Town Centres (Regeneration)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Finance and Public Services and Communities – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 8th March 2007.

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Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour 2:15 pm, 8th March 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to regenerate town centres. (S2O-12298)

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

It is me again, I am afraid, Presiding Officer.

The Scottish Executive is committed to supporting regeneration throughout Scotland for the benefit of all our diverse communities. We set geographic priorities to act as a catalyst for growth and regeneration throughout Scotland, including in a number of small towns. To support that, a range of funding is available for the regeneration of town centres, including housing investment and the community regeneration fund.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

The minister will be aware that one problem in towns such as Dumfries, Annan and Lockerbie in my constituency is empty properties that are owned by absentee landlords. What steps can the Executive take to help and encourage local authorities to purchase compulsorily such properties and return them to productive use?

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

I am aware of the problem, which exists not just in Dumfries but in Paisley and many other places throughout Scotland. The Executive cannot do a huge amount directly through compulsory purchase orders, but we can help local authorities to work out a strategy for dealing with vacant properties and set a framework within which they can be brought into alternative use.

We need to consider the problem carefully, because it is a structural problem in town centres. We need an approach that has been carefully thought through, rather than our simply saying that it can be solved easily. If it could be solved easily, it would have been solved before now.