck me that no matter what national or local government was in charge, there seemed to be endless degeneration in urban areas in Scotland. Of course, there are many reasons for that. We all know that it is very demoralising for people in such situations to make lives for themselves, be optimistic and feed their ambitions.

Urban degeneration is not exclusively the result of a downturn in industry or a change in society. Sometimes bad planning brings about urban degeneration and affects whole town centres. For example, Paisley centre is suffering because of the proximity of the Braehead shopping centre, which was more or less imposed on the area against the will of the local council. IKEA will open shortly and will be a further challenge to the shopkeepers of Paisley. Shops that are closing afflict the pedestrian area in the new town centre of Paisley, and the town is trying to reinvent itself as a university and office centre. Newly planned shopping centres in nearby Johnstone will force the centre of gravity in that town to change. Who knows what the long-term effects of that will be.

To particularise, I will talk about Inverclyde, as Glasgow has been spoken about a lot, with perfect justification. Inverclyde is in the unenviable position of having lost 1,000 people a year for the past 20 years, and faces the prospect of its population continuing to decline at that level. Its URBAN II application was predicated on the need to reverse the precarious demographic trend in Port Glasgow, which has four wards, each with people who could be helped by urban regeneration. Three of the wards have great opportunities. There is a chance of reviving the old Gourock rope works—which is in Port Glasgow, for those who do not know—and the town centre and of building a ferry terminal.

The fourth is an area of chronic social need. I have met the residents of that area, decent people who have seen the value of their flats eroded by the presence of anti-social tenants and who are afraid to go out at night. Landlords rent out property indiscriminately and a lot of drug dealing takes place. Years ago, a housing action area was planned, but that has fallen through several times.

I spoke about regeneration during the debate on European structural funds, when I was concerned that the Scottish Executive's interpretation of the rules of URBAN II might lead to areas of Port Glasgow or Clydebank south being dropped from the proposal. At worst, if the total available funds cannot be increased, the total sum available under URBAN II should be fairly allocated, on a strict equal sum per capita basis, across both communities.

I have a letter that arrived from the Executive yesterday that says:

"it is important that we do not spread resources too thinly".

The letter also says that the Executive wants to

"ensure that resources are targeted on clearly defined areas with significant problems".

I take the view that the second quotation is open to at least two interpretations, of which one is that narrow targeting of resources remains an option. Given that Clydebank south is too small an area to be divided, such an approach could lead to the elimination of an area of Port Glasgow—the larger part of the URBAN II application—from the final plan.

That must not happen. It would be socially, economically and, in relation to regeneration, completely unacceptable; it would also be politically unacceptable. When the deputy minister sums up, I would be delighted if she would assure me, and the people of Port Glasgow, that no area of the town will be left out of that proposal for urban regeneration.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 4:32 pm, 10th May 2001

I commend the ministers for having good intentions and for having had some clear successes in achieving those intentions, which is harder. Given that urban regeneration is such a huge subject, it is obvious that there is a long way still to go. However, the idea of the neighbourhood renewal statement, if sufficiently flexible and varied, is a good one. We must learn from best practice in this sphere, as in so many others. In local areas, many good things are happening that could be replicated elsewhere. In particular, I commend the minister for consulting on the funding of the voluntary sector. The Finance Committee has agreed that it should also examine—perhaps from a slightly different angle—the funding of the voluntary sector, which, I believe, is a critical sector.

Lots of factors are involved, such as a progressive taxation system, which the present UK Government will not give us, partnership—as explained by James Douglas-Hamilton and other members—and the private sector. The fundamental line that I will take is that of developing the point made by Robert Brown and other members: urban regeneration is all about people. We must develop communities and consider them as groups of people. We tend to consider them more as categories, such as kids who need a bit more education or pensioners who need a bit more help, rather than considering the community as a whole and getting the community to help itself.

Despite the ministers' good intentions, there is still too much of a talk-down, a parachuting-in of David Livingstone types to sort out people who cannot sort out their own affairs. In a sense, that is easy to do. It is much harder to give them help to sort themselves out. Stirrers-up of local activity are needed rather than gauleiters. Much more development is possible to help communities to help themselves.

