The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Saturday, 15 November 2008

House price crash? Not here in Scotland there’s not!

By: Murdoch MacDonald

HERE in south-west Scotland, house prices fell by 2.3% in the three months to 31 October 2008.

Yes, a paltry 2.3%.

Hardly the end of civilisation as we know it, is it?

Certainly not even evidence of a house price crash that some doom-mongers seem convinced that we are in the midst of.

Especially when you consider that, in spite of the current gloom in some quarters, house prices here are still a heartening 7.1% higher than they were a year ago.

Up in Glasgow, figures also lend weight to the view that economic Armageddon is not yet upon us.

There, house prices actually rose by 6.4% in the last three months, and are currently 4.1% higher than they were this time last year.

Professor Donald MacRae is chief economist at Lloyds TSB Scotland, who produced these figures.

He comments: “The Scottish housing market is showing sensible adjustment rather than a precipitous collapse.”

Wise words.

So, don’t panic, Captain Mainwaring, don’t panic!

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.


Scottish Business Forums

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Friday, 14 November 2008

South Ayrshire Council apprentice is Joinery Student of the Year

AN apprentice joiner working for South Ayrshire Council has scooped a top honour on his college training course.

Eddie Cole (pictured above) won the Joinery Student of the Year award at Ayr College for 2007- 2008.

The College make the decision by looking at the student’s achievements over the academic year and at any other successes. Eddie was nominated because his results at college were consistently excellent and for his exceptional performance in the Scottish heat of the national SkillBuild competition held in May 2008.

Competing against students from colleges all over Scotland, Eddie came second and was invited to a special commemorative event in Perth to pick up a silver medal marking his success.

Eddie told his college magazine: “I have really enjoyed coming to college because I learned different aspects of joinery.

“My job currently involves maintaining Council residential properties such as doors, windows and wet rooms. My learning experience has given me confidence to work on my own and make decisions.

“I am motivated to do the very best job I can and to listen carefully to instructions and carry them through.”

Leader of South Ayrshire Council, Councillor Hugh Hunter said: “I am delighted that Eddie’s hard work and effort have been recognised, and he is to be heartily congratulated on his achievements at College and in the SkillBuild competition.

“Combining work and study demands application and focus, and Eddie has clearly shown he has the determination and ability to succeed.”

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South Ayrshire Council views Belmont Academy new school building

SOUTH AYRSHIRE COUNCIL'S Member Officer Board for the Public Private Partnership (PPP) project, responsible for progressing the construction of new schools and the improvements of others, recently met at Belmont Academy.

Prior to their meeting the Board were given a guided tour of the new school that was constructed at a cost of 25 million pounds, as part of the PPP project in South Ayrshire.

Councillor Hywel Davies, Chair of the Board and the Council’s Portfolio Carrier for Lifelong Learning said: “The Board members have been involved in the planning and construction process of the new school and it was wonderful to see the school completed.

“The school is light and airy and all the facilities the gym, the library, the music room, classrooms and others have all been purpose built to provide the best environment we can for the pupils and employees of the school.

Councillor Davies continued: “There is still some work to be carried out, creating new outdoor sports facilities on the site of the old school building, once this is complete Belmont Academy will have the complete package.

“I would like to thank everyone involved in this project and in particular the students and employees of the school who were so co-operative during the transition from one school to the other.”

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Thursday, 13 November 2008

Scottish employment figures show resilience
in face of economic downturn

By: Murdoch MacDonald

COMMENTING on labour market figures which show that the unemployment rate in Scotland stands at 4.7 per cent compared to 5.8 per cent for the UK, Enterprise Minister Jim Mather (pictured below) said: “While the labour market in Scotland remains relatively strong, with higher employment and significantly lower unemployment than elsewhere in the UK and other advanced economies, today’s figures show that we are not immune from a global economic downturn. They confirm what the Scottish Government has been saying about how the financial crisis is impacting on the real economy.”

