HELENSBURGH is being “ill-served” by being part of Argyll and Bute – and a campaign should be launched to see the town return to its historic links with Dunbartonshire.

That’s the view put forward by members of Helensburgh Community Council (HCC) as they considered what the future might look like for the town once the longer-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic become clear.

A discussion on the post-pandemic “new normal” was held earlier this month as part of a series of webinars hosted by HCC during the summer lockdown period.

The suggestion came from one of the town’s former Argyll and Bute councillors, John Tacchi, who represented Helensburgh Central from 2003 until 2007.

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Recalling Helensburgh’s inclusion in Argyll and Bute when the old two-tier council system, in which Helensburgh was part of Dumbarton district and Strathclyde region, was abolished in the mid-1990s, Mr Tacchi said: “The big debate in the town then was around the view that we were not being well served by Dumbarton District Council.

“A huge campaign ensued to get us into the land of milk and honey, after local government reorganisation, that was going to be Argyll and Bute.

“I would suggest, after 25 years, that the bees are dead and the cows are no longer giving milk.

“I don’t believe this town will make any progress, in any direction, as long as we are reporting back to Argyll and Bute Council. I believe we should lead a campaign to remove Helensburgh to the new land of milk and honey that is West Dunbartonshire.

“When I drive through West Dunbartonshire, and think what it was like 25 years ago, it looks like a place where things are happening.

“In Helensburgh I don’t see a lot happening.”

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Fellow HCC member Nigel Millar said he, too, would prefer Helensburgh’s local government focus to be to the east, rather than to the north and west.

“Helensburgh and Lomond has one-third of the population of Argyll and Bute,” he said. “But it has only three per cent of the land mass. It has no small islands, it has only one ferry.

“Argyll and Bute’s focus is on the Highlands and Islands. Ours is 180 degrees in the other direction, towards greater Glasgow. That’s our history, and that has been, and is, our focus.”

Community councillor and local businessman Roger Ferdinand said Helensburgh was a “cash cow” for Argyll and Bute, and said: “By promoting the suggestion that we should move, or find an alternative, we might just focus a few minds on the fact we’re not happy.”

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But HCC member Roger Clarke warned that any attempt to move Helensburgh back to Dunbartonshire might not have a universally positive effect.

“I have no love for Argyll and Bute,” Mr Clarke said.

“But when we were part of Dumbarton district and Strathclyde region, the amount of money that both of those organisations, especially Dumbarton District Council, took out of Helensburgh taxpayers far outweighed the amount that was spent here.

“On balance I agree we should maybe say we want to go back to West Dunbartonshire.

“But there’s a risk that we would then become a cash cow, just like we were before.”

An Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson told the Advertiser: “It’s disappointing that this question was raised after the millions of pounds of investment made by the council in developing a positive future for Helensburgh.

"The town is and always will be a much valued part of Argyll and Bute.”

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