The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New Year’s Honour for Southcraig Head Teacher

South Ayrshire Provost Helen Moonie today (Tuesday) sent her congratulations to Lorraine Stobie, Head Teacher of Southcraig Campus in Ayr, who receives an OBE in the New Year’s Honours List 2014 for services to children with special educational needs.

[Pictured: Lorraine Stobie (right) interviewed by Jackie Bird as she is recognised with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Scottish Education Awards last year.]

This is the latest major honour for Lorraine, who has been a teacher for 36 years and last year received Lifetime Achievement Awards at both the Pearson Teaching Awards and the Scottish Education Awards.

Lorraine is considered an exceptional head teacher and an inspirational leader in her field, and is renowned as an expert in the education of children and young people with profound learning difficulties and complex physical conditions. She has helped transform attitudes and approaches to the way such children and young people are treated, rejecting previously held views that they could not be educated. Lorraine treats each child as a unique individual; she knows them and their families intimately and is their champion. 

Provost Helen Moonie said: “This is very well-deserved recognition for Lorraine, and is testament to her passion and commitment to fighting for positive outcomes for those with additional support needs. She has helped support and change lives for many young people and their families and that is a legacy that will live on for many years. We are delighted Lorraine’s efforts have been recognised at this level and send her our most sincere congratulations.”

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

First Minister’s New Year message

2014 will see the ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ for Scotland to shape its own future

The First Minister has used his New Year message to urge the people of Scotland to wake up on the morning of 19 September 2014 “filled with hope and expectation” after voting for independence in the referendum. 


Mr Salmond said 2014 would be a “truly amazing year” during which the eyes of the world would be on Scotland, with the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and the historic independence vote all to be held within the next 12 months. 

During the message - filmed at the National Library of Scotland - the First Minister said the forthcoming year offered a chance for Scotland’s modern achievements to be showcased to the world as well as an “opportunity of a lifetime” for the people to build a “just and prosperous nation” using the country’s natural resources and talented workforce. 

The full text of the First Minister’s New Year message is as follows:

“Happy Hogmanay from the National Library of Scotland. 

“I’m at an exhibition called 'The A to Z of Scotland'. It highlights the contribution our country has made to the world – from Dolly the sheep to the Dandy; penicillin to Harry Potter; television to tarmac roads. 

“That contribution continues to this day. Just a few weeks ago, Professor Peter Higgs of Edinburgh University received the Nobel Prize for Physics for predicting the Higgs Boson, that’s the particle that binds this universe together. We have just announced funding to help establish a new Higgs Centre and to promote postgraduate opportunities – we’re using Professor Higgs’s legacy of achievement, to inspire and support the next generation of great scientists in Scotland. 

“Scotland already has extraordinary strengths in fields such as life sciences, medicine, informatics and energy technology.

“Next year, we have the ideal opportunity to showcase those modern achievements, together with our history, culture and landscape. 

“2014 will be a truly amazing year – one where the eyes of the world will be on Scotland. 

“We are welcoming the world with our year of Homecoming - with more than 400 events taking place the length and breadth of the country.

"We stage the Commonwealth Games – the largest sporting and cultural celebration ever held in Scotland. Golf’s Ryder Cup will be enjoyed by a quarter of a million spectators at Gleneagles; but also by television viewers in more than 180 countries around the planet.

“And, of course on 18 September, we will decide whether to become an independent country. That’s the opportunity of a lifetime. 

“It’s a precious thing; to be able to debate and decide our own future through a civic and democratic process. Let’s ensure that the debate over the next nine months is a constructive one – where we respect each other’s views, regardless of how passionately we hold our own. 

“Let’s also ensure that we take this chance to think about the sort of country we want Scotland to become. 

“Let’s not wake up on the morning of 19 September next year and think to ourselves what might have been. Let’s wake up on that morning filled with hope and expectation – ready to build a just and prosperous nation. 

“Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world - but we need to ensure that prosperity is shared more fairly. We have oil and gas resources for many decades to come – but we have to harness the green energy wealth which will last forever. 

“The greatest asset of Scotland is the people of Scotland, so let’s transform childcare in this country - unleashing the full potential of all of our working age population, and helping us become the best place anywhere in the world to raise a family. 

“The Scottish Government has already put forward our proposals on these issues and many others in “Scotland’s Future”. It’s a positive vision which will be read, considered and discussed many, many times over the next nine months. 

