The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Monday, 20 November 2017

Green light given as new Queen Margaret Academy moves a step closer

Plans to build a new Queen Margaret Academy in Ayr are a step closer with the official contracts now signed after reaching financial close. South Ayrshire Council is now preparing to move on site to get work underway to deliver the new facility.

The £25m project will provide places for 800 young people, with modern classrooms, interactive ICT, a large games hall, two gyms, two all-weather pitches, and hard games courts. The building will also house Psychological Services and a Supported Learning Centre, which are already based at QMA.

The new Queen Margaret Academy will be built in the grounds of the existing school and is expected to open in October 2019. The current building will be demolished after the new school opens with the site to be fully landscaped.

The main contractor for the project will be Kier Construction.

Councillor Peter Henderson, Portfolio Holder for Resources and Performance, at South Ayrshire Council, said the latest announcement was an important milestone. “We’re committed to providing young people with the best possible start in life, and delivering a first-class education goes a long way to helping achieve that.

“By investing in this significant new building we’re creating a base to transform the way young people are taught, with the replacement school a more flexible space in which to deliver lessons.

“The building and facilities will also be available for community use, which will help make the project an important local hub. With initial work due to start in the next few weeks I look forward to seeing this ambitious new project take shape in the months ahead.”

Michael McBrearty, Chief Executive of delivery partner, hub South West, said: “The new Queen Margaret Academy is hub South West's fifth educational collaboration with South Ayrshire Council, having recently completed the new Ayr Academy, innovative modernisation at Marr College in Troon, and new primary schools for Dailly and Tarbolton.

“The new academy will provide a wonderfully modern and inclusive community facility that will provide excellent resources and opportunities for the area.

“We look forward to proceeding to site with contractor Kier Construction in the coming weeks.”

Managing director of Kier Construction's Scotland & north-east England business, Brian McQuade, said: “We’re proud to continue our relationship with South Ayrshire Council and looking forward to delivering an exciting new project which reinforces our position as a UK leader across education.

“We’ll be on site soon to start to deliver this state-of-the-art teaching, sporting and community facility at Queen Margaret Academy, which will help to support future generations. 

“As with all of our activity across Scotland, we will encourage the use of locally based suppliers and subcontractors, bringing economic growth in the area and providing employment and training opportunities for the people of Ayrshire.”

South Ayrshire Council is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Ayr Racecourse wins gold award for third year in a row

By: Iain Ferguson

AYR Racecourse has for the third year in a row been voted as a jewel in the crown of British Racing by one of the sport’s leading authorities – the Racehorse Owners’ Association.

Scotland’s premier track has been voted in the top six large racecourses in the country for owners and awarded the Racehorse Owners Association Gold Standard status for 2017.

The six large courses awarded Gold Standard were Ayr, Ascot, Chester, Haydock Park, Cheltenham and York – all six also received the award last year and Ayr has now been awarded the accolade every year since its inception in 2015.

ROA representatives visited every track in Britain at least once to assess all aspects of the raceday experience for owners. In addition, feedback was provided by hundreds of ROA members following their racecourse visits.

Ayr Racecourse managing director David Brown said: “I am proud on behalf of the entire team at Ayr Racecourse to learn we have retained the ROA Gold Standard and remain one of only six large racecourses to be awarded given the accolade.

“This reflects all the hard work and dedication and attention to detail we pride ourselves on, reflecting the importance in which we hold racehorse owners.

“Our aim is to deliver the best experience possible for owners, and to receive recognition like this is very rewarding.”

Racecourses are divided into two categories – large and small – with their classification decided by a range of factors, including the quality of racing and attendance figures. The six tracks in each category that were considered to provide owners with the best raceday experience will hold the Award for the next 12 months.

One racecourse from each section will be named as their respective category’s ‘Racecourse of the Year’ at the annual ROA Horseracing Awards to be held in London on Thursday 7 December.

For further information please contact Iain Ferguson on 01292 294972 or 07795 565691.

