THE Scottish Government is being urged to plough an extra £50million into a new fund that could help breathe new life into town centres in Renfrewshire.

Details of the new Town Centre Fund were announced in this month's Scottish budget, with £50m ringfenced for the initiative.

However, Councillor Andy Doig is calling on Finance Secretary Derek Mackay to double the cash pot to £100m so that towns such as Johnstone and Renfrew can be given a bigger boost.

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The fund aims to enable local authorities to stimulate town centre trade, although it is yet to be established how much money Renfrewshire will be entitled to.

Mr Doig, who represents Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Howwood and Lochwinnoch as an Independent, has welcomed the fund but believes £50m won’t go far.

He told The Gazette: “Local businesses and self-employed traders in Johnstone are telling me that, while the town has a very loyal retail base, it is still hard to compete against Braehead and internet shopping.” 

Whilst the fund is being provided to repurpose buildings for retail and support business and community enterprises, all of Renfrewshire’s share could be spent in Johnstone alone.

Mr Doig added: “Through all the retail challenges for town centres over the last few decades, one thing is clear – it is niche shops, small independent traders, who are offering something the supermarkets, malls and internet cannot, who thrive and prosper. I want to see a powerhouse Johnstone, thriving with new and original retail outlets, and I am sure the fund will be a step in the right direction if properly financed.”

Steps have been taken in recent years to revitalise Johnstone town centre. In 2017, the Johnstone Business Consortium was granted £8,000 to help entice shoppers.

However, more strain has been put on businesses with the opening of the Paton’s Mill Retail Park last year.

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said. “The £50m capital Town Centre Fund is a significant investment as part of the budget’s wider boost to the economy, enabling local authorities to stimulate and support investments to encourage town centres to diversify and flourish. 

“Councils may double it if they wish.”