DUNFERMLINE has it all but we aren’t telling anyone about it.

That’s the view of a digital designer from the town who has grown tired of large sums of money being awarded to the same local groups who, he claims, are not spending it wisely.

Mikey Inglis has increasing concerns that Dunfermline has the potential to be forgotten about in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic if an efficient marketing strategy is not put in place to attract visitors to Scotland’s former capital and support existing businesses.

With award-winning venues and attractions; a rich heritage, thriving music scene and a plethora of bars and restaurants to choose from, Mikey believes that the town has everything on its doorstep to be successful.

“I believe we can punch well above our weight,” he told the Press.

“We should be doing that right now. With the right people, we definitely would be.

“We need to get a grip of ourselves.

“You hear all the soundbites but, pardon the pun, nothing ever really gets delivered, does it?

“We need a good recovery after COVID-19 and who’s going to be leading from the front?”

Formerly a director at Visit Dunfermline, he resigned recently from his post after feeling that he could no longer continue his efforts in marketing and designing the brand without funding, which it applied for unsuccessfully in July.

He feels that money goes continuously to the likes of Delivering Dunfermline and Dunfermline Heritage Partnership (DHP), among others, and said the latter had to improve their website to give inspiration to tourists to come to Dunfermline.

The DHP were awarded £288,200 in January 2018 from the Heritage Lottery Fund Great Places Scheme to deliver a three-year-project to make the most of the town’s history.

As a digital designer with a degree in digital communication and a history in creating and laying out websites, Mikey “cannot believe” the quality of DHP’s www.dunfermline.com site.

He said: “A lot of people think about, and will go to, Edinburgh, Stirling and St Andrews, and bypass Dunfermline.

“It’s reflective of the websites that are there to represent Dunfermline.

“The heritage group’s website has been there since 2018, I think.

“They were awarded £288,000, and they’ve built the site based off a $70 WordPress template.

“They’ve created a site that hasn’t been updated in three years.

“It fails in accessibility and usability tests and it’s ranked quite lowly on Facebook – on page five, I think.

“For £288,000, they’ve created a $70 website template that’s years out of date.

“They were donated that domain name by Nationwide Building Society. It’s the top-level domain for the town. You can’t get better than that.

“If you were to search in Robert The Bruce, or the Abbey, or a top search term on their website, it returns zero results and there’s nothing on the digital map beside it.

“No events listings are on the page either. All the articles were uploaded on the same date: November 11, 2018.

“That’s one award of money that I really don’t know where it’s gone.

“There’s definitely questions that need to be asked of where that £288,000 has gone.”

He was also critical of Delivering Dunfermline and their social media presence, adding that they should be doing more to attract visitors to the town.

Mikey added: “If you were an outsider looking in, if you landed on the Delivering Dunfermline Facebook page or Dunfermline Heritage Partnership’s www.dunfermline.com page, or you’re in Edinburgh, how do you know Dunfermline is any good to visit?

“What value will it bring to my holiday? You don’t get that at all from these places. There’s nothing.

“If you get off a plane at Edinburgh, there’s nothing there to tempt you to Dunfermline.

“Nothing online or physically, in the case of billboarding.

“It makes me question why these groups aren’t considering all of this. We need to bridge that gap.

“When someone wants to visit Scotland, how are they getting informed about Dunfermline?

“It’s only Visit Dunfermline that are doing that well.”

He continued: “It’s incredibly frustrating (not to receive funding) when you build a website like we had (Visit Dunfermline), and a brand, in under a year.

“I spent some of my own money on software and what we needed to build it. I think I’ve done that for less than £300 to build the site. There’s running costs as well.

“Part of our application to the Scottish Towns Partnership was having to include how much money it would cost us to run a Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) and we put in £56,000 a year.

“I don’t know how £100,000 (previously awarded to Delivering Dunfermline) or £288,000 (to Dunfermline Heritage Partnership) is viable to have that much money and then not produce a DMO that does proper modern digital marketing.

“I’ve seen examples around the town of black and white leaflets as marketing (Heritage Partnership and Local Tourism Association). That’s astonishing.

“If you’re marketing Dunfermline in 2020, how does a guy or girl from Europe, on their mobile phone, while trying to make the decision to come here, do that from a black and white leaflet?

“It’s incredible when you look into it. It’s quite antiquated at times.

“The Visit Dunfermline website is modern, accessible, available on all socials; the uptake in reach is incredible.”

The Press asked the Dunfermline Heritage Partnership for a response to Mikey’s comments about the website and his question on where the £288,000 has been spent.

A spokesperson provided this statement: “Dunfermline’s Great Place Scheme is a National Lottery Heritage Funded Project.

“We are delighted to be one of only nine funded projects in Scotland.

“This Lottery scheme was created to help communities shape projects and collaborations that explore how their unique heritage can help shape the successful future of those places.

“Projects also contribute to tackling wider issues such as poverty, employment, health and education.

“The Great Place Scheme was devised to support regeneration and responds to the specific needs of Scottish places.

“This funding programme places heritage at the heart of joined-up thinking to create better places for people to live and visit.