Ayr Racecourse and the associated Western House Hotel are Founder Members of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Kilmarnock regeneration company HALO sets up new working partnership with Ayrshire College

Kilmarnock-based regeneration company HALO and its neighbour Ayrshire College have set up a new partnership to encourage leading-edge, practical learning in enterprise and innovation, cyber resilience and digital security to support the creation of a future workforce of digitally skilled young people from Ayrshire.

[Pictured: Marie Macklin CBE, who is leading The HALO initiative, and Heather Dunk, Principal and Chief Executive of Ayrshire College, sign up to the new partnership.]

The HALO and Ayrshire College have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in which they have agreed to combine knowledge, resources, networks and efforts to support the creation of the HALO Enterprise and Innovation Centre (HEIC) and the cyber security/digital hub that are planned as part of the impressive regeneration project. This is the second of two key educational partnerships for The HALO which is also working with the University of the West of Scotland.

Part of the HEIC will be an experiential learning space designed and equipped for the digital age. The Centre will house spin-out and start-up businesses within the new well-connected town centre offices which are due for completion in summer 2019. The HEIC will be part of a national and international network of Government and industry-inspired cyber centres making Scotland a leader in digital knowledge and understanding.

The partnership also aims to explore and promote new approaches to stimulating self-discovery, self-motivation and self-confidence, particularly among young people, in the communities served by the college.

Marie Macklin CBE, who is leading The HALO initiative, said: “This is the second of two critical educational relationships for The HALO to be recognised as one of Scotland's key cyber centres. Our proposals to make The HALO a leading location for learning and developing digital skills represent an ideal opportunity to combine the knowledge and teaching expertise of Ayrshire College and the University of the West of Scotland.

“Together we are aiming to create a unique environment and a range of learning experiences for people of all ages and abilities making Ayrshire one of the most digitally-aware, digitally-skilled areas in Scotland. This will increase employment opportunities and will help to make Ayrshire and Scotland an informed, prepared and safe place for business, and promote inclusive growth."

Heather Dunk, Principal and Chief Executive of Ayrshire College, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the HALO initiative. This will provide opportunities for our students and staff from a range of industry sectors to support economic development in Ayrshire. We look forward to developing ideas for the digital hub and using HALO to stimulate enterprise and innovation opportunities for our students.

“By developing the talents of our students, we will be supporting the digital skills workforce pipeline and preparing students for jobs in the digital skills and cyber security industries as well as a range of other key sectors.

“Our partnership with HALO will build on our existing strengths and support our ambitions for social inclusion, economic growth and innovation.”

About The HALO Kilmarnock

The HALO is an imaginative, innovative and inspirational regeneration initiative to revitalise the centre of Kilmarnock and support the growth and resilience of the Ayrshire economy.

It will create a dynamic commercial, educational, cultural, leisure and lifestyle quarter of the town, including a unique Enterprise and Innovation Centre - all fuelled by renewable energy.

This multi-faceted regeneration of a 23-acre site, formerly the home of Johnnie Walker, the world’s leading Scotch whisky, will generate over £53million in GDP for Kilmarnock and £65million for Scotland. The development will stimulate over 1800 jobs.

The HALO has evolved through significant community and key partner consultation and engagement. A multi-disciplinary project team has developed proposals that address a range of design, technical, commercial and economic factors aligned to the overall objectives of delivering sustainable, long-term economic and social benefits for the town of Kilmarnock and the wider Ayrshire community.

The Halo Kilmarnock Limited (THKL) is a development company formed by Macklin Enterprise Partnerships, The Klin Group and Ross Developments & Renewables to bring together a highly experienced property development team with the skills, resources and capacity to deliver a unique project that will add real value to the Scottish economy.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Councils explore regional partnership proposals

Plans to create a new partnership to boost the Ayrshire economy are moving forward following decisions by East, North and South Ayrshire Councils.

At the heart of the ambitious proposals is a single Ayrshire economic body that would drive change across the three areas.

The three Councils have collectively agreed that an interim development board will be created and further work should be undertaken on the option to develop a single Ayrshire body – working alongside national agency staff – that would deliver and support economic development across Ayrshire.