Jim Mather continued: “The Scottish Government has already taken steps to support Scottish business and families in the current challenging conditions. Within our fixed budget and the powers available to us, we have set out steps to keep Scotland’s economy moving forward as part of the Scottish Economic Recovery Plan. Already we have announced accelerated housing investment, delivered planning reforms, opened up public sector contracts to small and medium sized businesses, upped the advice we provide to manufacturing businesses, and provided Government money to help create and safeguard jobs and stimulate investment in our economy. We also need a programme of reflation from the UK Government to boost the wider economy.

“Our focus on sustainable growth and our undoubted strengths - a highly skilled workforce, huge renewable energy resources and competitive cost base - give us a solid foundation on which to establish a competitive advantage. But we cannot wait for things to get better - that is why we are redoubling our efforts to accelerate investment and support business and families in Scotland, and the UK Government must come forward with a reflationary package for the real economy as a matter of urgency.”

The Scottish Government will continue to take steps to increase support for business and households at a time of global economic slowdown, John Swinney (pictured above) has declared.

During a Parliamentary debate on the economy, the Finance Secretary set out actions already underway as part of the Scottish economic recovery plan.

The Scottish Government has recently announced improvements to the planning system, expanded Scottish Enterprise’s advice service to manufacturing companies, and made it easier for small businesses to access public sector contracts.

Mr Swinney said: “At a time of growing pressure on Scottish businesses and on homeowners, the Scottish Government is taking action.

“Today’s employment figures confirm that Scotland is not immune from global economic conditions.

“Scotland’s labour market remains relatively strong, with higher employment and significantly lower unemployment than elsewhere in the UK and other advanced economies. But we recognise the challenges facing Scotland’s economy and, where global pressures impact on local jobs, the Scottish Government will respond quickly through locally-led arrangements that are distinct to Scotland.

“We will be reviewing the operation of PACE to ensure we are in the best position possible to respond to events which occur as a result of today’s economic climate.

“And we have today extended support for employability projects across Scotland. In the summer we announced £50 million support through European Structural Funds to Community Planning Partnerships for regeneration and employability initiatives. Today we are extending that support to Inverclyde and Clackmananshire to support training and skills development. That means all proposed CPP bids under these Programmes have been funded.

“As early as August we announced plans to bring forward up to £100 million investment in affordable housing. Increasing growth has been this Government’s priority since day one, a commitment we have matched with funding to freeze the Council Tax over three years and to reduce and remove business rates for up to 150,000 small businesses.

“The Scottish economic recovery plan identifies the action we can take to increase support for small business and households, to maximise jobs and investment and ensure our economy is well positioned for recovery.

“Wherever we can, we will do more to support Scotland’s homes and our high streets.”

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Wednesday, 12 November 2008

John Scott welcomes safer A77 but urges investment in A70

By: Murdoch MacDonald

Ayr MSP John Scott has welcomed the release of figures by the A77 Safety Group which shows that the number of fatalities on the road halved over the last three years.

[Pictured: John Scott MSP for Ayr and Scottish Government Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson by the A77 roadside.]

John Scott said: “The A77 has had an unenviable reputation over many years as being one of the most hazardous routes in Scotland, so the results published by the A77 Safety Group, showing a reduction in the overall number of accidents, is clearly very welcome.

“What we now need to see is progress being made on those remaining projects currently proposed in Transport Scotland’s works programme, including major improvements at Symington and Bogend Toll, realignment work between Dowhill and Chapeldonan, widening of the carriageway between Park End and Bennane and the provision of a dedicated northbound overtaking lane between Ardwell and Slockenray, all of which are needed to further improve safety on the A77.

“It goes without saying that a by-pass for Maybole must also be a top priority.”

Ayrshire Conservative MSP John Scott has also stepped up his calls for major investment in the A70 route between South Ayrshire and the M74, which he believes is crucial to the future economic development of the area.

Mr Scott has previously challenged Government Ministers to adopt the A70 as a trunk road, and now he has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament, which he hopes will win cross-party support from other Ayrshire politicians, calling on the Government to take responsibility for the maintenance and development of the A70.