“But ultimately, at the heart of that vision there’s one fundamental point, one overwhelming argument: that the best people to take decisions about Scotland’s future must be the people who live and work in Scotland. 

“Scotland has already shaped much of the modern world. Let’s make sure that 2014 the year when we take responsibility for shaping our own future. 

“One of the exhibits here is one of the first ever published versions of “Auld Lang Syne”, a volume of songs that once belonged to Keir Hardie, yet another example of Scotland’s contributions to the world - the song which encapsulates the spirit of the New Year like no other.

“So, wherever you are – in Scotland or overseas; with family and friends, or at work – I hope you’ll tak a cup o’ kindness this new year. And I’d like to wish each and every one of you all the best for a happy and prosperous 2014.”

Friday, 27 December 2013

Scotland ready to welcome the world

Tourism industry to benefit from bumper year of activity

Scotland’s tourism industry is set to benefit from a multi-million boost during 2014 as the country takes to the global stage, playing host to the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup, MTV Europe Music Awards (EMA) and Scotland’s second year of Homecoming.

The Commonwealth Games will be the biggest sporting and cultural event Scotland has ever hosted and, with over 90 per cent of available public tickets already sold, the early demand has not only exceeded all expectations, it has surpassed all previous Commonwealth Games. The legacy of the Games is already being felt with around 30,000 jobs supported as a result of Glasgow 2014 procurement. 

Around 75 per cent of contracts for the Games have gone to Scottish firms, generating around £250 million for the economy. This is in addition to £1 billion worth of transport infrastructure which is helping to open up Glasgow and West Central Scotland to further economic opportunities.

The Ryder Cup is due to attract more than 250,000 spectators over the course of the week, with Homecoming 2014 expected to bring in around 70,000 visitors and at least £44m in additional economic benefit to Scotland. The MTV EMA will also showcase Glasgow and Scotland to nearly 700 million households through MTV’s global network of channels. 

Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh (pictured above), Stirling, Stonehaven, Biggar and Inverness will kick off the Year of Homecoming, with other key events throughout the year including the John Muir Festival that will involve countless communities in a celebration of this great Scot’s life and legacy; the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in June and the Highland Homecoming, celebrating contemporary Highland culture, including the Inverness Highland Meeting, Masters World Championships and culminating with Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail - The Royal National Mòd. 

Tourism Minister, Fergus Ewing said: “During 2014 we will see two of the world’s biggest showcase sporting events and one of the world’s biggest showcase music events coming to Scotland as well as our second Year of Homecoming. 

“The momentous year in Scottish history will not only position us on the international stage as a dynamic and creative country, it will also significantly boost our already buoyant tourism sector. 

“Every tourism event attracts a potential new business or leisure guest – and provides more jobs and investment. We are already seeing the benefit of this through the 30,000 jobs supported as a result of the Commonwealth Games. 

“The legacy of the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup, MTV EMA and Homecoming 2014 will also be felt for years to come through the boost the events will give to the Scottish economy, through the local jobs created and through the improved infrastructure created. 

“Our vision is for a world class tourism experience. This is why the Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 has named Scotland as the third best country to visit in 2014 citing Scotland’s jam-packed schedule of world-class events as reasons to visit in the coming year. 

“CNN also included Edinburgh in its list of ‘Ten Best Cities for a Winter Vacation’, an accolade which recognises that Edinburgh has a great deal to offer visitors all year round – from its stunning vistas to its diverse range of historic and interesting attractions.

“2014 is a chance of a lifetime for everyone – from taxi drivers and shop assistants to hoteliers and restaurateurs – to play their part in extending the warmest welcome to guests from near and far.

“We will continue to work with VisitScotland and our enterprise agencies to build on this growth throughout 2014 and beyond.”

Monday, 23 December 2013

James takes the helm at Ayr Renaissance

An Ayrshire man who was instrumental in the campaign to save Dumfries House has been appointed Chair of Ayr Renaissance – the regeneration company established by South Ayrshire Council to deliver regeneration activity within Ayr town centre.

James Knox (pictured above), who has served on the Ayr Renaissance board since 2009, takes up the position – which had been filled on a temporary basis over the last ten months by fellow Ayr Renaissance board member Evelyn McCann – with immediate effect.

James was born and brought up in Ayrshire – where his family have been rooted for many generations – and has known Ayr all his life. He has a degree in art history from Cambridge University and a Master of Business Administration from the international business school, INSEAD. His career has been spent as a publisher, writer and arts consultant and he is currently managing director of The Art Newspaper, the bible of the international art world. Although his job takes him all over the world, James continues to live at his family home near Coylton. 

