THE man chosen by Fife Council to help businesses in Dunfermline town centre get back to their feet is ... a former town centre manager of Kirkcaldy.

Sunil Varu is the new business development manager tasked with the recovery of the High Street after the devastating economic impact of COVID-19.

Convener of the City of Dunfermline area committee, Helen Law, said: "There's no doubt that town centres across the country are struggling and there needs to be a serious discussion about the way forward.

"For that reason, the area committee have committed to funding a business development post and Sunil has been appointed and started on Monday.

"Work is also due to start on the Maygate business hub on January 25 by the contractor, Anchor Point, to get it ready for him to work there, to help town centre businesses and take forward the agenda to get the High Street back on its feet."

Mr Varu was the first manager of Kirkcaldy's Business Improvement District (BID) company, Kirkcaldy4All, which began in 2010 and closed in March last year.

On his business profile, it says he has 30 years of experience in town planning, town centre management in Ayr and Kirkcaldy, and BIDs in Kirkcaldy, Largs, Dunoon, South Queensferry and Edinburgh’s West End.

Among other achievements, Mr Varu said he helped bring about Scotland’s first 'Light Night' event, the Kirkcaldy Comedy Festival – "the first outside Glasgow and Edinburgh" – Scotland's Samba Festival and Christmas lights switch-ons.

Cllr Law said: "I'm really sad that we lost the BID company, Delivering Dunfermline, as they were to be based in the hub but we have to move forward and I'm really looking forward to working with Sunil.

"The committee have funded the position for two years, we've put our money where our mouths are and invested in the town, so when things begin to open up again I'm sure he'll help make a big difference.

"Having the hub open and a business development manager in place in the town centre, working directly with businesses for the good of Dunfermline, will be a big step forward."

She added: "Everyone will have suffered, some businesses won't re-open and there's been a lot of pain, but people have been working hard during lockdown on a positive agenda.

"There's funding for digital projects in Dunfermline, there are positive moves in Bruce Street and with Dunfermline Heritage Partnership, there are applications in for growth funding, we're not just sitting and waiting for the storm to pass."

Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, Mark Ruskell, called for "fresh ideas" and a windfall tax on larger companies who did well during the pandemic to help businesses in Dunfermline back onto their feet.

He said: "Town centre businesses rely on footfall and that has been catastrophically reduced by the pandemic.

"When some large businesses have made a fortune during the pandemic, the high street is in lockdown.

"The old model is being strained to breaking point so it’s vital now that fresh ideas about supporting businesses and securing a future for the high street are brought to the fore.

"That’s a conversation that needs to involve Dunfermline residents, the council and businesses, and it needs to take place soon.”

Dunfermline MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville said the Scottish Government had "provided billions of pounds of support" to help high street shops and self-employed people who were "ignored by Westminster".

She added that the Scottish budget, which will be announced later this month, would include more money to "revitalise" town centres.

Ms Somerville added: "Before Christmas, I spoke to Kingsgate Centre manager Neil Mackie about their plans moving forward and I look forward to further discussions in the months ahead.

"In the meantime, it remains vitally important that we do everything in our power to stop this virus from spreading further, lower infection levels and allow our vaccination programme time to succeed."