Deputy First Minister John Swinney highlighted the benefits to regeneration a new football facility can bring to a city – but did not confirm if he thinks public funds should be used to support it.
Speaking at a dinner in Aberdeen, Mr Swinney was careful to address a general question on whether or not public money – local or national – should be used to support the development plans of a football club if it underpins a significant regeneration of the area.
The MSP for Perthshire North said he has an interest in both regeneration and football, adding that he has seen “significant benefits” of a football club moving to new premises.
However Mr Swinney, a fan of St Johnstone Football Club from his home city of Perth, told the audience of business leaders and professionals he would “tread carefully” into a “conversation of substantial local sensitivity which I don’t think I’m expertly connected”.
It comes as tensions have erupted in Aberdeen over proposals to build a new £80 million stadium for Aberdeen Football Club on the city’s beachfront.
Supporters of the plans have claimed a new stadium could be the lynchpin of the proposed multi-million-pound seafront revamp and make a £1 billion contribution to the city’s economy over its 50-year life span.
However, Aberdeen council leaders have ruled out contributing cash towards a new Dons stadium as public finances face an unprecedented squeeze in the wake of the UK being plunged into recession and living standards are on track for their biggest fall on record.
What happened in Perth?
The Saints relocated to their current stadium McDiarmid Park in 1989, after its previous ground, Muirton Park, was acquired by supermarket Asda.
“From that example I have seen the significant benefits of a football club relocating in the city of Perth from Muirton Park to the outskirts of Perth and facilitating a whole host of development around about it,” the SNP minister said, adding: “And that is where I suspect I should leave the analogy before I intrude on the local planning process.”