MSP Alex Johnstone has warned that “the same mistakes cannot be made a second time” following the loss of over £800,000 of Town Centre Regeneration Cash to Brechin.
Mr Johnstone said that, while he still felt huge angst over the loss of the money, he didn’t rule out Brechin being considered again in the future - pointing out that while time had run out on the last bid, Brechin’s problems both economically and commercially still exist and still require solutions.
Mr Johnstone said: “It was the close working between the SNP minority Government and the Conservative group that produced the Town Centre Regeneration Fund in the first place, which is why I was personally so disappointed when it went wrong for Brechin, especially after such a successful initial bid.
“At that stage there is obviously interest in who or what is responsible for what particular part of the structure, when you consider Brechin has lost out on nigh on £900,000 of that grant.
“My priority is to ensure that the close political working that was put in place to secure this money in the first place is back in place as soon as possible to start dealing with the problems of ensuring, we know why this happened, making sure it doesn’t happen again and perhaps in a year, or two we will be in a position to deliver a similar opportunity for Brechin again.
“When that happens we need to avoid the same mistakes being made.
“The most circumstances around what happened regarding the loss of money is particularly bad, given that Brechin received a considerable grant.
“When you consider that just over £60 million was paid out over the whole of Scotland, a total of £1.8 million of that was allocated to Brechin and that indicates that people both here on the ground and in Edinburgh believe that Brechin can benefit from a sizeable proportion of this cash.
“If I was a businessman looking at Brechin the first thing you have to consider is how close it is to the A90, both north and south and that is a distinct advantage.”
Mr Johnstone said that people in places like Montrose feel they would fare better if the town was closer to the A90.
“Brechin has that advantage. We need to ensure that the message goes out that Brechin is open for business, it is ripe for development and emphasise, while not all the money was used, a proportion of it has been allocated.
“There will be work carried out and, going back to the original allocation, there was a clear understanding that when £1.8 million of a £60 million fund was allocated to Brechin, there was clear understanding in Edinburgh that Brechin needed help.
“That scenario hasn’t changed and there may even be a more sympathetic ear in future.
“Sadly the economy in the country and the resources available means there won’t be another round of the TCRF this year.
“However, that is not necessarily the case for next year and the year after.
“The opportunity remains for Brechin to apply again in the future.
“In fact, when the benefits when the benefits of the scheme have been analysed and an amount of hard work has gone into studying the results, it is there for everybody to see.
“Politicians, not only in my party, but across the political divide may see that that money and future monies has and will have done a lot of good in communities across Scotland and can continue to do so in the future.”