SCOTLAND’S First Minister and a famous comedienne will cut the first sod at the site of Inverclyde’s new £10 million arts centre on Monday.

In a high-profile coup for the exciting project, Alex Salmond and TV entertainer Dorothy Paul have been lined up to carry out the ceremony at the waterfront site, inset and below, which will house the replacement for the ageing Arts Guild on Campbell Street.

The new centre should be complete in around 18 months time and will sit beside the historic Custom House as a showpiece part of the district’s regeneration.

Elliott McKelvie, chairman of Greenock Arts Guild, said: “We are delighted to have the First Minister launch the construction phase of our exciting project.

“Within 18 months, Inverclyde will have one of the best arts centres in the UK, offering a diverse range of performances as well as being a social hub at the heart of the community.” The new centre will house a 500-seat main auditorium, together with a 130-seat studio theatre, rehearsal rooms and a riverside café bar.

It is jointly funded by Greenock Arts Guild, Creative Scotland, Inverclyde Council, Riverside Inverclyde and the Big Lottery Fund.

Bill Nicol, of Riverside Inverclyde, said: “We have worked hard in support of the new theatre and were instrumental in working alongside Inverclyde Council and the Arts Guild to secure the site at the East India Harbour.

“A new theatre will greatly improve the attraction of the waterfront area and secure the Greenock Arts Guild’s ambitious plans for the arts in the west of Scotland.” Councillor Jim Clocherty, who chairs Inverclyde Council’s regeneration committee, added: “The council is one of the key investors and I am pleased the project has been given the support of the First Minister.

“We have committed £2.5m to the Arts Guild and, once completed, it will be at the centre of a transformed waterfront and at the heart of our community.”