There was widespread disappointment after the UK government’s list of levelling-up projects did not include a bid from Argyll and Bute Council to save Dunoon’s iconic Victorian Pier and Rothesay’s crumbling Royal Hotel.
The council’s £70M bid to revitalise the region included plans to improve the road network on Islay and Jura, the replacement of the Jura Ferry with a larger hybrid or electric ferry, the UK’s first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Hub at Oban Airport and a Lorn Economic Growth Zone featuring a hydrogen fuel facility and road infrastructure at Dunbeg as well as the Rothesay and Dunoon regeneration projects.
But, late on Wednesday evening, Michael Gove’s levelling-up department released the list of successful applications – and Argyll and Bute was not on the list.
Council leader Robin Currie said yesterday (Thursday) evening: “Competition for the Levelling-Up Fund across the UK was extremely tough for this latest round. We are extremely disappointed and our communities will be disappointed that Argyll and Bute has not received funding on this occasion. “Our ambitious plans would bring significant benefits to our communities, and to the overall health and wellbeing of our economy.
He added: “We await details of further funding opportunities to consider resubmitting our bids and continue to explore alternative funding streams. There are good things happening across Argyll and Bute and our ambition remains the same, to create the best opportunities for our communities.”
The UK Government has come under fire after it emerged that more than £1.1 billion of the £1.6 billion awarded in England was to areas with a Conservative MP, including the Prime Minister’s Richmond constituency.
Argyll and Bute MP Brendan O’Hara (SNP) was not a happy man yesterday.
He said: “I am incredibly disappointed that Argyll and Bute’s application to the UK Government’s Levelling-Up Fund has not been successful. I know how hard so many people worked to prepare the bids, and I know how upset they’ll be. I would however like to sincerely thank them for all of their efforts. 0
“This decision of the UK Government not to fund these projects is a major blow to Argyll and Bute, and it is doubly disappointing to then discover that our economically fragile, rural constituency has been overlooked at the expense of far more affluent constituencies, including the Prime Minister’s own in Richmond.
“It appears that in this round, funding has been disproportionately awarded to areas with Conservative MPs in England, whilst Scotland’s share of the fund has declined, with some of Scotland’s most impoverished areas nowhere to be seen on the list.”
The MP continued: “I have no doubt that the projects proposed by Argyll and Bute Council would have had a lasting and transformative impact on many parts of the constituency, and would have helped rejuvenate town centres, repurpose listed buildings and provide transport infrastructure that would support industry, as well as net-zero travel such as electric buses and cycle route expansion. The fact that the UK Government has chosen not to support them is deeply disappointing.”
In next Friday’s print editions we ask: What now for Dunoon and Rothesay?