There are many organisations in the voluntary sector. Colleagues must have had the same experience of those. A few hundred pounds can often make a huge difference to the efficacy of a local group working at the front line of deprivation. We must have a system that makes it easier to give that sort of money out. We do not want such money wasted, but we do not want huge, disproportionate amounts of accountancy stopping people from doing useful things. Sometimes those people will fail, but they will learn from their failures.

We must work together at a system that makes communities come alive, develops small businesses and encourages people to take in one another's washing and wash one another's windows, for example. If things occasionally happen that the tax system does not know about, that is tough. It is better that things happen, even if some of them takes place in a marginally grey economy, than that things do not happen at all.

Ministers are going in the right direction but they must help to create communities in a better way. Schemes such as social inclusion partnerships suffer from the involvement of the usual suspects rather than new people. In many areas, the Labour party is dominant and many of those who are active are involved in the Labour party. Ministers must show enough imagination to draw in people from the outside. They should not just have the process dominated by the usual suspects, who are often members of the Labour party.

The ministers are doing well and I hope that they will do even better in the future.

Photo of Kate Maclean Kate Maclean Labour 4:37 pm, 10th May 2001

I welcome this opportunity to have a debate that concentrates solely on urban Scotland. Since January, there have been 16 debates, ministerial statements and Opposition debates that were specific to rural and fishing communities. This is only the second debate on urban communities specifically. I realise that farming and fishing have been in crisis recently but I hope that Parliament also realises that parts of urban Scotland have been in crisis for many years. Many people see no end to that.

My main knowledge is of my own city, Dundee. Dundee is a tale of two cities. The Dundee City Council website highlights the fact that Dundee is a flourishing centre for life sciences research, the arts, and high-tech manufacturing and telecommunications as well as a centre of excellence for higher education, leisure and entertainment. That is true. However, the "Constituency Health Report: 2001" for Dundee West, which was produced by the Office for Public Health in Scotland, paints a gloomier picture of below-average educational attainment for school leavers, a high proportion of income support claimants, below-average household income and a higher-than-average instance of teenage pregnancies. That is also true.

Unlike some other urban areas, Dundee has just got on with the task of regeneration. The local authority and its partners have had a clear strategic vision and a commitment to partnership. Dundee has piloted many practices in urban regeneration that are now being adopted as good practice by other local authorities and recommended as good practice by the Scottish Executive. Community planning partnerships, which Jackie Baillie said are relatively new, were adopted in Dundee almost 10 years ago. The Ardler estate is the only—or first—success story in Scotland for new housing partnerships.

Dundee City Council recognises the need to raise the quality of life for Dundonians as well as improve the image of Dundee, by investing heavily in the arts, leisure and entertainment. It was only possible to deliver those strategies through partnership. I welcome the Scottish Executive's commitment to build on the good work that has already taken place. In particular, I welcome the substantial additional funding that is being made available through various initiatives.

I have two concerns. I do not suppose that the minister would expect me to get to my feet without having concerns. The first does not come directly under the minister's remit—the cities review. I was heartened when that review was announced in Dundee some time ago, but it seems to have disappeared. Although it does not come under the minister's remit, I hope that she will take the matter up with the Executive and discover what is happening with that review.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

I can give the member an absolute assurance that the cities review will happen. It will consider the economic, social and environmental factors that are the key drivers of change and growth in our cities. Full details will be provided shortly by the appropriate minister. We are in discussion with local government in Dundee, Glasgow and elsewhere, in order to make progress.

Photo of Kate Maclean Kate Maclean Labour

That is reassuring, because that review is crucial to the regeneration of the cities and other large urban areas.