In 2007, he launched the campaign in Scotland to save Dumfries House, arguing from the start that saving Dumfries House would act as the key to the regeneration of Cumnock and Auchinleck. Overcoming enormous obstacles – and with the backing of the Prince of Wales – the campaigners raised £45 million in three months and the house and estate were saved for the nation. James remains a trustee of the house and estate, which has become a model for cultural regeneration in action. He is also a trustee of the National Trust for Scotland and of the Boswell Trust, a charity set up by him and his wife to assist in the regeneration of Auchinleck through the restoration of biographer, James Boswell’s mausoleum in Auchinleck churchyard, and the staging of the annual Boswell Book Festival at Auchinleck House, which has attracted star authors and actors. 

James’s business career has been spent turning round independent publishing companies with troubled financial histories, most notably the Spectator magazine (the oldest publication in Britain). This has required a hard- headed business sense as well as the ability to generate ideas and think creatively. As an art consultant, he has worked for the Royal Collection, and commissioned a sculpture park for the Boots company round their factories in Nottingham, which was the largest private millennium commission in Britain. 

James has written a number of books, including the biography of the great architectural campaigner and travel writer, Robert Byron, and most recently The Scottish Country House (published in the UK and US) which features Dumfries House. 

Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council and a member of the Ayr Renaissance board, said: “I’m delighted James has been appointed as the second Chair of Ayr Renaissance and look forward to working with him in his new role. James has a wealth of skills, knowledge and experience, which I have no doubt we can all benefit from, and make full use of, to achieve what we want for Ayr town centre.

“It’s a really exciting time for the town with lots of positive and productive partnership working developing between Renaissance, the Council, town centre retailers and the local community and James’s drive, passion and ambition will take all of that to the next level.

“On behalf of the board and the Council, my thanks to Evelyn for steering things along over the last few months, and our congratulations to James on becoming Chair. I look forward to working with James, Evelyn, the rest of the board, local elected members and the people and businesses of this great town to help ensure we do what we can to help it achieve its full potential.” 

Following the confirmation of his appointment, James Knox said: “I have known and loved Ayr all my life. It is one of the most handsome towns in the south west of Scotland, and yet, in recent years it has suffered a sad decline, like many town centres across Britain.

“Ayr has so much going for it – a fascinating history peopled with the likes of Wallace, Bruce and Burns, a tempting collection of specialist shops and cosy cafés,  a wonderful sea front with breathtaking views, and so much more. 

“In leading Ayr Renaissance, I want us to think creatively and learn from the successes of other towns with similar problems. Above all, we must come up with answers inspired by Ayr itself and find a way to tap into the energy and ideas of the towns people themselves, who are truly passionate about the future of Ayr.

“I do not underestimate the challenge, and do not want to raise false hopes, but Ayr needs to reclaim its role as the jewel in the crown of the old county of Ayrshire – rising again as a vibrant town brimming with activities and businesses that are the pride and joy of its inhabitants. That’s the lasting transformation I want Ayr Renaissance to work towards and that’s what I want to help us achieve.”

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

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Oil exploration off south-west Scotland could go ahead post-independence

A Minister has confirmed that after an independence vote the Scottish Government would consider applications for exploratory oil and gas drilling rights off the south-west coast of Scotland.

As Scottish Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, Fergus Ewing (pictured above) was replying to a letter written by Elite Ayrshire Business Circle executive chairman Norman Geddes to First Minister Alex Salmond (pictured below).

Norman Geddes is managing partner at Frazer Coogans Commercial Solicitors, based in Ayr, as well as executive chairman of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

In his letter to Alex Salmond, Mr Geddes (pictured above) referred to recent newspaper revelations about how, back in the 1980s, the UK Ministry of Defence blocked oil companies from making further exploration off the coast of south-west Scotland after initial tests had indicated the likely presence in the area of recoverable reserves of oil and gas.

The reason given at the time was the proximity of the Trident base at Faslane, and that further drilling activities might interfere with nuclear submarine exercises.

These facts have come to light as a result of Freedom of Information requests by Chic Brodie MSP, and have been reported by Andrew Picken in three separate articles in the “Sunday Post” newspaper.

In his letter to Norman Geddes, Fergus Ewing wrote: “With independence, Scotland will obtain full control of offshore licensing and leases, which will create new opportunities to deliver community benefits from offshore development while giving due regard to the diverse marine environment. If there are exploration opportunities off Scotland’s shores then it is clear that these should be fully considered and encouraged where appropriate to do so.

