PUBLIC bodies will be urged to consider the effect that disposing of public buildings will have on the vitality of town centres.

Guidance to public bodies has been updated to reflect the priorities of the Scottish Government's new Town Centre First principle, which aims to stem the decline in town centres, local government minister Derek Mackay said.

But opposition MSPs said the Government's programme of court and police station counter closures were at odds with the principle.

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A £2.75 million fund aimed a breathing life into town centres was described as "a drop in the ocean" by Labour local government spokeswoman Sarah Boyack.

Mr Mackay, whose constituency includes parts of Paisley, which is often cited as a town centre in decline, said: "Our town centre action plan is intended to add support, to stimulate, to encourage action across the wider public, private and community sectors, all of whom we have invited to contribute to our ongoing efforts.

"The Town Centre First principle will put town centres at the heart of the decision-making process."

Businesses that take on high value empty properties and former pubs, hotels and restaurants will receive 50% rates relief, he said.

Ms Boyack said: "I strongly support the principle of Town Centre First but it has got to be applied consistently by the Scottish Government.

"We need every public service, leisure and culture facility assessed in terms of its capacity in town centres, and that will bring the vitality and dynamism that our town centres urgently need.

"That is why Labour MSPs have opposed the Scottish Government's court closure plan and proposals to reduce access to, or close, police station counters.

"In towns like Haddington and South Queensferry, people themselves have objected because they understand the negative impact those closures would have in reducing the vitality and attractiveness of our town centres."