My second concern is the criteria for eligibility to access funding—in particular, to access the better neighbourhood services fund. We have to look seriously at moving away from area-based initiatives to theme-based initiatives. Many areas have started to undergo massive transformations and improvement because of being involved in SIPs. However, the experience in Dundee has been that an area-based approach tends to displace problems of deprivation to other marginal areas. Unless we concentrate on addressing specific themes of deprivation across all urban areas, there is a danger that we will just be storing up problems for the future. I would be grateful if the minister could address that point in her summing-up, and if the Executive could look seriously at flexibility for that and for future initiatives.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat 4:42 pm, 10th May 2001

When I tell people what I do for a living—which I try to do as seldom as possible—I am often asked to describe my constituency. I say that it is fairly diverse. I mention what could almost be described as a rural fringe, with a few farms, towns such as South Queensferry and small villages. I mention the zoo, Ingliston showground and the bridges—and I mention Muirhouse. Immediately I do that, I see a change on people's faces. I see recognition—but it is recognition of a perception, rather than recognition of the truth. One of the most heartening things that I have experienced in the two years that I have been a member of the Parliament has been seeing at first hand the incredible amount of work that has been done in Muirhouse and in the greater Pilton area of north Edinburgh. I have seen that alongside my colleague Malcolm Chisholm, who represents the other part of that area.

It is wrong always to see areas such as Muirhouse in terms of their problems; they are also areas of great opportunity. I look forward to hearing what the Executive has to say in the neighbourhood renewal statement and in the cities review. The Executive has certainly learned some lessons from the work that has been done on the ground in Muirhouse. The impact that urban regeneration has had on the area is clear to see. The work has been co-ordinated by North Edinburgh Area Renewal, which links a whole host of partners.

The key message of the debate has been the importance of partnership—partnership on the ground and at national level, backed up by a vision from the Parliament and proper resources. In my constituency, the council, Scottish Homes, the enterprise company, Lothian Health, the Pilton partnership, Telford College, business groups and community groups are all working together. We have seen key infrastructure successes. There have been 1,100 new homes—many of them housing association homes. There have been new mixed-tenure homes.

Margaret Curran came to the constituency a few weeks ago. Everywhere Margaret goes, the paparazzi are there, clicking away. On that occasion, a photographer, who was waiting with bated breath for her arrival, turned to me and asked, "Which houses are council houses, and which are private?" I said, "Can you not tell the difference?" He said, "No." I said, "Well, that's the whole point. There shouldn't be a difference. People should live in a decent home. It shouldn't matter what label is attached to it—it is still their home." It was important that Margaret Curran came to the launch of the new north Edinburgh housing plan, because it is important not only that we monitor the success of the work that has gone on so far, but that we plan for the future—and that is what is happening. The population decline in north Edinburgh has been halted and the number of vacant houses has fallen by half. However, as someone said earlier, regeneration goes beyond bricks and mortar. It is about regenerating people's education, health and life chances—it is about much more than houses. I am pleased to see that, in my area, progress is being made on a proposed arts centre, a new library is being built and there are new schools—albeit built through public-private partnerships. The essence of such projects is partnership.

We require help from the Executive when people try to realise a vision. One of the visions for the future of north Edinburgh is the waterfront development. Not only is the involvement of ministers such as Jackie Baillie and Wendy Alexander critical, so is that of the Minister for Transport. Sarah Boyack must realise that, in effect, we are building a new town, which links up and reconnects the people of north Edinburgh with other parts of the city. That development will give Edinburgh a waterfront of which it can be proud. The fundamental thing that it needs is a transport infrastructure that acknowledges that level of development and makes it a reality.

I back the Executive's work. There is an incredible challenge ahead of us. However, given the speeches that we have heard this afternoon, it is clear that, aside from the odd gripe, we all wish the Executive well in the challenge ahead.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative 4:46 pm, 10th May 2001

The ministers will recognise our usual consensual and positive approach to such a debate and I hope to participate on that basis. I welcome the listening approach that the Minister for Social Justice took at the beginning, although I was a little disappointed by her narrow knowledge of social history since the industrial revolution. Perhaps there are some lessons that she could learn by going back into that history.