“All proposals for exploration will be considered on their individual merits, and I would reiterate that there will be no “no-go” areas for exploration in Scottish waters.”

Norman Geddes commented: “I would like to congratulate Chic Brodie (pictured above) for his tireless work to bring this matter into the public domain, and Andrew Picken for his almost single-handed reporting of our efforts in the “Sunday Post”.

“If oil and gas are discovered off our coastline in recoverable quantities, it would transform the economy of Ayrshire and South-West Scotland, and also provide a significant boost to the prosperity of Scotland as a whole.” 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Christmas Message 2013 from South Ayrshire Provost Helen Moonie

[Pictured: Provost Helen Moonie with her official 2013 Christmas card and the painting “Two Children in the Snow” that inspired it (see note at end of message for details.]

It seems hardly any time at all since we all enjoyed the wonderful warm summer in South Ayrshire.

Now, as the year end approaches and we get ready to celebrate the festive season, I hope we can keep the summer warmth alive by taking a moment to keep an eye out for someone else this winter.

For some, Christmas can be a lonely, sad or difficult time and a cheery word or a knock at the door to see how someone is doing can make a world of difference.

I’m constantly amazed by the many people I meet who are true ‘unsung heroes’ – whether caring for a sick spouse or relative, making outstanding contributions to their community or facing adversity, but remaining determined to succeed.

Their great spirit, resolve, courage and determination is an inspiration which underpins my Christmas message for this year.

So, rather than just waiting for Christmas to come around, I hope we can find a renewed sense of purpose in the year ahead, to commit ourselves to do more for others every day, rather than just once a year.

With this in mind, I was delighted to lead a review earlier this year on how we support local deserving causes. It was an opportunity to find better ways of listening to, and helping others who are themselves committed to helping others.

The result is that South Ayrshire Council now supports eight charities: Ayr Housing Aid, Chernobyl Children’s Link, Gardening Leave, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, Riverside Care & Share Project, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (Girvan and Troon), Seascape and South Ayrshire Women’s Aid.

Their work is as far reaching as it is essential – and our support is a direct reflection on how important their public spiritedness is in making a difference for people from all walks of life.

2013 was also a year of bittersweet memories for me.

It was with sadness that we said goodbye to the service personnel at RAF Prestwick – and it delighted me to see so many people lining up to pay their own respects to the unit as they enjoyed their final parade in town.

More recently, we welcomed The Royal Regiment of Scotland, home from their tour of Afghanistan and it was with a sense of pride we granted them the honorary freedom of South Ayrshire.

I was also privileged throughout the year to share in many celebrations, receptions and community events – as well as attending the inauguration of the National Mining Memorial Centre, which has personal resonance for me.

Looking ahead to 2014, we have the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow firmly on the horizon. 

This will bring world nations to Scotland, showcasing their talents, putting themselves and their citizens on the map through teams and individuals who have worked together to be at the pinnacle of their chosen game. It’s a superb model of camaraderie and citizenship in action.

When the Queen’s Baton Relay arrives here on 20 June 2014, we have the opportunity to be at the top of our own game, by giving the baton a warm South Ayrshire welcome and cheering on those local people nominated as batonbearers, carrying the Queen’s message through the heart of our communities.

South Ayrshire is a great place to live, work and play – characterised by the great people who reside here.  That’s our ‘common wealth’ and we can build on it in 2014, by making it a year in which we come together, working harder than ever, to put this corner of Scotland on the map as a community where all are equal, valued and welcome.

Have a very merry Christmas and a bright and inspirational New Year.

[NOTE: The picture “Two Children in the Snow” which inspired Provost Helen Moonie's official Christmas card 2013 was painted by French artist Pauline Elise Léonide Bourges (1838-1910) and was bequeathed to the former burgh of Girvan by Richard Edmiston. The oil painting is now part of South Ayrshire Council’s art collection and will be on display at Rozelle during the winter.  

The Council’s  complete collection of oil and acrylic paintings is available to view at: and more information on all South Ayrshire museums and galleries can be found at:]

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

Friday, 13 December 2013

Festive cheers for shop window display winners!

Provost Helen Moonie has presented prizes to four town centre retailers marking the annual Ayr Town Centre Shop Window Display Awards, supported and judged by the Fort, Seafield and Wallacetown Community Council, Ayr Guildry, Ayr Rotary Club and the Ayr and Prestwick Lions Club.

