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Elgin to receive £20 million in Rishi Sunak conference giveaway

The Moray town will receive £20 million over a 10-year period in a funding package slammed by the SNP as an act of "pre-election bribery".

Rishi Sunak conference Elgin giveaway
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and wife Akshata Murty arriving in Manchester for the Tory party conference. Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Elgin will receive a cash boost of £20 million over the next 10 years under a new plan from Rishi Sunak to help “run down” UK towns.

The Prime Minister announced a new £1 billion investment as part of his long-term vision for towns, which he said would put funding “in the hands of local people”.

Announcing the new support package, Mr Sunak accused politicians of focusing on cities for too long and taking towns for granted, vowing: “That ends today”.

But the SNP branded the giveaway an act of “pre-election bribery”, with a general election expected some time next year.

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SNP attack funding as ‘pre-election bribery’

Gavin Newlands, the party’s MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, said: “This is an out the blue act of pre-election bribery, which local authorities, devolved Governments or MPs were neither consulted with nor informed about.

“Was Paisley or anywhere in Renfrewshire considered? In a bizarre coincidence, Tory seats just happen to be hugely overrepresented.”

Despite the claim, five of the seven Scots towns awarded the injection of funds are represented by SNP politicians.

Only Elgin, represented by Moray MP and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, and Dumfries, held by Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack, backed the Conservatives at the last election.

Cash could be used to revive struggling high streets

The endowment-style windfall will be paid to the 55 areas over the next 10 years.

Local leaders will be allowed to use the cash to fund local priorities such as reviving high streets, improving transport, boosting visitor numbers and combatting anti-social behaviour.

The giveaway from Mr Sunak comes as his first Conservative party conference as leader got underway in Manchester on Sunday.

Elgin is one of more than 50 towns to benefit. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson.

The prime minister said: “Towns are the place most of us call home and where most of us go to work.

“But politicians have always taken towns for granted and focused on cities.

“The result is the half-empty high streets, rundown shopping centres and anti-social behaviour that undermine many towns’ prosperity and hold back people’s opportunity — and without a new approach, these problems will only get worse.

“That changes today. Our long-term Plan for Towns puts funding in the hands of local people themselves to invest in line with their priorities, over the long-term. That is how we level up.”

As part of the investment, the towns will set up a town board to bring together community leaders, employers, local authorities and the local MP.

This board will develop a plan which will be subject to community consultation.

PM’s funding a ‘huge boost’ for Elgin

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said the town boards would be able to use a suite of regeneration powers while deploying the new funding.

The department said the UK Government would work with local councils and the Scottish Government to determine how towns in Scotland will benefit from funding and powers under the proposals.

Scottish Conservative MSP Liz Smith welcomed the direct investment which she said would allow local councils to make the right decisions.

Elgin High Street Rishi Sunak
How the money is spent will be decided by local leaders. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

She said: “That is a huge boost for them given the economic challenges Scotland is facing right now and how council budgets have been slashed year after year by the SNP-Green government.

“The UK Government’s long-term Plan for Towns is further evidence of the UK Government’s commitment to levelling up all parts of our country. The funding will allow these towns to revitalise their high streets, crack down on anti-social behaviour, improve local transport links and grow the local economy.