Having given that lecture, I should say that I am a little disappointed that Glasgow, although it has its problems, has occupied such a large part of the debate. I was pleased that Kate MacLean talked for at least one of the cities in the north-east. Colin Campbell made the point that when it comes to re-examining the rules for structural funds and so on, Aberdeen bitterly regrets the Executive's decision to move away from the ward-based survey and consider cities in the round. Every one of our cities has huge pockets of deprivation, some of which are larger than others, some coterminous and some not. We must go beyond the surface of the issue.

Today's debate has focused on people and I welcome the fact that so many members have talked about the need for a people-centred approach. The subject of the debate is people and their communities.

Degeneration—as someone called it—and dereliction of the inner cities breeds a lack of confidence. That lack of confidence leads to a turning away from the establishment and from those with the power to do anything about the problems. That is not a new thing, but has been happening over the last century. However, we are all working to adjust that.

Members mentioned the requirement for planning. Planning must be refocused and we must reconsider the consultation process attached to it. I hope that the ministers will approach the Association of Scottish Community Councils, which is very active in considering planning apolitically. I pay the association credit for its work. Some of the community councils in our cities, particularly the inner cities, are very good and deserve some support from local authorities. Regrettably, not all the community councils get the support that they require. That leads us to the voluntary sector—about which Donald Gorrie talks regularly—and the need to support it in communities.

Conservatives believe that communities must be helped to help themselves. If we give people ownership of the process and offer them support, they will develop. They will raise their horizons, put together their efforts and work better together. We must consider town centres and communities and what we need to be doing in the inner cities—that is where a lot of the problems are, not just at the periphery. We need to raise civic pride and to involve civic leadership, as Frank McAveety suggested.

It is important to have pride in one's city, but private sector finance can also regenerate shopping access, shopping facilities and recreation facilities, which give people a reason to get involved in their cities. That can lift the quality of building design and planning applications, which can roll on into rebuilding city centre estates.

I deplore what the minister said about some Conservatives in the past not looking after council property. When there was a Conservative council in Stirling, it outstripped anything that had gone before in the renewal of double glazing, central heating and so on. It is incumbent upon ministers to recognise quality when it happens. The Conservative council also successfully dealt with anti-social tenants.

On community representation, I hope that the Minister for Social Justice will take time out to visit communities and consult them. It is important that people are involved. Local authorities have a major role to play in that, but it is not just local authorities that must be involved.

Health was mentioned frequently in the debate and it is an important factor in raising confidence, but law and order are also important. Many people who live in inner cities are terrified to go out at night. Because of under-resourcing, police forces have been unable to cope with what has been happening. It is important that the Executive accepts the message that it has a role to play in making communities safe.

In conclusion, I welcome the fact that we are debating inner cities, not just rural areas, although both are important. It is important that we address inner cities, but it is essential that we do not focus just on the central belt.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party 4:52 pm, 10th May 2001

The debate has been interesting. I appreciate the tone with which the Minister for Social Justice opened it. She started by talking about regeneration over the past half century. I was struck by the fact that some of the first regeneration, particularly in this city, happened many centuries ago. Part of the social re-engineering then was the development of the new town on the other side of Princes Street. Interestingly, the issue of new towns was one of the themes that kept coming up in the debate. Kenny Gibson talked about the impact of new towns on Glasgow. We also heard from Margaret Smith that we may have another new town in Edinburgh, but this time on the waterfront.

Bill Aitken, who traded guilt with Frank McAveety over Glasgow, used the term mea culpa. It struck me that we are having a debate about urban regeneration, yet as Robert Brown pointed out, the debate is unfocused, because it centres on a statement that we have not yet received, although the minister said that she was canvassing views on what should be in that statement.

I make the plea that in examining regeneration we do not just consider cities and larger areas. Given what has happened in West Lothian with Motorola and Bathgate, the issue is also about towns. In its drugs inquiry, the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee looked at places in Ayrshire and Fife. I hope that the minister will consider the west of West Lothian and the east of Lanarkshire, because regeneration should not be seen only in terms of cities and urban areas; it is about wider communities.