This year the competition had a slightly different format, with three local shops receiving highly commended awards and one overall winner.

[Pictured receiving a Highly Commended award from Provost Helen Moonie were Lorraine Innes and Anne McClymont. Also pictured are Councillor Alan Dorans, Norman McLean and Olena Stewart from Fort, Seafield and Wallacetown Community Council, Michael Hitchon MBE, Dean of Ayr Guildry, Kevin Bell, President of Ayr Rotary Club and Robin White, President of Ayr and Prestwick Lions Club.]

Pillar Box on Newmarket Street won the first Highly Commended trophy for a Christmas scene featuring a life-sized white reindeer. Pictured above receiving the award from Provost Moonie, on behalf of owner Rosemary Dorans, Lorraine Innes and Anne McClymont said: "We're delighted to have had the display recognised, and the glass trophy is already in pride of place next to our reindeer.

Also Highly Commended was a festive display in an empty shop window – put together by staff at the Reiker and Rogerson's shoe shops, on behalf of the Newmarket Street Traders Association.

[Pictured above: Provost Helen Moonie presents a Highly Commended award to Jen Todd (Reiker) and Sarah Ghee (Rogersons). Also pictured are Councillor Alan Dorans, Norman McLean and Olena Stewart from Fort, Seafield and Wallacetown Community Council, Michael Hitchon MBE, Dean of Ayr Guildry, Kevin Bell, President of Ayr Rotary Club and Robin White, President of Ayr and Prestwick Lions Club and Malcolm Wilson of Ayr and Prestwick Lions Club.]

Pictured above, Jen Todd of Reiker and Sarah Ghee of Rogersons (on behalf of Jane Gordon) received the award from Provost Moonie who said: "None of us likes to see an empty shop, but Jen and Jane made a special effort to make sure the window display was cheery and festive, cleverly turning a potential eye-sore into something eye catching.

[Pictured above: Linda Watt and Kathleen Wilson of Jools, receive a Highly Commended award from Provost Helen Moonie. Also pictured are Councillor Alan Dorans, Norman McLean and Olena Stewart from Fort, Seafield and Wallacetown Community Council, Michael Hitchon MBE, Dean of Ayr Guildry, Kevin Bell, President of Ayr Rotary Club and Robin White, President of Ayr and Prestwick Lions Club.]

Just opposite this, Jools on Newmarket Street in Ayr won the third Highly Commended award and, pictured above presenting the trophy to Linda Watt on behalf of owner Linda Mitchell. Provost Moonie said: "Christmas is a special time of year and shopping is so much more festive and fun if local shops and retailers have an eye-catching display on show. The window at Jools looks superb!"

This year's winner of the Ayr Town Centre Shop Window Display Awards was Rotherwoods at Beresford Terrace, who completed two windows – one white festive living room and the other a light-hearted, fun scene featuring elves and Santa Claus, fast asleep in his comfy chair!

Provost Moonie said: "Rotherwoods are fully deserving of their win – the windows are fantastic and so much fun. They have been a real talking point in town and Santa's chair looks wonderfully comfortable. I hope he wakes up from his snooze in time to deliver the presents!"

[Pictured above: Winner of the Ayr Town Centre Shop Window Display competition was Rotherwoods, with Claire Bell, director, Karen Mitchell and Jocelyn Wilson receiving the trophy from Provost Moonie. Also pictured are Councillor Alan Dorans, Norman McLean and Olena Stewart from Fort, Seafield and Wallacetown Community Council, Michael Hitchon MBE, Dean of Ayr Guildry, Kevin Bell, President of Ayr Rotary Club and Robin White, President of Ayr and Prestwick Lions Club and Malcolm Wilson of Ayr and Prestwick Lions Club.]

Pictured above collecting the winning award from Provost Moonie were Alasdair and Claire Bell, directors, Karen Mitchell and Jocelyn Wilson. Claire said: "This is thrilling! We really wanted to do something special this year and worked hard to create the display, which was done to help raise some money for Clic Sargent.

"It's heartwarming when young children come into the shop with some pennies for the collection box and really does capture the festive spirit that giving is better than getting."

This year's judging panel consisted of Kevin Bell (Ayr Rotary Club), Robin White (Ayr and  Prestwick Lions Club), Michael Hitchon MBE (Dean of Ayr Guildry), Olena Stewart, Norman McLean of the Fort, Seafield and Wallacetown Community Council and they were joined by local councillor Allan Dorans.

