THE convenience brought by out-of-town shopping centres has been warmly received by Scottish consumers, as the thousands of cars parked outside Silverburn or Braehead each day readily testify.

But the rise of out-of-town malls has not been without cost.

While not being the sole cause of decline, there is no doubt provincial high streets have been badly hit as big-name retailers have packed up and headed for the purpose-built shopping Meccas.

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The trend has not gone unnoticed at Holyrood.

The Scottish Government has broadly endorsed the "town centre first principle" recommended by the National Review of Town Centres it commissioned 12 months ago. It calls on public bodies to consider town centres first when making development decisions.

Edinburgh-based architect Malcolm Fraser, who led the review, can be satisfied his report is being taken seriously at the highest level of government.

And he is right to capitalise on that encouraging response with calls for more radical action.

Mr Fraser says the Business Rates Incentive Scheme is one piece of legislation which can be easily "refitted" to promote town centre revitalisation, in this case to ensure councils have more control of the taxes raised in their areas.

There seems little doubt some towns have been harmed by the march of the malls. And while some retail parks are closing in the US, the out-of-town sites are here to stay. Against this backdrop, measures to restore town centre vibrancy have never been so important.