Lanark is in urgent need of a population boom as the town is reckoned to have 3000 too few residents.
But the burgh has now found itself in a catch-22 situation as it has too small a population to attract the massive investment in a new direct rail service to Edinburgh that might bring that influx of new citizens about.
So said the chairman of the town’s community council, Frank Gunning, during a special debate on Monday night on the future – if any – of the long-running campaign to re-connect Lanark to the capital after a half-century break.
The meeting, attended by community council and South Lanarkshire Council members, plus Labour south of Scotland MSP Claudia Beamish, heard from Mr Gunning that an economic study of the town had concluded that its optimum population to support local businesses and public services was 11,500. However, Lanark’s population had declined from a peak of 10,000 at the start of the 1990s to just 8,500 today, he said.
He added: “We’re in a chicken-and-egg situation. If we had direct rail services to and from Edinburgh, then we’d get folk flocking to Lanark to commute to work in the city. However, we’re currently too wee for the investment to be made to restore these services.”
The Labour MSP admitted getting the investment would be “a big challenge” but said there was hope to be had from the recent experience of the new Borders Railway seeing villages far smaller than Lanark having rail connections to Edinburgh restored after several decades.
Projections of passenger use had been, in some cases, massively underestimated, she said, adding that the restored Larkhall line had also produced higher passenger figures than at first estimated.
She encouraged the community council to continue its campaign, stating that only public pressure on politicians would get results.