Chair of the panel, Norman McLean added: "Ayr shops and retailers are the lifeblood of the town centre and it's especially pleasing when they take the time and effort to make their window displays look so festive.

"Not only does it give our town centre a bit of magical sparkle, it lifts the mood, is a bit of festive fun and captures shoppers' imaginations.

"On behalf of the judges, may I extend our sincere thanks and best wishes to all those who made that effort and wish our retailers, shoppers and visitors to the town a very Happy Christmas."

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

South Ayrshire Council website

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Festive message from Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council

The festive season for me is a time for reflection, considering progress over the year and looking at how we can do even better. This year, we’ve achieved so much.

In September, we launched our AMBITION enterprise and employment programme to support businesses, jobs, social enterprises and our local economy in a lasting way, changing lives and helping secure a great future for South Ayrshire.

More recently, the Scottish Government acquired Prestwick Airport, securing jobs and keeping the gateway to Ayrshire and Scotland well and truly open. I appreciate the hard work by our employees in the lead-up to this milestone, and we’ll continue to be involved as things move forward.

We’ve been making good progress on a number of fronts in 2013 - regenerating Ayr’s Lochside with a £9 million project; completing the Sailwest Project in Girvan; commissioning a new golf clubhouse at Belleisle; opening our Customer Service Centre  in Ayr; completing the modernisation of Forehill and Braehead primaries; starting work on a new Kirkmichael Primary; consulting on a new Ayr Academy; planning major changes to Marr College; and our school pupils achieving outstanding exam results once again.

We also hit two big milestones – the planning process for our new leisure facility in Girvan is now underway, working to make our vision a reality. Along with East Ayrshire Council, we established the Ayrshire Roads Alliance, which will be responsible for our roads service from April. This means a financial saving year-on-year while maintaining service levels and sharing best practice – a truly innovative approach for local government.

The way all organisations will deliver services is changing. We’ve played our part this year to shape older people’s services of the future, working with a range of organisations to deliver more support to older people where they need it − in their homes, helping them to remain independent longer.

With the Glasgow Commonwealth Games next year, interest in sport has never been higher and we’ve been promoting and supporting inclusive sports activities for all. We hope the Games will leave a lasting legacy with more people participating in, and supporting sports at all levels, leading to better physical and mental health.

Our commitment to arts and culture within our schools and communities has stayed strong and we’ve been working closely with South Ayrshire Arts Partnership to ensure we deliver a vibrant arts and culture programme for residents and visitors alike.

Welfare reform has been a big news story this year and it’s a major challenge for Councils. We’re doing all we can to provide co-ordinated and comprehensive support  where it’s needed most, and we’ll continue this in 2014.

I’ve spent time recently visiting businesses across South Ayrshire and am encouraged at the success stories and upbeat attitudes despite the difficult economic climate. Breathing new life into our towns is important and we’re making significant headway with the appointment of new town centre officers and a huge amount of positive partnership working.

A priority at the moment is our budget – we estimate we will need to save £22 million over the next three years, while maintaining the services our communities need. This is no mean feat, but our record of sound financial management stands us in good stead as we move forward.

However, for now, let’s concentrate on the festive season − a time for celebration, spending time with family, friends and neighbours. Although for many, it’s business as usual. So, please spare a thought for everyone who will be working to deliver vital services while most of us are taking time off and relaxing.

Please also remember the vulnerable, frail or elderly in our communities who may need a bit more support at this time of year. Think about how you can help and make a real difference to them.

Most of all, have a peaceful Christmas and a healthy and contented New Year.

Bill McIntosh
Leader of South Ayrshire Council

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Scottish independence can meet economic challenges

Scotland’s economy will benefit from independence over the uncertainty that would face the country within the UK, Finance Secretary John Swinney said today. 

Speaking at the first annual Policy Scotland lecture at Glasgow University Mr Swinney (pictured above) said that Scotland’s economic performance has improved significantly since 1999, with Scotland reaching similar levels of productivity and earnings to the rest of the UK. He added that independence provides the opportunity to go further by creating more jobs.

Mr Swinney said that where Scotland’s Future addresses the challenges facing the Scottish Economy – the unequal and imbalanced structure of the UK is holding Scotland back.

The Finance Secretary said: “In Scotland’s Future people now have a vision of how independence will work and of what independence can offer.

“Scotland’s Future identifies the challenges Scotland face if our economy is to compete with the most dynamic economies in the world and if we are to increase levels of equality and participation at home.

