My hon. Friend has made representations on behalf of the communities involved in the grant scheme for village halls since Central regional council declined to support this programme. However, Stirling district council is prepared to sponsor projects, and I will be providing half the eligible costs to enable four to proceed.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is disgraceful that Central region should have sought to prevent halls in my constituency benefiting from grants from the Scottish Office to the extent of 50 per cent.? What is the position now in respect of the halls in Gartmore, Killin, Lochearnhead and Brig o'Turk?
I share my hon. Friend's concern that Central regional council did not agree to take part in what is considered in most parts of Scotland—including my own constituency—to be a worthwhile scheme. I can confirm that the four halls that he has mentioned will be going ahead, and that I shall be contributing £95,000 of central Government money to the project.
Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the people who run the village halls in Stirling, to which reference has been made, would be in a better position to organise their enterprises if the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations was given some support by his Department for getting a full-time officer, so that the schemes for co-ordinating SED and capital grants and other running costs could be made available publicly?
Is it not sheer humbug for a Tory Member of Parliament who has spent his undistinguished career here attacking all forms of public subsidies to seek to distort the record of Labour local authorities in relation to the provision of subsidies to village halls in his constituency? Is the Minister aware that no fewer than 40 village halls throughout rural Stirlingshire have had the benefit of assistance under this and other schemes, thanks to initiatives taken by Stirling district council — a Labour-controlled authority — under the excellent leadership of Councillor Michael Connarty?
I quite happily withdraw the lane' word. The hon. Gentleman has a most distinguished line in his own unique blend of intellect which he brings to the House. Those of us who have to listen to him in agricultural debates, in which he is a noted expert. being a major landowner in Scotland, are well aware of his brilliance.