Some interesting comments have been made in the debate. The Minister for Social Justice referred to the new executive agency that will take over from Scottish Homes, which will be addressed in the long haul that is the passage of the Housing (Scotland) Bill. Therein lies one of the problems, because we are not sure what we are focusing on. I hope that that will become clearer as we move along.

I welcome the announcement of £3.7 million to support community representatives. I have said before in the chamber that we have received representations from members of SIPs who feel that they do not have the support that they need to be equal players in the regeneration process, so I am glad that there has been a response to that.

Kenny Gibson talked about the doughnut effect in Glasgow. Johann Lamont also talked about Glasgow. I agree that cities should be hubs, and that they can be dynamos. How we view situations is as important as what we do.

In a considered speech, Des McNulty said that policies should not just be talked about, they should be delivered. Kenny Gibson made the point that environmental improvement is important. That is one theme that must be part of urban regeneration.

Infrastructure is also needed. Lord James Douglas-Hamilton referred to the need for job creation. Sometimes getting people to the jobs is the problem, not creating jobs. That is why the transport infrastructure and regeneration arguments are important.

Robert Brown made an unusually party-political, point-scoring speech. Are the pressures of 400 amendments to the Housing (Scotland) Bill getting to him, or was the speech influenced by an announcement a few days ago? He talked about poverty, which is at a high level and has hardly been alleviated. The Scottish Parliament's responsibility is to contribute to ensuring that regeneration is not only economic, but social.

The UK Government's response to the proposals of the English urban task force talks about the need for civic leadership, which Frank McAveety mentioned. What is the balance between urban renaissance and helping deprived communities? At what point do those tasks meet, so that we are not simply helping poor people—the patronising attitude of the past that has bedevilled so much regeneration? We must develop partnerships that work. I intervened to ask the Minister for Social Justice about local authorities, which she had not mentioned and subsequently did. An equal partnership is required. I will be interested in the developments on community planning, which will make a difference.

Kate MacLean mentioned Dundee. In talking about the city of discovery, she attempted to rediscover the cities review that is disappearing off the radar. A serious point must be made about Dundee. This week, the director of finance at Dundee City Council said that he had been allocated only £8.4 million for capital projects, when the council needs £428 million for a decent level of capital provision.

Our cities have problems, but they also have opportunities. They need leadership. It is up to the Scottish Parliament to make a difference to regeneration. Mistakes have been made. I am glad to say that the SNP was not party to the problems of post-war Scotland, which Robert Brown mentioned, where communities were devastated because of a lack of regeneration and housing provision.

Much reference was made to community ownership and new housing partnership arrangements. I warn members that all parties examine the issue from the point of finance, or of getting the vote through. It is about time that we dealt with regeneration quality issues and ensured that we have the best provisions for the future.

We should learn from other places. Kenny Gibson talked about Phoenix and Baltimore. We must look beyond our horizons and consider international best practice. Our regeneration policies must be fit for a first-class Scotland in a first class new century.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour 4:58 pm, 10th May 2001

I am delighted to respond to the debate on behalf of the Executive. The debate was interesting, and, unusually for the chamber, constructive. Frank McAveety made one of the best speeches. He outlined a positive framework that we can develop and made an honest analysis of some of the challenges that we face. The debate laid foundations for progress.

Jackie Baillie identified three essential features of the Executive's approach to urban regeneration and Fiona Hyslop referred to the first. We are trying to reconnect and create linkages of households with one another and communities with economic opportunities. Urban renaissance should ensure at last that the poor begin to benefit from some of those policies.

We also intend to develop strong social networks and build community capacity. The theme throughout the debate was community. Members use and abuse the term "community". Sometimes we are far too romantic and do not think through some of the details. We are making not only sectoral connections, such as those between jobs and neighbourhoods or health and housing, but vertical connections, such as those between the Government, local authorities and communities. The realisation of strong and vibrant communities is a key plank of our social justice strategies. For the first time, we are concentrating delivery on local action. That is a fundamental characteristic of our approach. [Interruption.]

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

I am aware that I am on the graveyard shift and I thank the Deputy Presiding Officer for helping me out.

