ARGYLL and Bute Council must play Scrooge to communities who can’t afford their Christmas lights from next year, members have warned.

Pleas for the authority to keep some money aside after its festive funding ends this year fell on deaf ears at a meeting of the council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee.

While Helensburgh and Rosneath’s Christmas light celebrations are already being taken care of by community groups, discussions are ongoing over other areas, including Cardross, Rhu and Garelochhead.

The council decided in 2016 that it would withdraw all funding for festive lights after the end of 2018, but Councillor Gordon Blair requested last week that some money was still made available.

He said: “I am concerned about the handover to communities, as it is the same people involved as are involved in other projects.

“If a community can’t get its act together to have Christmas lights, it is up to us as a council to have backup funding available to them. If the community goes into freefall, they can be helped.

“The switching on of Christmas lights has a big business impact on each of our towns and villages.

“I would like us to keep a few bob up our sleeve, as who knows how long the old horses will be there? We will have a rather dull festive Argyll and Bute if we don’t support our communities.”

But Councillor Ellen Morton, vice-chair of the committee, said: “We don’t have a few bob up our sleeve to help.

“The Scottish Government has cut our budget by millions already and it has added to our responsibilities.

“The message can’t go out from this committee: ‘Don’t worry, if you can’t put your lights up, we’ve got a few bob, we’ll do it’.

“We agreed as a council that roads and education are priorities. Councillor Blair was pushing earlier in the meeting that graveyards should be a priority. Is he going to bring Christmas lights as a priority?

“If you can’t take the flak, you shouldn’t be a councillor.”

Councillor Gary Mulvaney added: “We made a decision two years ago and that has not changed. As Councillor Morton said, it comes down to priorities.

“The message is very clear – budgetary provision ends this year. Communities have to make the decision – they can provide Christmas lights, or there won’t be any.”

Jim Smith, the council’s head of road and amenity services, advised that the total cost to the council of Christmas lights was due to be £100,000, and had previously reached as high as £250,000.

Committee chairman Councillor Roddy McCuish said: “I fully understand Councillor Blair’s point, but if the message goes out that we will do it if communities can’t manage, it makes our decision looks pretty toothless.”

Helensburgh Festive Lights Community Trust has taken over the organisation of the town’s festive celebrations, while Rosneath and Clynder Community Council takes responsibility for their area’s switch-on from 2019.