A golden chance to rescue town centers from decades of neglect – Annie Brown


We blame the internet for most things these days – from the polarization of society to porn addiction.

We are slaves to algorithms turning our brains into compost bins of likes, manufactured outrage, clickbait and cute kitten videos.

The internet is also a convenient scapegoat for flawed government thinking and corporate greed.

MSPs this week launched an investigation into how to save our high streets – a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted and is already glue.

Online shopping will be portrayed as the big bad shop snatcher but the roots of the decay of the high street are multifactorial.

Online retail, accelerated by the pandemic, has helped destroy our city centres, pushing out large chain stores, which themselves killed off small independents.

But the high streets in towns across Scotland were hollowed out long before online shopping was even a thing.

Out-of-town supermarkets, cavernous superstores and malls began to earnest to crush independents in the 70s and 80s.

They were subsidized and hailed as the epitome of all that is good in a free economy by the grocer’s daughter herself, Margaret Thatcher.

I loathe Thatcher and hope Satan is torturing her on a rack but in Scotland it was largely Labor councils who glad-handed the supermarket chiefs and signed a death warrant for our towns’ main streets.

Supermarkets and superstores were given free reign, to build out of town in cheap public land deals, and even traffic planning was designed around them.

They were supposed to bring jobs but any they did offer were part-time and poorly paid and have now been replaced by self-service checkouts.

While big super chains were paying peanuts in corporate tax, small retailers were paying extortionate rents and rates charged by squeezed local councils.

Main streets are depressing mirror images, dotted with charity shops, pound stores and parasitic bookies.

In countries like France and Italy, where one assumes they have wifi and online shopping, high streets continue to thrive.

Small retailers have traditionally been charged a fraction of UK rates and rents and there is also a culture of shopping at independents, with French consumers spending a third of the British on online shopping.

But then what do those pesky Europeans know?

The pandemic did encourage more of us to shop local but unless it’s a Spar or a local newsagent, that means the supermarket in most small towns, since the independents have already gone.

Government and local authorities have not only known what was murdering our high streets for years but aided and abetted the crime.

This new parliamentary investigation and public consultation is not the first time the government has vowed to tackle the demise of the high street yet the neglect has continued.

This latest effort must do better and not simply cow to solutions offered by big business, like developers who want to cash in on empty properties and turn them into expensive housing.

This is actually an opportunity to restore the social fabric of our high streets and there are some brilliant minds already creating a bold, climate-friendly vision of how we can breathe life back into our town centres.

Last year a report from Architect and Design Scotland (ADS) produced inspiring plans for self-sufficient, carbon-conscious “15-minute neighbourhoods”, designed around local shops, community hubs and amenities.

It proposed the pedestrianization of roads, urban tree planting and rain gardens, cycle lanes, efficient public transport and, well, the kind of place you can already find in the likes of France.

If this parliamentary committee is bold and ambitious and exploits the forward-thinking talent Scotland has in heaps, we could not only restore our towns’ high streets and neighborhoods but make them better than ever.

The consultation says it wants our high streets to diversify and grow and wants to hear public views on how that can happen.

If enough of us speak up and tell them what we want, they might just have to listen and we might end up with places we actually want to live and shop in.

Spare us the crocodile tears, Ruth

So the Sue Gray reported into party gate was a damp squib, so far so predictable.

And Boris Johnson is still displaying all the remorse of a prep boy caught smoking a fag in an Eton cupboard.

We know what to expect from Boris but spare us all the outrage from fellow Tories who have the moral backbone of an amoeba.

Theresa May, that duplicitous, migrant-baiting, Brexit enabler who stamped on the poor in her leopard print kitten heels is now as the voice of reason for criticizing Boris.

But perhaps the piss (correct) de resistance was Ruth Davidson weeping on Channel Four news, so broken by how much Bozo has betrayed the public trust.

Put away the onion Ruth, we know you just wish you could get the top job now that Boris is wounded.

At least Boris apologized for partygate, however insincere, but Ruth is yet to say sorry for the Rape Clause.

Anytime you like, Ruth, say sorry to the women who didn’t get benefits for a third child, unless they could prove they were raped.

A sea of ​​tears was shed by them.

Put away the onion Ruth
Put away the onion Ruth

Harry and Meghan fall out with Spotify

Harry and Meghan have fallen out with Spotify because it hosts purveyors of dangerous conspiracy theorists like Joe Rogan.

It’s great they have joined others and refused to be platformed by Spotify until it stops peddling fake news.

When they signed with Spotify it was already host to Covid deniers and flat earthers
When they signed with Spotify it was already host to Covid deniers and flat earthers

But when they signed with Spotify it was already host to Covid deniers and flat earthers.

Still, better late than never and I may not be a fan but commend them for such a stand.




www.dailyrecord.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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