Alasdair has been part of the Council’s leadership team since 2015 and has extensive public and private sector experience of regeneration projects.
He has also been a resident of Paisley for the past 17 years and has a passion for the regeneration of Scotland’s largest town.
Can you tell us more about why the Council is advertising the job roles of Chief Economic and Regeneration Officer and Chief Planning Officer at this time?
We’re looking to recruit two senior officers to work collaboratively across services and partners and help the Council fulfil its ambitions for the recovery and growth of Renfrewshire as a place.
The Council has a strategic role in setting the vision for Renfrewshire. In many ways, it’s the principal institution of Renfrewshire as a place and provides political and economic leadership for the area.
We believe that the integration of economic, social, physical, cultural and environmental policy and strategy is fundamental to securing the future wellbeing of the area and its people. These two new posts are viewed as crucial in achieving this ambition by overseeing the bringing together of the above elements.
We are bringing together a number of existing services – Planning, Economic Development, Regeneration, Housing Strategy, City Deal, Cultural Infrastructure Programme, Non-operational Property – all in one place to improve co-ordination in how we shape the future of Renfrewshire as a place and have created these roles to lead and develop this important work. These roles will be the driving heart of Renfrewshire’s place transformation agenda.
For both posts, we are seeking individuals who share our values and who can combine vision for the place with practical experience for delivery on-the-ground to enhance the prospects of Renfrewshire and its people.
What type of people are you looking to employ for the roles?
Both of these postholders will have senior management roles at the Council and so, first and foremost, we will be looking for candidates that can embody the values of the organisation – fair, helpful, great collaborators and individuals who value learning. These are set out in more detail in the job packs for candidates.
We will be looking for relevant experience and, particularly in the case of the Chief Planning Officer, a high level of technical knowledge.
These are new posts, so we’re looking for someone who is excited to explore the opportunities within this new role, lead and motivate their teams and contribute to achieving our ambitions for Renfrewshire.
We are looking for leaders, with vision, enthusiasm and able to show experience of successfully working across multiple stakeholders and partnerships.
We are seeking effective communicators and influencers and also individuals who are problem solvers based on analysis of any given situation. They also need to have a track record of consistently delivering against agreed outcomes– for their colleagues, for their organisation and for Renfrewshire
What is the approach to economic strategy in Renfrewshire? Is the private sector involved?
Our Economic Strategy published in 2019 came about as a result of an established partnership between local businesses, university, college, national agencies and the local authority. The private sector provided the chair for a Panel which acted as a sounding board for the preparation of the Strategy. That same Panel was instrumental in the development of a post-pandemic Economic Recovery Plan for Renfrewshire approved by Renfrewshire Council last month.
The strategy is one that seeks to create new and higher value jobs. We want to enhance the skills of our existing workforce and generate opportunities for tomorrow’s workforce. We also need to make sure that everyone benefits from the economic growth and increased wellbeing that we are aiming for.
What are some of the major developments over the next few years that make you most excited?
There are several investments under way that are exciting, but I suppose the headliners would be the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMIDS for short) and the Cultural Investment Programme.
AMIDS is a new business district lying east of Glasgow Airport and soon to be home to the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland and the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre. Together with the Glasgow City Deal-funded enabling infrastructure (new roads, services, bridges, fibre broadband and public realm) this initial investment of some £175m will see these two new anchor institutions become an important step in consolidating Renfrewshire’s position as the place to locate your advance manufacturing business in Scotland.
The Cultural Investment Programme is a committed spend by Renfrewshire Council and its partners of some £100m over the next few years to transform and reimagine key cultural facilities such as Paisley Museum and Paisley Town Hall.
An investment of more than £40m will see the Museum transformed into a world class destination showcasing the stories of a Scottish town whose influence reached around the globe. Paisley’s Victorian Town Hall has played a key role for local cultural events for more than a century and now we are going to transform the much loved-building into a landmark entertainment venue for the west of Scotland, hosting live music, theatre and more.
Will it be a challenge for the Renfrewshire economy to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has created huge amounts of economic uncertainty. Businesses are concerned about their future; employees worry about their job security and the restrictions on day-to-day normal life mean there is less money being spent to support these jobs and businesses.
Unemployment in Renfrewshire has doubled since March last year and, as we all know, we are not at the end of the road yet. Renfrewshire is by no means unique in this and there will be significant challenges ahead. We do not expect the Renfrewshire economy to recover to pre-Covid levels until 2024.
One of the key tasks of the Chief Economic & Regeneration Officer post we are advertising will be to deliver on the agreed Economic Recovery Plan which we believe can make a real difference as we aim to tackle the scale of the impact felt locally.
How is Renfrewshire approaching the challenge of the changing nature of town centres?
Town centres have changed quite quickly over the last 50 years and are now entering a different phase again. Retailers are competing against an offer that is virtual and people are changing their habits in how they use town centres. However, town centres remain at the heart of communities and still provide thousands of jobs locally.
In Renfrewshire, we would like to re-imagine the future for town centres, as they change from retail hubs to a place to meet friends, business contacts and spend leisure time; a place to live that is close to essential services; and a place to set up a small business that is well served by the amenities you need.
What makes Renfrewshire an attractive place to live and work for you? Do you believe it will continue to be so?
Several factors in why it is an attractive place to live and work
- Good transport links to the rest of the Glasgow conurbation and of course further afield via Glasgow Airport.
- Attractive countryside and the west coast and Loch Lomond are very close by.
- People are very friendly and welcoming – and I can say this as someone who moved to Renfrewshire in 2003 and loved it!
- Quality of the available business locations (Hillington, Inchinnan, etc) and the type of businesses that are based here.
I believe (and certainly hope) it will continue to be an attractive place to live and work – there are some great plans for the future of the area and its an exciting time to be involved in the transformation of Renfrewshire as a place.