Wealthy areas 'getting cash aimed at poorer communities'

Kirkcudbright harbour Image copyright Walter Baxter
Image caption Towns such as Kirkcudbright in the south-west could benefit from a new development agency, the report says

Most of the money aimed at regenerating Scotland's most disadvantaged communities is going to wealthier areas, a report has said.

The independent regeneration network, Surf, said current policies were increasing rather than reducing inequality.

Surf, which represents 250 organisations across Scotland, has sent its manifesto to all political parties.

It wants the issue to be highlighted in the Holyrood election campaign.

The group has produced nine practical policies it claims would direct any resources to where they could effect real change.

The manifesto, launched on Thursday, urged parties to accept them.

'Real commitment'

Surf's chief executive, Andy Milne, said: "By signing up to our policy recommendations the parties can demonstrate a real commitment to change for disadvantaged places, poverty and inequality."

The report said there was evidence that, following the financial crash of 2008, there was a trend of public and private sector capital being invested in Scotland's affluent areas and commercial centres with poorer areas missing out.

It said that was damaging town centres and "secondary locations" such as Falkirk and Paisley.

More than half of the £50m Scottish Partnership for Regeneration in Urban Centres (Spruce) fund established to support regeneration projects in Scotland's 13 most deprived local authority regions was spent supporting office and retail developments in Glasgow and Edinburgh city centres.

Mr Milne said: "Some key decision-makers seem to cling to the idea that investing in wealthier places is the best way to help poor ones.

"Surf's 2016 manifesto explains why that has not worked and sets out what we can do to make Scotland a fairer, wealthier and more successful place for everyone."

'Sustained investment'

Its main recommendation was for 15 places, of differing scale and geography, to be identified and given sustained investment to produce real benefits.

And it called for a new approach to rural poverty.

It said while Highlands and Islands Enterprise has helped drive sustainable economic development, there was no equivalent attention paid to economically vulnerable towns outside the north.

The lack of demand for workers in some areas such as south-west Scotland was highlighted as a key factor in "entrenched unemployment" which the report said was underplayed in current policy considerations.

It said: "The main regeneration functions of Scotland's other enterprise agency, Scottish Enterprise, are targeted at supporting successful businesses and large-scale infrastructure and renewable energy initiatives.

"This results in comparatively less focus on economically vulnerable small towns and rural areas in, for example, the regions of Perth and Kinross, South Ayrshire, and Dumfries and Galloway."

'Simplistic view'

The Scottish government said: "We do not agree with this rather simplistic view of regeneration which seems to show a misunderstanding of regeneration policy and the purpose of our Scottish Partnership for Regeneration in Urban Centres funding.

"It also ignores the Scottish Government's overarching priority to tackle inequality and the contribution wider government policy and mainstream services make to the regeneration of our disadvantaged communities.

"We are committed to supporting all of Scotland's disadvantaged communities and are demonstrating this by maintaining and in fact increasing our investment in regeneration to £56m through our draft budget for 2016-2017."

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