“But where Scotland’s Future shows how the tools of independence can be used to meet those challenges, those opposed to independence have yet to say how remaining in a state as economically imbalanced as the UK can benefit Scotland.”

In his speech Mr Swinney highlighted the success already delivered with devolution and the benefits independence can bring: “With the limited powers of devolution, we have already seen an improved performance across a range of key economic indicators, both in absolute terms and relative to the rest of the UK.

“Since 1999 productivity has increased to match UK levels, full-time weekly pay has increased from 5 per cent below UK levels to within 2 per cent and Scotland’s employment rate has moved from a position of 2.4 percentage points below the UK to 1.0 percentage point higher in 2013.

“There is therefore good evidence that taking decisions in Scotland works.

“Through the transfer of additional powers, future Scottish governments could create a genuinely appropriate set of complementary policies - whether in relation to taxation, innovation, labour market regulation or industrial policy. 

“We can create prosperity through a genuine social partnership between business, the public sector, trade unions, the third sector and universities, and distribute that wealth more fairly and more equally than it is at present. 

“A country of Scotland’s size is well placed to build consensus in the key strategic areas and deliver policy which best meets the needs of the Scottish economy and Scottish business.”

Monday, 9 December 2013

Expectations for house price growth continue to rise in Scotland

Expectations for future house price growth in Scotland continued to rise during November as the amount of homes coming onto the country’s market, once again, fell well short of rapidly rising buyer demand, according to the November 2013 survey released by RICS Scotland (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors).

52 percent more chartered surveyors across Scotland predict prices to continue their upward trend rather than fall back over the coming three months. This is the highest reading since July 2007 and demonstrates the impact that the recovery in demand, together with limited supply, is having on the housing market. 

Meanwhile, last month saw prices remain steady, with a net balance of 42 percent more respondents reporting price growth in Scotland. Significantly, each region of the United Kingdom saw prices rise for the second successive month. While there are still some areas of the UK that are struggling, it appears that, on the whole, the UK markets are now responding to the  incentives provided by governments and better economic news.  

Sarah Speirs, Director RICS Scotland, commented: “It’s no secret that the housing market is on the way up and prices are rising in many parts of Scotland. We are still very concerned about the lack of both new and existing homes coming on to the market. This issue is one of many which the Scottish Housing Commission, launched by RICS Scotland earlier this year, will seek to address and we will publish our report findings in early 2014.”

Looking ahead, with the economic recovery gaining traction across Scotland, predictions for the rate of increase in future transaction levels hit a record level. A net balance of 78 percent of surveyors expect sales levels to increase as we head into the New Year, assisted, in part, by the Scottish Government’s Help to Buy. 

Rory Ballantyne MRICS, Ballantynes Edinburgh, commented: “The recent Help to Buy announcements have continued to boost buyer confidence in the Scottish housing market, with sales volumes up significantly across both our established homes and new build developments.”

Friday, 6 December 2013

Chef Mafiz Ali to host Christmas Carols by Candlelight at Ayr Spice Minishant Restaurant

This coming Tuesday 10 December top chef Mafiz Ali will be hosting an evening of Christmas Carols by Candlelight at Ayr Spice Minishant Restaurant.

This event consists of a programme of carols followed by a buffet meal featuring both traditional Scottish and Indian / Bangladeshi cuisine. 

Girvan Primary School Choir conducted by Wendy-Ann Wilson will perform two groups of carols and there will be five traditional community carols for all to sing as well. 

The Choir will be accompanied by retired international concert pianist Jack McChesney.

All profits will go to West Sound Radio’s Cash for Kids Appeal. 

Cash for Kids responds to the needs of children in our communities so they can live life to the full and realise their individual potential.

Based across 21 areas in the UK, at the heart of your favourite radio stations, we support children aged 0-18 who are disabled, disadvantaged or suffering from abuse or neglect.

Tickets £13.95 each. 

Booking essential for this event. Telephone Jack McChesney on 01292 281061 or mobile 07926 939566 or e-mail 

Ayr Spice Minishant Restaurant

Ayr Spice Indian Cuisine can be found in the fine old red sandstone Memorial church at the entrance to the picturesque village of Minishant, 5 miles south of Ayr on the A77. The church was erected by the thread magnate Sir Peter Coats of nearby Auchendrane, in loving memory of his wife Glorianna, who died in 1877.

