DUNFERMLINE is the "third most-improving town in Britain" according to a new academic report.

Scotland's ancient capital is also one of the fastest-growing according to the Bennett Institute for Public Policy in Cambridge, who published a Townscapes study on Scotland last week.

Analysts used different data sources, including the Office of National Statistics, Ordnance Survey and National Records for Scotland, to measure relative economic performance.

While this was "mixed" across the country, with some places doing better than others, it said "two towns in Scotland stand out in relation to their counterparts elsewhere".

It praised Inverness and said: "Dunfermline is the third most improving town in Britain".

Local councillor Jean Hall Muir said: "Dunfermline has a rich and varied heritage from royalty to religion, the industrial revolution to modern day music and creative arts.

"The real strength of why we're doing well now is that for the first time in a long time, all the major stakeholders and community groups are working together, and with Fife Council.

"It's community, not competition, as each group is not chasing the same pound, they're working together across different partnerships and alliances with shared goals, shared resources and a shared strategic plan, so they're all pulling together in the same direction for the benefit of Dunfermline."

Lisa Edwards, of Delivering Dunfermline, said: “We’re over the moon that this University of Cambridge research has reported that Dunfermline is the third most-improving town in Britain; this is well-researched hard data measuring population growth, the economy and jobs.

"But every day we see the town’s upward trend in so many other ways when compared with national standards."

Mark Macleod, project manager for Dunfermline Digital Tours, said: “My experience of Dunfermline since arriving in August 2018 is a town on the up and which is in touch with its heritage and past and wishing to include that in plans to grow the economy through tourism.

"Awareness of the past helps avoid repeating mistakes but also allows the celebration of today’s achievements in awards to architecture, parks and town safety.

"The people who live here are positive about the town and I consider myself very lucky to live in a place which is surrounded by cities but retains its own character and, to me, feels friendly, safe and local.”

The Bennett study identifies a town as a place with a population between 10,000 and 175,000, which means Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen are cities and Dundee, Inverness, Perth and Stirling are classed among the 59 towns in Scotland.

They looked at population growth, levels of deprivation and employment, as well as changes in levels of public service provision – including areas like health, education, transport and infrastructure – as a basis for giving policy-makers ideas and proposals for the future.

It said Dunfermline's population was 74,380 and the town included 16 nurseries, 22 community halls, 25 schools, 117 health services, 572 bus stops, six mental health services, two hospitals, seven libraries, a fire station and police station.

The report said: "Dunfermline experienced the largest population growth of any town in Britain between 2001 and 2011, and is in some ways a model of success.

"Its traditional industries have continued to employ many people.

"Rosyth Dockyard, despite recent job cuts, has continued to operate and manufacturing in renewable energy

and glass products is also a strength.

"It has also managed to attract new, knowledge-intensive industries.

"Companies in finance, technology and communications offer the bulk of local employment opportunities.

"This combination of industrial heritage, an adaptive economy and the town’s role as a commuter dormitory for professionals working in Edinburgh has undergirded a large increase in the town’s population."

Peter Wilson, project manager for the Cruise Forth project which has been welcoming cruise passengers at Rosyth since 2011, said: "There is no doubting the growing popularity of Dunfermline for cruise passengers.

"While we may see the actual number of ships at Rosyth fluctuate from year to year, the message that Dunfermline is an interesting and attractive place to visit has led to an increasing number of excursions to Dunfermline being organised from ships visiting other ports."

Derek Bottom, chair of the Dunfermline Heritage Partnership, said: "Dunfermline is one of the few areas in Scotland that has community representation within the local authority community planning partnership. This means we have one plan for our community with a common goal to deliver a better place to live, work and visit.

"Many who visit Dunfermline to understand how we are achieving our results are positively blown away by the amount of volunteering time people give to help others.

"It's a community that is proud of its history and cares about others."

Dunfermline MSP, Shirley-Anne Somerville, said: “It’s welcome news that Dunfermline is recognised to be one of the most improving towns in Britain.

“Our town is an excellent place to live. Our rapidly growing population is testament to that.

“We have a strong local economy with varied employment opportunities, and at the same time, benefit from our proximity to larger cities.

“As our town grows, it’s essential that we continue to work to ensure that the development of our local services, including health and education provision, keep pace.

“I’ll be continuing to engage with the Scottish Government and Fife Council to maximise the opportunities for investment in Dunfermline.”

Cllr Helen Law said: "I am pleased Dunfermline has received this national recognition. Dunfermline is a great place to live, work and visit. We are fortunate to have great people all working together for the greater good and Dunfermline is currently going from strength to strength despite a difficult financial climate."

Cllr Garry Haldane said: "Dunfermline is abundant with historic visitor attractions of which the Abbey and grounds are of top class. We have more history in Dunfermline than Edinburgh. 

"I am not surprised Dunfermline is quoted as the third most improving town at all. 

"Apart from the visitor attractions our cafes and bars have a diversity challenged by none." 

Cllr James Calder said: “I think this primarily comes down to the wonderful sense of community that we have here. There are so many community led initiatives that have really made an impact and we must pay tribute to that.

“Of course we cannot rest on our laurels and it is important for Fife Council to continue to work with our community to continue to make Dunfermline one of the best places to live.”

Cllr David J Ross said: "I believe that Dunfermline is such a great town and is doing so well for the following reasons.

"There is such a wide variety of cultural and historic sites for visitors to enjoy throughout the town. These include museums theatres and the Dunfermline Abbey as well as the Glen.

"There are a wide range of shops in and around the High Street. These include both well-known large high street names as well as many other interesting local businesses.

"And there are a wide range of high-quality pubs and restaurants in and around the town centre for people to enjoy. This makes Dunfermline a very appealing venue for people who wish to enjoy a good night out."