We want to deliver community-based approaches so that people living in our most disadvantaged areas are empowered to participate in regeneration. Many members, in particular the Liberal Democrats, have talked about that today. What is needed is development of the capacity to support the growth of active, informed citizens and effective local action—not just because that is worthy in itself, but because of the outcomes that that kind of process delivers and what people get out of it.

We are supporting community activities such as credit unions, local child care co-operatives and community infrastructures, which enable community responses to current initiatives, including housing, drugs and health. I am surprised that Fiona Hyslop has not yet recognised that people are at the centre of our housing policy. Community response is also at the heart of solutions to the drug problems that Bill Aitken mentioned. Community involvement in local partnerships is important for community learning and community safety.

Our focus is on communities that are experiencing exclusion and disadvantage. That is not to stigmatise communities, or to expect our most disadvantaged people to do the work of Government. It is not about those communities working twice as hard to receive the same services and opportunities that are afforded to people from more affluent and confident communities. Our approach recognises that some neighbourhoods require a step change in service delivery and in the community's confidence and capacity to participate. Undoubtedly, the new demands that we make present a challenge to services: to the professionals involved and to the structure of our public services. That is why we have increased investment in mainstream services. We have also increased the focus on our most deprived neighbourhoods.

Kate MacLean made very interesting points about the better neighbourhood services fund. On a recent visit to Dundee, I was very impressed by the work of Dundee City Council and some of the services that it is delivering. I was also impressed by the work of the social inclusion partnerships. I want to stress to Kate MacLean that there is flexibility in the better neighbourhood fund—the fund is about innovation and creativity—and that our guidance will be on the strength of outcomes. Whilst I accept the point that she is making about area-based distribution, I am not convinced that we must abandon that approach. We are trying to develop a theme and area-based approach to funding.

We are also looking to partnerships—such as the social inclusion partnerships—to add even more. That will happen not simply by partners levering in action, but by developing local plans that fully engage local residents. It is not political rhetoric when we say that our approach is about giving people a say in the things that matter to them. Research shows that substantial consultation with local people will lead to a full definition of the problems they face. That will help us to find the most appropriate ways of dealing with those problems and to deliver solutions.

As I said earlier, communities across Scotland are very different. They are not the romantic places that members imply when they mention them in the chamber. Communities can be very difficult places to live. We should never underestimate the scale of the problems that local people face.

It is uncharacteristic of me to break the consensual approach, but I want to say to the Tories that their proposals for sin bins and for dealing with anti-social behaviour take us back to the start of the very problems that we are trying to solve today. Tory policies have given us the scale of urban degeneration that we have today and sin bins will do nothing to help us solve that.

It is not a lack of responsibility on our part that puts empowerment in the hands of Scottish people. We take learning very seriously. We take monitoring very seriously. The targets and milestones that are tracked in our social justice strategy will take us forward. We are expecting, through that strategy, to see improvements in health, jobs, education and decreasing levels of crime. To emphasise our commitment to learning from experience and evidence, we have announced various initiatives. The new executive agency will also contribute to that.

During our debate on regeneration in Glasgow, when the Parliament was in Glasgow last year, I emphasised that, although people are important, places are important too. We need a strategy to marry people and place. We have systematically worked to turn around the major problems that we face. We have done that by investment, by recognising the proper role of public services—with a proper emphasis on quality and standards of practice—and by partnership with the voluntary sector and the private sector. Urban regeneration issues are fundamental to the Executive's programme for modernisation, change and social justice.

Let me again break with consensus. The SNP has failed to present any coherent analysis of, or alternative approach to, the key issue of urban regeneration. I will finish up with the Tories, who had the audacity to say that they are proud of their record in Glasgow—that is obviously why they have so many elected politicians there. Let us never forget the mass unemployment, industrial decline, communities in conflict and cast adrift, and the urban blight that the Tories brought us. Let us remind ourselves that Scotland will never go back there again. To pick up a theme that Robert Brown introduced, let me say that, on urban regeneration, the work goes on.