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Better future planning for Scottish towns and cities made possible by Stirling experts

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Professor Leigh Sparks and Research Fellow Anne Findlay.
Professor Leigh Sparks and Research Fellow Anne Findlay.

Scottish planners and the public alike can take ownership over their towns and cities thanks to an online resource developed by University of Stirling experts.

Understanding Scottish Places (USP) is an interactive website which enables residents and planners to compare and contrast a range of data on all Scotland’s 479 towns and cities.

It contains 36,000 pieces of searchable data including health, education and jobs statistics, whilst the number of shops and registered charities are made public for the first time.

The online tool has been compiled by a consortium comprising the University of Stirling; the Carnegie UK Trust; Scotland’s Towns Partnerships and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES).

Research Fellow Anne Findlay and Professor Leigh Sparks of the University’s Institute for Retail Studies developed the typology at the heart of USP, and sourced and analysed data.

Professor Sparks said: "This unique Scotland-wide resource is of huge significance for anyone, from policy makers to business owners, wishing to improve their town and town centre.

"It is the first time we have an understanding, on a consistent and comparable basis, of what Scottish towns look like. Questions such as how our towns interact within a network - whether residents travel far to study or if services are provided to non-residents - can be addressed with the data provided.

"This invaluable tool will help stakeholders better understand the functions of our towns and cities, and will be a great springboard for developing future policies and plans which serve to strengthen Scotland’s places."

Co-funded by Carnegie UK and the Scottish Government, USP has resulted from the 2013 Scottish Government’s Town Centre Action Plan.

Margaret Burgess MSP, Minister for Housing and Welfare, said: "USP is a powerful resource for people working across the country giving them the opportunity to design better strategies for their communities – whether they are in council, town partnerships or BIDS, traders associations, business or community groups. It’s a great tool, ideally positioned to help local people see how their area is working for them and be inspired to get involved in revitalising their towns."

Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie UK Trust, said: "USP is a valuable tool for all of those invested in making our towns better places to live. It recognises that different places have different needs, and require different services and resources."

Visit Understanding Scottish Places (USP) at:


Esther Hutcheson
Communications Officer
01786 466 640


Notes for editors
Background information

Staff at The Institute for Retail Studies conduct research for a wide variety of public and private sector bodies, specialising in analyses of the complex implications of retail change on people and places. The Institute is part of the Stirling Management School, which in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 was ranked within the UK’s top 25 institutions (the top quartile) for Business and Management. Over 90 per cent of its research impact is rated either world-leading or internationally excellent.

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