You are all far too young and trendy to be familiar with the ditty in question but Petula Clark once topped the US charts with a paean of praise to the joys of Downtown.

From this anthem – Number Two in the UK – we learned that "things will be great" when you're Downtown. You could, seemingly, forget all your troubles, forget all your cares.

Not sure about you but that scarcely matches my recent experience of Scotland's town and city centres.

The lights may be brighter there, as Petula promised. But those lights shine partly upon shuttered shops and litter-strewn pavements.

I thought of this as I considered the latest retail closure, that of the chain Wilko. The jobs lost are hugely regrettable while, more broadly, the collapse exemplifies the problems in our town centres.

This topic has arisen sporadically in political discourse throughout recent decades as the rise in online shopping transformed retail patterns. Inevitably and irreversibly.

I glance back at the SNP minority administration from 2007 to 2011 when a Budget deal with the Conservatives resulted in extra cash to bolster Scotland's struggling High Streets. As I recall, the Tories claimed the credit.

In practice, all too little happened, as the tide of change swept onwards.

The issue also featured in sundry electoral contests, most notably the Dunfermline by-elections of 2006 (Westminster) and 2013 (Holyrood).

In both these battles, sundry senior canvassers would parade purposefully down the High Street of the ancient burgh, tutting and promising, simultaneously. Something, it seemed, must be done – and would be, depending on the outcome. Will return to Dunfermline soon – now that my team are, temporarily, in their division – but I fully expect to be underwhelmed.

Very fine place, you understand, but it is suffering like other towns and cities throughout Scotland.

We learned this week – in The Herald, where else – that an ambitious "£100m masterplan" is envisaged in an effort to transform East Kilbride, replacing its empty retail units with a blend including new homes, hotel provision and civic space.

There is no immunity even for New Towns, it seems, from the blight afflicting our urban areas.

I have lived, at various times, in each of Scotland's four big cities.

As a child, I felt a fraction intimidated by the pomp and splendour of Dundee's grandest department stores. Especially Draffens.

All gone. All in the past. I would warmly commend the initiative which has created a new, vibrant Dundee around the V&A – but that still leaves the older city streets somewhat bereft.

In Aberdeen, there has been an enduring battle to reverse the decline of Union Street – scarcely aided by sporadic reports of disturbances in the evenings and at weekends.

Edinburgh? Princes Street sans Jenners is a shell. There are closed shops too in George Street – while the Royal Mile, although busy, still veers too much towards tartan kitsch.

Our capital is perhaps surviving better than other, less prosperous areas. But, even in Edinburgh, there are worries. A sense of loss.

And then there is Glasgow. The second city of the Empire. An Empire now vanished along with the wonderful theatre which bore its name – although, personally, I regret the demise of the Alhambra even more.

When I was on the telly rather more regularly than now, I would head frequently to Sauchiehall Street if I wanted to sample popular opinion. Go there for vox pops and folk would form a queue.

Now, I suspect I might struggle. A wee while back, I exited, with a friend, from the Willow Tea Rooms on to Sauchiehall Street.

A journey from nostalgic past to brutal present. We were confronted with boarded shops and an aggressive posse of skateboarding youth. I'm sure they meant no harm – but my friend noted drily that it was "a different vibe" from the Mackintosh memories.

Glasgow city centre is palpably struggling. Its gloriously gallus citizenry deserves better.

Perhaps they will get it from the Golden Z. Sounds like a superhero – or indeed villain – but apparently it is the area encompassing Sauchiehall, Buchanan and Argyle Streets. Each in varying need of TLC.

The proposed transformation of this area has been cocooned in exaggeration and rhetoric. I know such projects need to be marketed. I get the concept. But I suspect that investors – and the good folk of Glasgow – have finely tuned meters, set to repel hype.

Still, I commend the endeavour. The city certainly needs something. I will leave the detail to others but would note, with approbation, the concept of blending retail with other forms of occupation, notably housing.

The aim – here as in other Scottish urban areas – is to get more folk back living in the city centre. The thinking is that the streets are more likely to be socially and economically active if people call them home. Good shout.

However, I would lodge a couple of key caveats. I worry at what happens in the interim – as important buildings are demolished to make way for change.

Is there not a danger that the reconstruction itself is such a deterrent that people get out of the habit of visiting certain parts of the city – fulfilling their retail, business and leisure needs elsewhere?

I feel certain this will have formed part of the overall plan. Perhaps it is buried somewhere beneath the flurry of over-eager verbiage.

Which brings me to my second caveat. We need to do more than rebuild our main streets in Glasgow. We need to revive them.

A recent official report said of Sauchiehall Street in particular that the dearth of "evening economy activity" had "led to an increase in anti-social behaviour."

How true, how brutally true. For people to reside comfortably in our renewed town and city centres, they need reassurance that their lives will be as free as possible from noisy and even violent disruption.

As we rebuild – frankly, before we rebuild – we need to create a new social environment to match the physical one.

We need to redevelop a sense of order, civility and mutual respect. If such is not readily available, we need to exhort, exemplify and, if necessary, enforce it.

Then, perhaps, things might be great downtown.