The Tories have launched their campaign for the Dunfermline by-election with an attack on the Scottish Government for “failing” local businesses.
Conservative candidate James Reekie claimed the SNP’s policies have “hindered the retail sector” in the town at a time when it needs support.
Mr Reekie, 22, who is setting up a cider-making business in Dunfermline, his home town, launched his attempt to win the seat at Holyrood on the day the area’s former MSP, Bill Walker, was jailed for 12 months for domestic abuse.
The Tory hopeful was joined by party leader Ruth Davidson who said he would make a “great MSP for Dunfermline”.
Launching his campaign at the local shopping centre, he called for the creation of a fund to aid the town which is in “desperate need of regeneration”.
He also hit out at the level of business rates, arguing that by not holding a revaluation till 2017 the Scottish Government is forcing companies to pay the same amount as in the pre-recession “good times” of 2007.
“Even looking around the town centre shows Dunfermline is in desperate need of regeneration,” Mr Reekie said.
“There are too many empty units and that is because the Scottish Government has hindered the retail sector when it most needed its help.
“That will be a priority of mine during this campaign and if I am elected as a local MSP to the Scottish Parliament. This is what local people care about.
“A town centre regeneration fund, as well as bringing back a feelgood factor to the place, would create jobs for local people too.
“When this fund was in existence before, Kirkcaldy benefited to the tune of £2 million. There is no reason why Dunfermline should not receive similar investment.
“Businesses of all sizes have never had it so hard, yet the Scottish Government still expects it to pay the good-times rates of pre-recession Scotland. That’s a failing on its part and one it cannot be allowed to continue making.”
Voters will elect a new MSP for Dunfermline on Thursday, 24 October.
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have selected local councillors to fight the by-election, Cara Hilton and Susan Leslie respectively. The SNP candidate is former MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville.
Miss Davidson said Mr Reekie is a “fantastic, energetic candidate who would make a great MSP for Dunfermline”.