SCOTLAND used to be home to some of the most radical thinkers anywhere in the world. Giants of the Scottish Enlightenment, such as brilliant men like David Hume, Adam Smith and James Hutton amongst others, whose work is still relevant today, more than 300 years on.

Unfortunately, the days when Scots led the way with radical ideas appear to be sadly gone judging by recent history.

Where once radical thoughts and ideas were shared and put into practice across Scotland and beyond, the nation now appears to be led by people whose fall back position is always to play safe and be uncontroversial.

It is obvious to most citizens that Scotland needs a radical vision from somewhere to meet the current challenges and the problems of the future, but there appears to be nobody willing to take up the cause.

Our public services need radically transformed to meet the demands that an ageing population in particular places on them. That is not a criticism, just a fact and it needs to be tackled head on.

The country’s public transport system is patchy at best, leaving thousands with no alternative but to drive, clogging up the roads and pumping Co2 emissions into the air at a time when we need to reduce them.

One area, though, where a radical transformation is desperately needed is how to breathe life back into our towns and cities.

Councils and the Scottish Government have it in their power to help, but appear to be content to administer a sticking plaster or set up a ‘task-force’.

Some councils have done a good job. Glasgow, for example, has transformed itself from the post-industrial wasteland that was so grim in the early 1980s that it partly inspired the song Ghost Town by The Specials as they drove through it after a gig. It wasn’t a compliment either.

Now Glasgow is a vibrant city again, likewise Dundee which has remodelled itself as a cultural centre with the opening of the V&A.

But others have fared less well, particularly the small and medium-sized towns which need dramatic transformations. People need to be brought back into the centres and it is the duty of ministers and councillors to look everywhere to find solutions.

However, it can also be argued that many small towns, particularly in the former coalfields, can never be transformed. Poor transport links and distance make them unlikely to ever be commuter towns and attracting new businesses is well nigh impossible.

Maybe the most radical vision required here is to simply let them die naturally and move the residents into nearby towns which are sustainable in the long-term.

It may sound controversial, but controversy is exactly what we need.