Once this work is complete, detailed proposals will be considered by all three Councils early next year.

The moves come after the Scottish Government agreed to explore ways that regional partnerships could stimulate the local economy.

Further work and engagement will be undertaken before detailed proposals are put before all Councils at the start of next year.

An Ayrshire partnership would build on the progress being made to deliver the ambitious Ayrshire Growth Deal, which is designed to boost business, jobs and prosperity. The intention would be to incorporate the delivery of Growth Deal projects into any new body.

Councillor Joe Cullinane (pictured above), Leader of North Ayrshire Council, said: "We feel this approach offers us a real opportunity to work with our neighbouring local authorities to maximise the potential of the regional economy of Ayrshire.

"We know the benefits that the Ayrshire Growth Deal can bring to the region and by working together with the key agencies in a new Economic Partnership, we are in a stronger position to build on Ayrshire's strengths and focus on the significant challenges of the local economy. 

"There is still further work to be done and we look forward to assessing more detailed plans over the coming weeks."

Councillor Douglas Reid (pictured above), Leader of East Ayrshire Council welcomed the proposals. He said: "In order for Ayrshire to compete at a Scottish, UK and global level it's clear that there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we support local growth and inward investment.  

"A regional agency will make the best possible use of all local assets, skills, expertise and resources and will provide an effective mechanism for achieving the ambitions of the Ayrshire Growth Deal."

Councillor Douglas Campbell, Leader of South Ayrshire Council, added: "What we have now collectively agreed provides a terrific opportunity to look at how we support the economy at local, regional and national levels and maximise the benefits for our people and communities. Our aim is to ensure that we have the right governance and operational model to support the major pieces of work – like the Growth Deal – as well as making the most of our day-to-day service delivery that supports skills, jobs and business growth.

"Ayrshire has the potential to be a real trailblazer in this regard and I look forward to seeing the proposals take shape over the next few months."

Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, Keith Brown (pictured above), said: "This announcement by the three Ayrshire Local Authorities is very welcome. We believe that there are significant benefits in a collaborative regional approach to driving the Ayrshire economy, bringing new jobs, businesses and investment to the area.

"The Scottish Government is committed to supporting Regional Partnerships. We continue to support the Ayrshire councils as they develop their approach to working with all partners, including the private sector to drive inclusive growth across this beautiful part of Scotland."

South Ayrshire Council is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Elite Ayrshire Business Circle Annual Luncheon at Culzean Castle

All interested Ayrshire business people are cordially invited to attend the (FREE) Elite Ayrshire Business Circle Annual Luncheon, which takes place this year at 12.15 on Friday 10 November at Culzean Castle, courtesy of the National Trust for Scotland.

We will gather for pre-lunch drinks in the Round Drawing Room, affording an opportunity to inspect the Castle Armory. We will then proceed up the Robert Adam staircase for luncheon at the original table in the State Dining Room.

There will be ample networking opportunities for members and guests, councillors and officials, and top Ayrshire business people.

There will be an opportunity during the meeting for members to give a short address to those present about their company’s recent successes. Please let us know if you would like to take advantage of this. At the end of the meeting there will be an optional guided tour of Culzean Castle.

Please book you places at our Annual Luncheon as soon as possible, and include the number and name/s of any guest/s you may wish to invite.

RSVP by e-mail to

Event on Facebook CLICK HERE

Elite Ayrshire Business Circle
Norman Geddes, Executive Chairman
Murdoch MacDonald, CEO

Saturday, 7 October 2017

South Ayrshire Councillors agree way forward and renewed people focus

South Ayrshire Councillors have agreed the strategic objectives that will be used to create a new Council Plan, and establish a clear and ambitious direction future for the Council over the next five years.

[Pictured: Councillor Douglas Campbell, 
Leader of South Ayrshire Council.]

The objectives – agreed at a meeting of South Ayrshire Council – are designed to make a difference for people and communities and provide a focus for how Council services will be delivered, based on the needs of individual people.

The ambitious objectives include taking direct and sustained actions that reduce poverty and disadvantage, creating a better health and care system to suit local people’s needs, making the most of the local economy, and increasing the profile and reputation of the Council and South Ayrshire.

Councillor Douglas Campbell, Leader of the Council, said the agreed objectives will ensure the Council makes a difference where its services are needed most – particularly in relation to supporting young people and the most vulnerable in our communities.

He added: “Our next Council Plan needs to ensure that we’re focused, fit for purpose and a force to be reckoned with in making a positive difference in people’s lives.

“To ensure we achieve this, we need to take a look at why we do what we do – not just how we do it – so that we genuinely transform services and make a positive impact where it’s needed most. Regardless of what service we are talking about, our most important job is looking after people and that’s what we need to focus on – helping people, but in a different way.

“While these are high-level objectives at this stage, they provide a definitive road-map for where we want to go. For example, in taking action to reduce poverty and disadvantage, we want to close the poverty attainment gap by 2030 and adopt the use of schools as real community hubs that aren’t just a place for learning, but provide partnership-based community services that support children and families in need.

“We also want to invest in infrastructure and make a long-lasting impact on our towns and villages, dealing with some of the long-standing issues they have raised over a number of years. This will help ensure our towns are vibrant and inviting centres that offer a variety of retail, leisure and visitor opportunities and are supported by strong and viable villages.

“However, it’s not just about what we will do – it’s also about what our communities can do to help and support themselves and a big part of our job is helping them to realise that.

“The backbone of all of this will be a strong and productive workforce, working day in and day out to deliver quality services that really do make life better, and I look forward to seeing all of this come together in the new Council Plan.”

At the meeting, Councillors also reviewed the Council’s performance in 2016/17 towards achieving the strategic objectives and outcomes within the current Council Plan.

Highlights included an increase in visitor spend; a positive trend in exam results; more adults and older people receiving intensive care at home; an increase in the number of people using the Council’s pools and indoor sports facilities; positive trends in the percentage of roads requiring maintenance treatment and street cleanliness; and improvements in the condition of the Council’s operational buildings and staff absence.

Areas for improvement included supporting children and young people living in areas of relatively high deprivation to do as well as those in more affluent areas; increasing the percentage of unpaid carers feeling supported to continue in their caring role; ensuring adults have the opportunity to influence decisions affecting their local area; increasing household waste recycling; and improving the Council’s buildings and ICT infrastructure and systems.

Councillor Campbell concluded: “This latest performance report shows that significant progress continues to be made across the Council; however, we are very clear about where we need to do more and where we need to do better – and that will very much be the focus of our next Council Plan, which is a life-changing opportunity to better shape how our Council works for our people and communities for years to come.”

South Ayrshire Council is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Community focus as Deputy First Minister and Lord Lieutenant open the new Ayr Academy

Communities have given their seal of approval to the new Ayr Academy. South Ayrshire Council hosted the building’s official opening on Monday 2 October, with young people and parents among the 180 guests on the night.

The building was officially opened by John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, and John Duncan, Lord Lord-Lieutenant of Ayrshire and Arran, in what was one of his final public appearances before retiring.

Construction of the £25million school began at Ayr's Craigie Estate in January 2016. With a history dating back to 1233, the last incarnation was built in 1880 and closed earlier this year. Its eye-catching replacement has space for up to 1,000 pupils, and features two learning plazas, a multi-use hall, two gyms, fitness/movement room, and sports pitches.

The project is part of a £94million pipeline of works being delivered across South Ayrshire in the next year, with the aim of enhancing standards through targeted investment.

[Pictured left to right: Council leader, Douglas Campbell tours the 
new building with Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, and 
Executive Headteacher, Lyndsay McRoberts.]

John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, said, “At the outset of our £1.8bn Schools for the Future programme in 2009, we originally aimed to build or refurbish 55 schools across Scotland – we have now more than doubled that commitment and it is fantastic to see so many of these wonderful buildings, like this one here in Ayr, now coming into use.

“More widely, since 2007 we have completed 651 school building projects, which is almost double the amount completed over the preceding eight years.

“This is part of our aim to provide our children and young people with inspiring environments which enable all of them to engage with their learning and, which in turn, help to raise attainment. It is great to hear the positive reaction of staff and pupils at Ayr Academy to their new school and I wish them all the best for the future.”

John Duncan, Lord Lord-Lieutenant of Ayrshire and Arran said, “This magnificent new campus, with its outstanding cutting-edge facilities, will hugely facilitate attainment across the board.

“It will afford both staff and students immense opportunity as they take the ancient name of Ayr Academy into the future, building on the long legacy that name carries. They will shape its future and it will shape their lives.”

The school was built by Kier Construction and delivered by South Ayrshire Council in partnership with SWHub.

Councillor William Grant, South Ayrshire Council’s Portfolio Holder for Lifelong Learning said the event was a unique opportunity to showcase the building, “This fantastic new building has been warmly welcomed by the community, with many of them invited as special guests to celebrate the start of a new era.

“You can see that young people have been energised by their new surroundings, with staff now looking to deliver a step-change in the way lessons are delivered.

“The official opening was a great night with a lot of pride on display as pupils performed for the invited guests. And as the fanfare subsides, teachers are now focusing on the important task of enhancing education standards and delivering better results for the community.”

Lyndsay McRoberts, Executive Headteacher at Ayr Academy said, “It’s taken a lot of hard work to get the building up and running, but we’re already seeing a change in the way our young people respond.

“With a custom made building we are now able to deliver lessons in a modern environment, open up the way we learn in sessions from our break-out learning plazas, and importantly improve access to sports and physical activity.

“Taken as a whole we now have the building blocks in place to engage with young people much better than we could in the old building, which is something that we’ll use to help drive higher attainment in the years ahead.”

South Ayrshire Council is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

An evening with Chris Eubank

By: Iain Ferguson

BOXING legend Chris Eubank is making a very special appearance at Ayr Racecourse on 24 November for “An Evening With Chris Eubank”.

A world champion for more than five years and undefeated in his first ten years as a professional, Chris remained undefeated at middleweight.

He held the WBO middleweight and super-middleweight titles, scoring victories over six world champions.

One of the most recognisable celebrities of the 1990s Chris had many high profile fights against the likes of Steve Collins, Joe Calzaghe and Nigel Benn. He fought 52 times, winning 45, 23 by knockout.

His visit to Ayr will see fans treated to two 45 minute presentations in the Ayrshire Suite at the Racecourse with Chris thrilling the audience with many tales from his illustrious career in the ring.

There are three packages – silver, gold and platinum - available on the evening with the platinum, which has limited availability, including a photo opportunity with Chris and a VIP drinks reception with the superstar. For more information or to book tickets call 01292 264179 or go online at

For further information please contact Iain Ferguson on 01292 294972 or 07795 565691.

Ayr Racecourse and the associated Western House Hotel are Founder Members of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Smiles and sighs of relief as Red Arrows close fantastic Scottish International Airshow 2017

It was smiles all round as 80,000 people came along to the first-ever two-day flying display at the Scottish International Airshow in Ayr on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 September.

15,000 people braved the wind and the rain on Sunday to come to the Low Green and the surrounding area, after 65,000 people soaked up the sun on the Saturday; however, the crowds were treated to tantalising displays on both days.

Tens of thousands more enjoyed the show right along the South Ayrshire coastline and beyond.

Displays included an exclusive – and breathtaking – appearance by the RAF’s Red Arrows on Sunday after the world-famous display team had to pull out of the Airshow in Portrush due to the weather and the Bournemouth Air Festival was cancelled for the same reason.

The Red Arrows undoubtedly stole the show on Sunday, but weekend crowds enjoyed some amazing first-time displays from the Belgian Air Force’s F16 fighter jet as well as a spectacular ‘50s wartime display’ between a MiG and two US Mustangs.

The hugely popular RAF Typhoon also made sure to #BringTheNoise2017 and had lots of younger spectators covering their ears with its sound-barrier breaking display!

The Low Green in Ayr was packed with people enjoying not only the some of the best flying around, but a massive funfair, stalls selling an array of goodies, vintage car display, armed forces village and a state-of-the-art flight simulator.

The stunning Kelpie Maquettes also caused quite a stir, and proved a huge ‘selfie’ hit. The 3m high models were created to help to promote Scotland as a visitor destination and there was no better place to be than Ayr as tens of thousands of people from all over the world flocked to the prestigious event.

Councillor Douglas Campbell, Leader of South Ayrshire Council said: “As main sponsor and funding partner for the Airshow, it was great to see so many people coming along and getting the chance to experience all that South Ayrshire has to offer.

“We are very proud to be a venue for a number of world-class events such as the Scottish International Airshow and The Open Golf Championship, and I have no doubt visitors to the Airshow will have been impressed by our scenery, our coastline, our history and our heritage and come back for more.

“Over the last three years, the Airshow has generated around £17 million for the local economy, and we hope to see a significant boost from this year’s event for our accommodation providers, retailers, restaurants and other businesses across South Ayrshire.

“We also hope the event, especially the exciting FutureZone, inspired those interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects to become tomorrow’s pilots, engineers and scientists.

“All in all, it was a terrific event and we were proud to be a part of it.”

The Airshow was also supported by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.

Stuart Turner, Head of EventScotland, said: “The Scottish International Airshow has once again proven to be a successful event, attracting impressive crowds eager to catch a glimpse of the stunning aerial action. Scotland is the perfect stage for events and this spectacular show will no doubt deliver strong benefits for the area.”

Doug Maclean, a Director of the Scottish International Airshow, added: “What another fantastic event. We estimate we had record-breaking crowds of around 110,000 watching the Airshow from across south-west Scotland on Saturday,

“The Airshow pilots said it was an amazing and astonishing sight to see from the air and a joy to take part. The crowd, especially with the poorer weather on Sunday, were delightful, patient and – as always – full of admiration for the pilots.

“We thank everyone for their support and planning is already underway for 2018.”  

South Ayrshire Council is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Record prize money for William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival at Ayr Racecourse

By: Iain Ferguson

THE 2017 William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival at Ayr Racecourse from Thursday 21 September to Saturday 23 September carries a record amount of prize money with £715,500 up for grabs.

[Pictured: Brando, trained by Kevin Ryan and ridden by 
Tom Eaves, wins last year’s Ayr Gold Cup at Ayr Racecourse.]

The £200,000 William Hill Ayr Gold Cup run on the Saturday has attracted a stellar entry of leading sprinters with a maximum field of 25 runners expected to go to post.

Among those likely to contest the race are Saturday’s Goodwood winner Johnny Barnes, trained by John Gosden, who is currently 14-1 clear second favourite with William Hill with Charlie Hills’s Shanghai Glory, third in the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon earlier in the month, the favourite at 12-1.

A new Class 1 Listed race, The Al Maktoum Cup Arran Scottish Fillies’ Sprint Stakes (Listed Race) over five and a half furlongs for three year olds and upwards will be run on William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival Ladies Day on Friday 22 September – the middle day of the three day meeting.

Other Friday highlights include the Shadwell Studs/EBF Stallions Harry Rosebery Stakes, a Class 1 Listed Race and the William Hill Ayr Bronze Cup.

The £65,000 William Hill Doonside Cup, another Class 1 Listed contest, run over one mile two furlongs is the feature race on Thursday while Scotland’s only Group race – the Group 3 Firth Of Clyde Stakes is run on Saturday along with the William Hill Ayr Silver Cup.

All the leading trainers including John Gosden, Willie Haggas, Saeed bin Suroor, Richard Fahey and Roger Varian are likely to have runners and many of the country’s top jockeys will be in action over the three days. Tickets are selling fast and for more information go online at or call 01292 264179.

For further information please contact Iain Ferguson on 01292 294972 or 07795 565691.

Ayr Racecourse and the associated Western House Hotel are Founder Members of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.