Indian food can be simple or elaborate, humble or opulent, within a culinary tradition that is centuries old. The unique gift of Indian cuisine is its inspired use of exotic spices and the finest fresh ingredients. Proprietor Mafiz Ali and his team at Ayr Spice are determined to bring you the best of that tradition, and look forward to welcoming you.

Mafiz Ali
Ayr Spice Indian Restaurant
The Old Minishant Memorial Church
22 Ayr Road
KA19 8EX

Tel: 01292 441 413

Ayr Spice Minishant Restaurant is a member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle. 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Leading Ayrshire solicitor backs campaign to increase public awareness about Power of Attorney

Leading Ayrshire solicitor Norman Geddes (pictured below), managing partner at Frazer Coogans Solicitors, is lending his support to a campaign urging the public to discuss the future with relatives who might be at risk of losing the capacity to make decisions about their care and welfare.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Glasgow City Council want to persuade families to “start the conversation” with relatives about putting a Power of Attorney in place. A Power of Attorney is a signed and witnessed legal document which allows a relative or trusted friend to step in if the person executing it is taken ill and becomes unable to make the necessary decisions for him or herself.

It is understood that the lack of a Power of Attorney in place is responsible for delaying the discharge of many patients from hospital.

The lack of a Power of Attorney in place can also lead to financial difficulties for a person who becomes incapacitated and unable to operate their bank account. This is especially true for people who run their own business.  

The awareness campaign includes three TV advertisements which started screening last Sunday featuring the actor Johnnie Beattie and his daughter Maureen, and broadcasting brothers Sanjeev and Hardeep Kohli.

A Power of Attorney is an authority given by an individual to another person or persons to deal with certain aspects of their affairs. The Power of Attorney can relate to financial and property matters, or personal welfare, or a combination of both.

Norman Geddes commented: “The vast majority of us realise the necessity of making financial provision for possible adverse future circumstances, most notably perhaps insuring the life of a family’s chief breadwinner.

“But other adverse circumstances which might occur in the future also include a person becoming physically or mentally incapable of making proper decisions about their financial affairs or how they can best be looked after.

“The best way to prepare for this possibility is to execute a Power of Attorney in favour of a trusted relative or friend.

“The process is straightforward and relatively inexpensive, but requires the advice and guidance of a qualified solicitor.

“The result is increased peace of mind about the future, and I am pleased to back this public awareness campaign by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Glasgow City Council.”

For further information go to the Public Guardian (Scotland) website: CLICK HERE

Frazer Coogans Solicitors
Dalblair House
46 Dalblair Road

Contact: Austin Thomson 
Tel: 01292 280499 
Fax: 01292 611645 

Frazer Coogans Solicitors is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle. 

CKD Galbraith offer Ayrshire country house with stables and grazing land

Leading independent Scottish property consultancy CKD Galbraith are offering for sale The Spott, Stewarton, Ayrshire, a lovely country house with generously proportioned accommodation, landscaped gardens, stabling and grazing land of approximately 10 acres.

The Spott is a superb extended farmhouse, available at Offers Over £550,000.  Situated off a quiet country road yet close to the ever popular town of Stewarton The Spott commands fine views over its own landscaped gardens and the surrounding countryside.  

The property has been thoroughly renovated and offers very flexible accommodation with an attached 3 bedroom cottage completed in 2000, which complements the accommodation of the main farmhouse.  The Spott is well equipped offering a traditional farmhouse kitchen with gas range and a cosy sitting room with log burning stove.  A split level lounge offers more formal accommodation and has an open fire and panoramic views.  In addition there is a dining room, utility/pantry and a bedroom on the ground floor.   Three further bedrooms and a shower room complete the accommodation on the first floor.

The Spott overlooks well tended gardens which have been carefully planted with a variety of trees and shrubs and a sheltered patio is a wonderful seating area to enjoy the views.  A summer house and hot tub are located adjacent to the house.  In addition The Spott offers excellent equestrian facilities which are practically designed with a separate entrance and a small turnout paddock.  There are 5 stables in total, a hay store, shed and the thoughtful addition of a conservatory which adjoins the stables and provides a lovely relaxation area or a little warmth on a Winter’s day.

Grazing land of approximately 10 acres extends to the Cuts Burn on the northern boundary and is well fenced.  The nearby Lainshaw Estate and Woodlands offer a network of quiet hacking routes.

The Spott offers all the benefits of rural living yet is within easy reach of Glasgow city centre and Glasgow International Airport.

About CKD Galbraith 

CKD Galbraith is an independent property consultancy employing 250 staff in offices in Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, Cupar, Inverness, