24 February 2011

S3M-7992 Regeneration

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7992, in the name of Johann Lamont, on regeneration.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): ...

I wish John Park every success in the recovery of his lip. Indeed, I wish him every success in the coming election. I hope that Labour sets new records—for second places. The contest to come will be interesting.

Regeneration is a subject that is timely and important to communities not only in central Scotland but right across Scotland. In my remarks, I will make some comments about areas outwith central Scotland.

John Park highlighted an important issue when he said that it is not correct to focus only on people. When we look at regeneration, I agree that we also have to consider the physical, social and economic environments. In fact, a complex set of interlocking issues make up the single issue that is regeneration. The need for regeneration has run through the generations in far too many of our communities.

That is precisely why the Conservatives absolutely miss the point when they focus on the idea of workers relocating to find new work. Indeed, Norman Tebbit has been on the campaign trail in Wales this week. He gave an interview in which he suggested, once again, that the “get on your bike” phrase that he used years ago still has a resonance. That focus is simplistic, inadequate and inappropriate.

It is good to hear members on Labour’s front bench—if not members on Labour’s back benches—reinforcing the importance of the Forth replacement crossing, which is not only a transport investment but one that creates significant jobs. I hope that Lord Foulkes remains a sole voice.

Regeneration is a key part of our economy. It is needed just as much in rural villages and towns as it is in urban city centres. Just as we have seen significant change in the industrial structure of Scotland in many communities in the central belt, so we have seen the structure of our traditional industries of fishing and farming change significantly. Those industries have reduced the number of people who are employed within them and that has caused suffering for a number of associated engineering industries, too.

The Coalfields Regeneration Trust does excellent work for the communities that it supports. I do not think that during today’s debate we will hear criticism of its efforts, although we may focus on differences.

However, there is a Scotland beyond the central belt. Just yesterday, on 23 February, Portsoy in my constituency was granted £500,000 from Historic Scotland’s conservation area regeneration scheme to repair historic buildings in the harbour and to give people training in traditional skills. That is the kind of initiative that the Government is taking. It will make the area more attractive to visitors, but it will also boost the local economy. Building on traditional skills and renovation work will create for young people, in particular, key opportunities to engage in new activities.

Elsewhere in my constituency, there have been successful regeneration schemes in Peterhead, and £3 million has been spent on a townscape heritage project in Banff. In August, Aberdeenshire Council allocated slightly more than a third of £1 million from Scottish Enterprise to regeneration projects in Banff and Buchan.

Regeneration is important throughout Scotland. That is why I welcome the document that the Government has just published on the subject, which recognises that many of the traditional models are less viable. For too many companies, reliance on debt finance simply is not possible. Together with difficulties in accessing land and property in the current climate, that is making it more difficult overall to attract investment. We need community-led regeneration, rather than a top-down approach. We need to empower our communities so that, through the Scottish Government’s concordat with local authorities in particular, we can find ways of doing the things that are required in our local communities. Regeneration works when each community has a stake in it.

I think in particular of Maud, a small village in my constituency, where over a long period—regeneration is not a quick fix—the community has engaged in redeveloping an area that 50 years ago was the biggest, most active cattle market in the whole of Scotland. Today, the area is thriving, with many different activities in a new centre that has been developed in close co-operation with the community, through a planning for real project that engaged the very young and the very old.

Like others, I welcomed the 2007 debate on coalfield regeneration. After waiting for four years for another debate, we find that two have come along on the same day—not, I must say, miraculous scheduling on the part of the Labour business manager.

In comparison with the minister, I must go back one more generation to reach my mining ancestors. My great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were miners in Bannockburn. They were among more than 300 Stevensons who were miners in that community 150 years ago. Business changes, and we must respond. Regeneration will be important. I will support the Government tonight.


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