MSP "crestfallen" for Brechin after funding bid turned down

A North East MSP has said he is “crestfallen for Brechin” after Angus Council failed to back a bid for £18million Levelling Up funding by the Caledonian Railway.

Mark Dowie
Wednesday, 6th July 2022, 3:00pm
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The volunteer-run heritage attraction was the sole Angus applicant for part of a £212 million Scottish cash pot provided by the UK Government.

However councillors voted 13-12 against endorsing the bid, after council officers warned there was a financial risk to the council if the project did not meet targets.

The SNP-led administration voted against Councillor Lois Speed’s motion to defer the decision so more time to be spent on the application.

The bid sought funding for 15 capital projects including a heritage centre, new event spaces, infrastructure repairs, active travel projects, and an extension to the line the line connecting Brechin to the mainline rail service at Montrose.

Council leader Councillor Beth Whiteside said: “No one doubts the skills, determination and the ambition of Brechin Caledonian Railway. You only have to visit the rail station in Brechin to see what they are capable of. There would be big potential benefits to Brechin and the rest of Angus if all of these projects could be completed within the terms and conditions of the Levelling Up Fund process.

“The issue here is one of risk. According to the terms and conditions of the bid, the funding would need to be spent on the projects by March 2025. If it was not, Angus Council would be responsible for all overspends, legal fees and other costs associated with the projects. Fifteen projects in less than 32 months is a big challenge.”

However, Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative shadow transport secretary, criticised what he described as “the first milestone failure of this SNP council.”

He said: “They’ve been let down by a catastrophic lack of imagination and a lack of comprehension. East Renfrewshire was able to present an £18m bid to the UK Government, just one month after voting in councillors with ability.

“I will be writing to Angus North MSP Mairi Gougeon to ask just why her colleagues were whipped politically to vote against the Caley. I’m crestfallen for Brechin. It may well be the first milestone failure of this SNP council.”

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