“Dunfermline’s Great Place Scheme brings together the main heritage organisations in Dunfermline, to work more closely together with council services, charities, voluntary and business groups to deliver social and economic benefits for the town.

“The project aims to change the way Dunfermline’s unique heritage offer is valued and understood, making it central to the future development of the town.

“All the partners of Dunfermline’s Great Place Scheme have enjoyed significant success to date in engaging a wide range of community groups in heritage projects linked to key themes.”

Dunfermline Delivers also provided a reply to the Press, highlighting their involvement in projects within the town and addressing what the £100,000 – which was awarded to them by Fife Council in September last year – was put towards, as well as stressing their role is not to act as a tourism organisation.

Neil Mackie, vice-chair, told the Press: “Clearly, our role changed in March with the announcement of lockdown.

“But, in response to questions on how £100K was spent between September 2019 and March 2020, we invested in a wide range of activities to help Dunfermline town centre and had seen a good return on this investment.

“Firstly, there was Outwith Festival in September 2019, which delivered an economic impact of £334,000 and achieved a four-star review in The Scotsman together with national media coverage on BBC Scotland, Metro, The List, The Herald, The Skinny, not to mention the extensive regional coverage in the Dunfermline Press.

“During this time, our staff were also busy fundraising, raising potentially nearly £50,000 of grants and funds towards Dunfermline’s Outwith Festival.

“Thanks to our staff who recruited and managed a large team of volunteers, this important contribution by local people helped make the budget go much further.

“In November 2019, we staged the Christmas Lights Switch-On event, a popular event which brings many families together in the town centre.

“In general, we supported the night-time economy, particularly the hospitality and leisure sector. Specifically, the £100K helped to pay for taxi marshals, bus station marshals and all the work to maintain the national Purple Flag status.

“In terms of marketing material, a new promotional video for the town centre was created but distribution was temporarily postponed because of lockdown.

“Meanwhile, the content for a town centre map, with QR codes for visitor venues, was also completed and is now with Fife Council, ready for printing.

“Our small team of three also worked on the promotion of town centre businesses in social media and the building the working relationship between them and Fife Council.

“Throughout this period, we helped new businesses looking to locate in Dunfermline town centre while also working with existing businesses to find new premises – efforts that focused on encouraging them to stay in and around the high street. At the time, we were also working closely with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and Fife Council to look at alternative sources of funding for our activities until, unfortunately, our advanced discussions were overtaken by COVID.

“All of our plans before COVID were clearly set out in a comprehensive and detailed five-year business plan which was published and widely distributed to local businesses and stakeholders.

“In the plan, it is clear that our main role is to support economic regeneration by working closely with businesses, charities and other organisations based in the town centre.

“While we’re not a tourism organisation – which means marketing Dunfermline to tourists is not our main role – we are fortunate to be a member of the Local Tourist Association, working in partnership to support the group in bigger events that help Dunfermline and West Fife businesses involved with tourism.

“Sadly, like many others, our work changed dramatically in mid-March because of COVID.

“Instead, the immediate priority for several weeks was communicating directly with businesses to ensure that they had all emergency grant and funding information – creating and sending 15 newsletters in total.

“Dunfermline businesses were quick to adapt by offering new services, such as delivery or click and collect; we helped spread the word through our Facebook page to encourage people to support their local businesses. We also had to work on the postponement of 2020’s Outwith Festival.

“Hopefully, this answers all the questions about the work of Delivering Dunfermline since September 2019; as mentioned earlier, all of this was communicated in our five-year business plan.

“In March, COVID-19 changed everything and will continue to be a huge challenge for Dunfermline and all town centres across the UK.”

Mikey added: "If we don’t promote the town in a modern and coherent way post-COVID-19, these businesses will continue to fail.

“The groups (involved in the town) are being so insular.

“They need to think about the perception of the town from the outside.

"There’s a real dire need for smart promotion and bridging that gap.

“We’re the ancient capital of Scotland. We’re completely bypassed by Edinburgh, St Andrews and Stirling for tourism."

Cllr Helen Law, convenor of the City of Dunfermline area committee, was disappointed to hear of his criticisms of groups in the town.

She told the Press: "There are many, many successful projects in Dunfermline, some funded through Fife Council's area committee and others with external funding.

"The Dunfermline area committee, Local Community Planning Partnership, the Dunfermline Heritage Partnership and all of our our local groups and organisations such as our local community councils are doing invaluable work right across Dunfermline. One of the newer groups, The Heart of Dunfermline, is looking at ways to enhance the possibilities for local folk and tourists at Dunfermline Abbey.

"When you look at the award-winning Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries and as Abbot House begins to re-open, there is a terrific amount of work and dedication going into taking Dunfermline forward. The award-winning Andrew Carnegie Birthplace museum is a national treasure and as plans come forward for St Margaret's House, I always feel just a wee bit disappointed when folk have only negative comments to make.

"With groups like Cruise Forth promoting Dunfermline right across the world and encouraging visitors to our shores it must be really demoralising to hear the criticisms levelled by Mr Inglis.

"It is always disappointing when there is criticism of the efforts of hard-working folk, whose only desire is to make Dunfermline better and who are trying so hard in the most difficult of times."