There is a new pride in Paisley as different bodies join forces to create better opportunities for all, writes Colin Cardwell

If there was any feeling that Paisley lacked a significant voice in modern Britain it was swiftly extinguished last week by Mhairi Black’s barnstorming speech in the House of Commons. The town’s new MP – and the country’s youngest – highlighted her constituency’s exemplary past and the characteristic doggedness and humour of its people but could not avoid the contemporary challenges of urban decline, unemployment and community fracture.

The entrepreneurial talent that the west of Scotland is justifiably famous for is very much alive, however, and Paisley has real reason to pride itself in recent regeneration .

Paisley is at the heart of Renfrewshire, has an international airport and, along the M8 and M74 extension a direct motorway link with London. This unique connectivity is combined with a reputation for companies working in productive partnership with local authorities and public bodies.

“There is an opportunity for everyone involved to make Paisley a serious offer for them to consider,” says Bob Davidson, chief executive of Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce. 

Companies in Paisley and the wider Renfrewshire area clearly have the appetite to grow but they need the confidence and inspiration to invest. For those who have, the potential rewards are there: earlier this year the town’s prospects were invigorated when architect Tom Stewart announced a £3.5 million plan to transform two historic buildings in the town into a 40-bedroom boutique hotel called the Patternmaker.

The vexed question of how to maintain and regenerate the high street is well documented throughout Scotland. Last year Tom Johnston of Colliers International stated that Scotland’s retail sector as a whole remains in a fragile state. “A strong retail sector is important to the economic well-being of Scotland and we must look at innovative new ways to encourage retailers and shoppers back into city and town centres.”

Johnston has intimate knowledge of Paisley’s particular issues: as president of the Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce he was a board member of Paisley Vision, a 10-year, £50m investment programme launched in 2006 to breathe life back into the area.

Improvement is happening quickly: the town has been boosted by a £2m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and sports and culture are being given an increased profile. Street VeloDrome, billed as the world’s only pop-up track racing, was held in the town for the second time in May. And the British Cycling National Youth Circuit Race took place earlier this month, the first time the championships had been held in Scotland.

In 2013 the town hosted the National Mod, while the Spree Festival in October will provide nine days of music, comedy arts and other events which has significant spin-off opportunities for local businesses.

Davidson says: “These events are important. The Spree gets bigger every year: it attracts bigger names, and the audience numbers go up.

“But what I’d like to see is businesses in the area of venues trying to make the most of that potential traffic. Enticing the potential customer in, offers – that sort of thing.

“The Monte Carlo Classic Rally is known all over the world. For Paisley to have hosted it twice, not just once, is fantastic.

“The Council plays a big part and they do a good job encouraging the public to come out. As the voice of business in the area, we certainly encourage our members to support all these big events.”

That attitude is continuing evidence of the new level of confidence in the town.