City Centres (Store Closures)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd February 2021.

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Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

Willie Coffey asked a good question, and I would like to press the First Minister on a specific point. Last week, Aberdeen city centre was hit by the closure of Debenhams after more than 35 years in the city. Another department store building—that of BHS—remains empty five years after it closed, and Arcadia has shut several stores in the city.

What is the First Minister doing to proactively help councils to find occupiers for empty buildings, to ensure that great cities such as Aberdeen do not come to resemble ghost towns?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I am going to resist the temptation to assume responsibility for filling individual shop units in every town and city. [

Interruption

.] It is an important question and I do not mean to minimise it. We work with councils to support them through funding. Of course, this is not just about not wanting it to be my or the Scottish Government’s responsibility; local economic development teams in local councils are best placed to know how to recruit—[

Interruption

.]

Presiding Officer, I am struggling to hear with all the chatting that is going on.

The Presiding Officer:

If I may say so, First Minister, the trouble was caused by the Deputy First Minister heckling members on the Labour benches. I encourage all members to behave themselves in this situation.

The First Minister:

I will speak to him later, Presiding Officer. [

Laughter

.] I apologise—I have completely lost my train of thought, which probably means that I should sit down.

On the issue of town centres and working with local authorities through the action plan and the funding, the point that I was making was that it is right and proper—and probably most effective—for the local authority economic development teams to focus on who they are trying to recruit and who it is best to target for investment in their areas.