People power, combined with a positive attitude, is helping groups like Paisley First make a tangible difference, says Ann Wallace

A forward-thinking initiative in Paisley is helping to restore the town’s reputation as a safe, clean and welcoming place to work, live and visit.

Paisley First, set up to work for and behalf of businesses in the town, is now beginning to deliver on its ambitious plans for the future, as Sunil Varu, development manager, explains.

“Paisley has a lot to offer, both as a business location and as a visitor destination,” he says. Overcoming negative perceptions of the town is the aim with safety and cleanliness top of the agenda.”

Some of the key initiatives targeting safety include a new taxi marshalls scheme.

Sunil explains: “Paisley town centre attracts thousands of people of all ages, every day and every evening.

“Our feedback shows people want to come in to Paisley and enjoy everything the town has to offer in terms of nightlife – bars, restaurants, clubs and so on.

“But if they can’t get a taxi at the end of the night, they are put off from coming.

“The new taxi marshalls system will be extremely helpful in providing a safe haven for people waiting for taxis in an orderly queue before going home after a night out, and that’s part of our plans to ensure everyone receives the best experience we can give them.”

Working in partnership with Renfrewshire Council and Police Scotland, Paisley First is developing many more initiatives designed to look after businesses, residents and visitors.

These include town centre CCTV; Radio Link, a walkie-talkie communication initiative between businesses, the Police and the Town Centre wardens and Pubwatch, a vital information-sharing scheme between pubs and the police.

Two further initiatives are Paisley Street Pastors, part of a UK-wide interdenominational church response to urban night time issues, and Keep Safe, the first initiative of its kind in Scotland to tackle disability hate crime.

The former is part of 2gether (Paisley and District Evangelical Alliance) and uses the funds it raises to provide equipment such as blankets, gloves, scarves, food, water, first aid supplies and more for people on the streets.

Keep Safe has been developed by Police Scotland and the community group I Am Me to ensure that disabled people can enjoy ordinary day to day life and activities without the fear of abuse, intimidation and harassment.

Boosting tourism is also part of Paisley First’s vision as it prepares to play a full role in the town’s bid to become the UK City of Culture in 2021.

The bid, part of the ambitious regeneration plans, will showcase Paisley’s unique heritage in the hope of putting it on the map as a cultural and tourist hotspot.

Paisley is one of Scotland’s largest towns, with a population of 76,000 people. Its rich architectural and cultural heritage includes, of course, its role as the birthplace of the famous Paisley pattern – Paisley Museum and Art Gallery includes displays tracing the history of the Paisley pattern, the development of weaving techniques and the social aspects of what was a tight-knit weaving community.

The town’s famous sons include Alexander Wilson, known as the Father of American Ornithology, and Reverend John Witherspoon,  a signatory of the American Declaration of Independence.

“We have something like 350,000 cultural artefacts in the town, and the aim is to pull them all together and showcase them to the wider world,” smiles Sunil.

“From original Paisley shawls and pattern books, to a world-renowned collection of bird illustrations second only to that housed in Harvard University, we have some amazing items that many people simply won’t be aware of.

“We are beginning to shout from the rooftops about all that Paisley has to offer – for a town this size, our contribution to the world is huge.”

Paisley First’s recent participation in the VisitScotland EXPO was also a success in raising awareness of the town’s assets.

“We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of good quality feedback we received from tour operators now keen to bring tours to Paisley in 2016,” says Sunil.