By Colin Cardwell

The current Covid-19 pandemic may have caused upheaval on a colossal scale but now is also a unique time for both business and governments to review and reshape the road they are taking toward a net-zero carbon society.

This is one of the central messages that – as keynote speaker – Marie Macklin, founder and executive chair of The HALO Urban Regeneration Company will bring to The Herald’s Earth Overshoot Day virtual event next Thursday, August 6.

Earth Overshoot Day is the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what the planet can regenerate in that period and the event, in conjunction with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the California-based Global Footprint Network, will bring together business leaders, climate experts and young people to discuss the challenges.

Ms Macklin believes that the spotlight on cities as the nexus for economic growth is outdated and that UK plc needs to refocus its corporate social responsibility (CSR) budgets to create opportunities in the UK’s towns, creating an enterprise-led resilience model that promotes new communities within these towns that are sustainable, healthy, energy efficient, create jobs and are digitally savvy.

And while there is much positive talk from government on creating a sustainable new economy, budgets may have to be realigned. “Take Scotland’s City Region Deals,” she says. “How do they conform to our new aspirations after the pandemic? There will be money in these deals that can be reallocated to assist builders and developers to take on new, focused redevelopment of our towns and cities.”

She is equally trenchant in her call to business, saying that it needs to “put its money where its mouth is and lead from the heart to create a new economy for our children and their children post Covid-19”. Some companies have made an encouraging start: Diageo, owner of the former Johnny Walker bottling plant in Kilmarnock donated the 23-acre site that HALO occupies and also pledged £2 million to support the regeneration plan.

East Ayrshire Council contributed a further £2m while the first phase has attracted £15m of private sector investment, £3.5m from the Scottish Government and £3.5m from the UK Government with construction of the HALO Enterprise and Innovation Hub under way and the project planned to generate £205m in GDP and stimulate 1,500 jobs.

“We’ve created a unique funding model to reclaim land in urban areas that includes public, corporate and national and local government finance, one that’s not just a property play but will create something built to the highest environmental standards, designed and equipped for the digital age, that will benefit not only Kilmarnock and East Ayrshire but the wider economy.”

She believes that long-term sustainable development will increasingly be driven by the people who live and work in building.

“It’s people who make change, not politicians. As an urban regeneration company we had high standards of commitment to sustainability that formed a huge part of the procurement process, one which wasn’t purely focused on price, when we appointed a main contractor and have excavated and crushed and retained 20,000m3 of granular material (40,000 tonnes) and 10,000m3 of subsoil at the site.

“This opportunity to create a more sustainable economic future is built on the social awareness of the emergency we face in climate change and if the business world accepts that opportunity and leads by example by collaborating with the communities they live, work and play in they will both deliver more for society and achieve our net-zero target.”

HALO Kilmarnock has teamed up with ScottishPower to create a cyber and digital training and learning facility which is also exploring energy innovations for a lower carbon society and is working with Barclays on a data collection site to create new jobs and entrepreneurship and develop the employability skills of young people and adults across Scotland and recently announced a partnership with Construction Scotland Innovation Centre that will bring smart homes with sustainable building components alongside the low carbon heat solutions being designed for these homes at HALO Kilmarnock.

Ms Macklin said: “HALO Kilmarnock is in the postcode area where I grew up and it’s a deprived community with a very high level of youth unemployment.

“We were asking UK plcs how they were examining their remit in assisting SMEs and local communities and if they wanted to be partners in the project. No one has said no to us – but no one had been approached with this type of proposal before,” she says.

Next week Dr Macklin will be asking more of us to consider changes we had not previously considered for the sake of our communities, towns and ultimately, the planet.

Terry A’Hearn, chief executive of SEPA, said: "The webinar brings together some of the most inspirational and progressive leaders in Scotland. Marie Macklin, whose HALO Project in Ayrshire is a #MoveTheDate exemplar, has broken the mould by encouraging resilient economic growth through an innovative regeneration initiative fuelled by renewable energy.

"Having someone of her calibre on the panel is evidence of how seriously people are taking Earth Overshoot Day this year. She’ll be joined by panellists Mathis Wackernagel, President of the Global Footprint Network, which is responsible for calculating Earth Overshoot Day, and Catriona Patterson, board member of the 2050 Climate Group, an award-winning charity designed to encourage young people to lead the conversation around climate change and how it can be tackled. 

"I’ll join this influential group on the panel and I can’t wait – when people like this talk, we should all sit up and listen.”

For further information visit Or contact, events director for The Herald, Lyndsay Wilson.