Paisley-born singing Paolo Nutini has thrown his weight behind his home town’s bid to be named UK capital of culture.
He has recorded a special video message backing efforts to transform Paisley by securing the title for 2021.
It was broadcast for the first time during the town’s Christmas lights switch-on celebration, which around 30,000 people turned out for.
A giant Paisley-themed projection was beamed onto the side of the town’s 850-year-old abbey during the event.
Bid leaders believe winning the culture crown will “turbo-charge” efforts to tackle long-standing problems of social deprivation and transform Paisley’s troubled image.
They believe that winning the title for 2021 will have the same effect on Paisley as Glasgow’s reign as European City of Culture in 1990.
However Paisley, which has set up a £500,000 culture fund to help build monentum for its bid, is facing competition north of the border from Perth, as well as Coventry, Hereford, Sunderland and Stoke-on-Trent.
Nutini, who is headlining Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations next month, is expected to be one of Paisley’s most high-profile supporters for the title.
He said: “I’m backing the bid because Paisley is and always has been my home. I love the town and want to see it grow.
“It’s a town that needs the investment, but it knows what it’s going to do with that investment and I think the potential is really clear.
“I see the romance of the town – when you walk into the centre it’s got a beautiful composition.
“The bid is about building a structure that can tackle the more deep-rooted problems and it’s important we get behind that. There’s already a new lease of life being brought into the town.”
Paisley hopes to emulate Derry/Londonderry, which saw a 50 per cent increase in visitors when it was the UK’s first City of Culture in 2013, and ensure the bid delivers “long-lasting economic, social and cultural change.”
Under the bid plans, more than 800 new jobs are predicted to be created in Paisley over the next five years thanks to the rebirth of neglected historic buildings, an extension for its museum and the hosting of events like the British Bagpipe Championships and the Royal National Mod.
Renfrewshire Council leader Mark Macmillan said: “Today’s event was all about people of the town having the chance to say ‘We Are Paisley.’
“So we are delighted that Paolo – as one of the town’s best-known cultural figures – was able to tell the crowd in his own words why he is backing the bid.
The UK City of Culture title goes to a town which can show the UK Government judges that it has a plan to use the title to make a real difference to the area and the people who love there.
“Today we sent a message that not only does Paisley want the title, but it has the capacity to pull off the big events it will involve.”