IRVINE’S MSP has called on council chiefs to make the most of the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce a £50 million Town Centre Fund planned by the Scottish Government.

Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay MSP, announced the new ring-fenced fund to be available through the local authority settlement during his draft budget statement last month.

The SNP say the proposal aims to drive economic growth by helping town centres fund projects such as re-purposing buildings for retail, business and community enterprise, while improving access and infrastructure.

However the ruling Labour administration say any money will come from cuts to council budgets.

SNP MSP Ruth Maguire, said:“The Finance Secretary’s plans to introduce a new £50 million Town Centre Fund could help transform towns like Irvine, Kilwinning and Stevenston, and others across North Ayrshire.

“The fund will be passed on through the local authority settlement, so it’s up to North Ayrshire Council to make sure our local town centres see the benefit of this substantial investment through community improvement projects.

“All high streets across Scotland face challenges as online retail changes the way we shop. But this fund has the potential to stimulate real development in our town centres.”

The MSP continued: “I hope my parliamentary colleagues from across the political divide will get behind these Budget proposals to ensure our town centres across North Ayrshire can benefit.”

Irvine West Labour Cllr Louise McPhater said: “What our MSP isn’t telling her constituents is that the Town Centre Fund is being funded through cuts to Local Government’s core capital budget and is part of the creeping reintroduction of ring-fencing under this centralising SNP Government.

“It is also telling that Ruth Maguire fails to tell us how much North Ayrshire Council will receive from the fund and that’s because the SNP Government want councils to bid for this funding rather than councils receiving their proportionate share.”

Cllr McPhater continued: “The Labour administration at North Ayrshire Council will use any funding we receive from this fund in the best way possible but our communities should know that the SNP Government are introducing this fund at the expense of investment in other areas such as roads and schools.”