DUNFERMLINE “deserves better” but the Scottish Government need to help them find the money to achieve it.

That’s the message from the organisation that’s replaced Dunfermline Delivers, the former Business Improvement District (BID) company that was wound up last month after losing its renewal ballot.

Neil Mackie, who was vice-chair of Dunfermline Delivers and is on the executive board of the new group, Delivering Dunfermline, said: “It’s a nonsense to say there’s no money. The governments, both in Scotland and Westminster, seem to be able to find it when they want to. Boris Johnson announced £1 billion for English towns last week and there was £4m for Fife towns recently from Holyrood.

“There is money but we need to know the avenues to tap into.”

Lloyd Pitcairn, former chair of Dunfermline Delivers and also on the new board, said: “The frustration is we’re determined to safeguard not just the town centre and people’s jobs but the future development of the town and how it goes forward.

“We’re passionate about this town.

“We’ve got every confidence we’re going to find a way. It’s business as usual and everything is going ahead, apart from the fireworks.

“We believe the model will work and provide a way forward for Dunfermline but we need the support of the Scottish Government.

“They’ll say Dunfermline is no different from Kilmarnock, or Cumbernauld or Livingston, what’s so special about Dunfermline?

“What we have got to do is fight the case and prove we’re worth it, it’s a viable and vibrant town that needs to keep going.

“It’s the largest developing town in Europe but without a vibrant town centre who’s going to want to move here? Would you?

“So it’s part of the whole package for Dunfermline, it’s a great area to create something exciting that people want to be part of.

“But we need engagement at the Scottish Government at a level that can make a decision, not having to go through 20 other people before we get a whisper. Why can’t a town like Dunfermline get access to these people? Why can’t we talk to them?”

The BID voting system was criticised widely in Dunfermline as, despite a 99-51 majority of businesses voting in favour of renewal earlier this year, it was decided on rateable value which was £4.1m to £3.6m against.

Mr Mackie said: “It’s not a broken system but we’ve pretty much agreed with Fife Council that, for a town like Dunfermline, the BID model won’t work.

“Dunfermline deserves better. The problem we’ve got is trying to get through to the Scottish Government that there must be an alternative.

“We’re not getting to speak to the right people and those we are put in front of say that BID is the only game in town, which we don’t want to use.

“We need a model with sustainable funding for a sustainable future. In England, they don’t have the rateable value test and there is talk about restructuring the BID model but that would go through parliament and take too long. We don’t have a huge amount of time.”

A Fife Council report said it meant that “decision-making power is in the hands of larger businesses”, which left town centres vulnerable.

Mr Pitcairn added: “You could have full support from all the small to medium traders and multi-nationals when, for example, one of the managers in the big companies changes overnight and they don’t like BID.

“They vote against it and you’re scuppered, that’s where the rateable value test fails.

“It could be down to one person!”

The BID model saw around 400 businesses pay a levy which then funded town centre improvements – replacing that money is the biggest issue.

Mr Pitcairn was adamant the new model won’t charge the local traders and, while grateful for the funding from the council, they know the bulk of the money they need won’t come from them either.

“The local businesses pay enough as it is,” he explained. “We have to encourage businesses to open in town by having a successful town centre and you don’t do that by piling more costs onto them.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We understand the economic challenges faced by businesses in our small towns, and we are providing a £50 million Town Centre Fund this year to stimulate growth as part of a wider £5 billion capital infrastructure investment. 

“We provide the most generous non-domestic rates reliefs package in the UK, worth over £750 million in 2019-20, including the Small Business Bonus Scheme which removes or reduces the rates burdens of small businesses across Scotland.

“We hold regular discussions with Fife Council about what action it is taking to regenerate town centres, including on its recent allocation of Town Centre Fund investment of £4.3 million across towns in Fife.

“We understand that the council has been looking at options to build on the work of Dunfermline Delivers and we are happy to continue engaging with parties supporting the future enterprise, vibrancy, creativity, and accessibility of Dunfermline town centre, including through the support and guidance we currently provide through Scotland’s Towns Partnership.”