Town centres have always been hubs of activity, places where people go shopping, meet friends, do business or have an evening out. Now, people have more choice: we can watch a film or do our shopping without leaving home.

This means that town centres have to work harder to be the focus of activity. Without people, many businesses – particularly shops, pubs, restaurants and hotels – would close their doors. Without businesses, fewer people would come into town centres. That’s why encouraging business and enterprise is so important.

Many town centres use their assets as their unique selling point and that is exactly what we’re seeing in Paisley. 

The largest town in Scotland has witnessed remarkable events and changes in its history. Its location and site assets powered its foundation, ecclesiastical and medieval past and its subsequent industrial rise, leading to the worldwide fame of its iconic product, the Paisley pattern.

But, its location, proximity and interdependence with more recent development in the vicinity – Braehead, Silverburn and the like, the airport, its easy links to central Glasgow – and the narrowing and then decline of its industrial base have brought massive challenges and change to Paisley. For a number of years Paisley has been viewed as a symbol of town centre decline and problems, but this perception is now changing rapidly.

For a town with a proud past, the test is how to use its great history to provide a positive and prosperous future. A reinvented museum of textile, costume and design, an extended Paisley Museum, a focus on fashion and design, theatre, cultural events, new hotels, living spaces in the centre and the visual use of previously, hidden artefacts on the high street all focus attention on the renaissance of Paisley.

And there are ambitious plans in place to use Paisley’s internationally-significant cultural and heritage assets to transform it into one of the key destinations on Scotland’s tourist map. In turn, this will draw upon the town’s  cultural, architectural and industrial heritage as the basis for a wide-ranging programme of regeneration.

Making that happen involves a wide range of people working together towards an agreed plan and ambition. It is important that local people and enterprises have the power to take the lead in making their town centre a busier and better place, supported and encouraged by professionals in the public and private sectors.

The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill which was passed by the Scottish Parliament in June, will build on this thirst for participation and is a momentous step in our drive to decentralise decisions.

The Bill will give people more powers to take over land, buildings and services, so communities that may have been excluded in the past or that have had abandoned buildings or derelict land blighting their areas, can identify the best ways to make improvements and take forward regeneration on their own terms.

Legislation cannot do everything but it will underpin the culture we want to develop in the public sector, in which community empowerment and participation is the right thing to do, supporting the delivery of better outcomes for all. 

As promised, the Bill enables local councils to offer business rates relief in their areas. It is a wide power reflecting our commitment to community empowerment and local decision-making, one that councils could choose to create town centre investment zones, targeting local priorities and opportunities. 

We already have the UK’s most competitive business taxation, with the Small Business Bonus Scheme alone reducing or removing rates bills, and this Bill provides an excellent platform for councils to use all their powers to support local businesses.

Paisley is a town in transition, and this is a Bill that can help it, and towns and communities up and down the country, flourish. With its exciting future plans capitalising on Paisley’s cultural and heritage assets to existing investments, such as the historical Russell Institute being brought back into use, there is a lot of positive change in the town which is providing useful learning for others to replicate in other towns across the country.