John Scott said: “Trunk road status has seen considerable investment in several of the main arterial routes within Ayrshire including the A77, and other vital projects, including a bypass for Maybole, are expected to be progressed soon.

“However this scale of investment has not been possible where the A70 is concerned as the Government has no responsibility for it, and I believe that situation must change.

“The A70 is the main link eastward between southern Ayrshire and the M74, and as such it is a major economic development route. If we are really serious about realising the full potential of the Ayrshire economy, developing a transport infrastructure that can support the expansion of local businesses, and encouraging companies to locate to Ayrshire and generate much-needed jobs for local people, then major investment in the A70 must be a key priority.

“If the Government were to adopt the A70 as a trunk road then this could open the door to the level of investment in the route that is needed, and could bring enormous benefits over the long-term to local communities and our local economy.”

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Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Ayrshire fine foods supplier appoints director of new cook school

Kilmarnock-based quality meat, game and deli goods specialist Braehead Foods has appointed Steven Doherty (pictured below) as the managing director of the company’s new cook school, which will open in February 2009.

The cook school with its state of the art kitchen is just one of the facilities available at Braehead’s new 30,000 sq ft company headquarters. As well as increasing the range and capacity of products available, the new building also houses a demonstration kitchen, restaurant and shop, thus promoting the Braehead name further to both trade and consumer markets.

Steven commented: “It is the wish of Braehead Foods managing director Craig Stevenson (pictured above) and myself to establish Braehead’s cook school as one of the leading cook schools in Scotland and the UK as a whole within the next three years, and we look forward to achieving this target”

Steven’s job as managing director of the cook school is a consultative role which involves his overseeing the whole operation to ensure it runs efficiently.

Steven has identified several key aspects he wants to concentrate on primarily, one of which is to attract leading names in Scottish hospitality to cook at the school. He has already gained agreement from 22 guest chefs from across Scotland, including Ian Brown of The Ubiquitous Chip and Tony Singh at Oloroso to name but two.

He is also keen to ensure that people are aware that it is a cook school for the general public to come and learn more about cookery in an informative and fun way, which will be achieved mainly through interactive sessions and ‘demo and dine’ events.

He will also establish the restaurant dining space as an outstanding venue for corporate hospitality and fine dining. Because of its unrivalled access by road, it is the perfect destination for corporate hospitality events and private dining. And with the cook school dimension they can combine company interaction with dining and learning key culinary skills.

Another fundamental aspect keeping true to their roots in trade is that the Braehead cook school is also a place that chefs in the culinary industry can come to take part in tutored cookery sessions with Steven, his team and other guest chefs from the industry. Like Craig, who co-established the Scottish Food Scholarship, Steven, who is also a judge of Gordon Ramsay’s scholarship, is keen to ensure that the facility is available to chefs to further their skills and experience. And his overall aim is to provide the best visitor experience for all guests when they visit the Braehead cook school.

Bookings are now being taken for the cook school which will hold day and evening sessions in over 15 different culinary master classes. Prices start from £35 and go up to £1500 for a corporate booking of 20 people for exclusive use.

Braehead Foods Ltd is based in Kilmarnock, Scotland and supplies high quality game and specialty produce to delicatessens, pubs and restaurants across the UK.

Braehead also sources game from over 100 estates across Scotland, including venison, pheasant, partridge, grouse and rabbit. It is the only supplier in Scotland of Gressingham Duck.

Braehead sells to all of Scotland’s Michelin-starred chefs, and one, two and three Michelin-starred restaurants in England. They also supply 4 and 5 star hotels, as well as 1, 2, 3 and 4 AA Rosette restaurants across Scotland.

Since 2003 they have been exporting wholesale game to USA, France, Germany, Italy and Belgium.

Braehead are Gordon Ramsay’s sole supplier of game. They also supply London’s Smithfield Market for onward distribution

Braehead currently turns over £6 million per annum.

Founded in 1988 Braehead Foods has become synonymous with fine food and game. In April 2008, Braehead moved into their new purpose-built factory at Moorfield Park Industrial Estate, Kilmarnock. At 30,000 square feet it is more than six times larger than the previous factory and allows them to meet demand for more quality game and fine food distribution and processing. The new building is open plan, set over two floors and houses a state-of-the art processing area, cold storage and dispatch docks.

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Monday, 10 November 2008

Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee convenes in Ayr

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT spending plans were scrutinised when the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee visited the County Buildings in Ayr.

Local residents had an opportunity to watch as Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, John Swinney MSP, faced questions on multi-million pound Scottish Government spending plans for 2009/10.

[Pictured: Provost Winifred Sloan (right) welcomed the Holyrood Finance Committee Convener, Andrew Welsh MSP, other members of the committee and all those participating in the visit to the County Buildings.]

South Ayrshire Council Provost Winifred Sloan welcomed the Finance Committee and others to the County Buildings and said: “It is my great pleasure to welcome Andrew Welsh, the Convener of the Scottish Parliament Finance Committee and the other Committee members to South Ayrshire Council Headquarters. The Finance Committee has always had a very important role to play, but now more than ever it is crucial to our future. Across the globe people are facing financial problems, from huge international organisations, to small and medium sized businesses, and last but by no means least families.”

The meeting was part of the Finance Committee’s scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s Draft Budget which was published in September this year. Workshops in the morning gave local groups and organisations an opportunity to air their views on the Draft Budget as it affects local issues. These views then informed part of the committee’s evidence session with John Swinney in the afternoon.

Committee Convener, Andrew Welsh MSP said: “The meeting provided an excellent opportunity for local people to engage with the Parliament and the budget process.”

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South Ayrshire Council wins improvements
to Scotland’s National Planning Framework

THE National Planning Framework 2 (NPF2) will guide Scotland’s spatial development to 2030, driving forward the Government’s Economic Strategy, by identifying key priorities for investment.

Members of South Ayrshire Council’s Leadership Panel approved the Council’s considerations of the NPF2 as the basis for the Council’s response to the Scottish Government.

Speaking about the NPF2 Councillor Peter Convery (pictured above) the Council’s Portfolio Carrier for Sustainability and the Environment said: “This is all good news for South Ayrshire and the west of Scotland. The document indicates the likely content of the NPF2 when it is published in revised form and it clearly demonstrates that the Government has listened to our suggestions to improve the document.

“The changes proposed to the Framework will bring environmental and economic benefits, leading to sustainable development regionally and across Scotland.

“I am particularly pleased to see the inclusion of Prestwick Airport and associated rail improvements that will contribute to economic development and strengthen links to other parts of Scotland and the world. They will improve infrastructure in the west of Scotland and enhance the national infrastructure.

“Likewise designating Loch Ryan as a Gateway Port would I am sure lead to the road and rail networks along the A77 corridor that would be of benefit to South Ayrshire.”

Members of the Council’s Leadership Panel have agreed to submit updated comments on the draft that includes three proposed National Developments based in or directly affecting South Ayrshire, these are:

1. Glasgow Prestwick International Airport, the Loch Ryan Gateway Port and the Central Scotland Green Network.

2. The acknowledgement that the environmental effects of expansion at Glasgow Prestwick International Airport are less than at other Scottish airports and inclusion as a National Development is strongly supported.

3. The designation of the Loch Ryan Gateway Port as it would also refer to road and rail improvements along the A77 corridor and enhance strategic internal connections as well as links to Ireland.


Planning authorities across Scotland are required to take the Framework into account in preparing development plans that will be a material consideration in determining planning applications.

In February 2008 South Ayrshire Council expressed disappointment that only one proposed national development affecting South Ayrshire, and Ayrshire as a whole, had been included in the Framework. NPF2 is currently being redrafted to take account of representation made during this period by the Council and other interested parties.

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