MORE and more of our big high street retailers are in trouble, with falling footfall and in-store sales that make rent hard to meet. It's clear that the face of our city centres is changing. Shop vacancy rates now exceed ten percent in Scotland, and economic experts are clear that we have too much retail space. Why go to the high street to buy socks and DVDs when you can buy – or stream – online? Instead it is the experience economy – from festivals to pop-up restaurants and from bars to theatres – that will keep the urban heart of our cities alive. It's time to seize the opportunities this throws up. Those who can innovate will survive. Retailers who offer added extras will be the big winners. Just look at Waterstones - with its coffee shop vibe - and its easy to see why it is one of the few success stories.

The changing face of the city means we can also be innovative - for example, re-greened streets will help cut pollution, and create a more pleasant place to live and work. City centres can become hatcheries for start-ups and creatives.

Policy makers and city planners need to get with the programme now and start making rent, rates and planning laws fit for the 21st century.

But while we should embrace the changing face of the city, it is essential we don't forget our struggling towns and villages. In the rush for the future, we must not leave them behind.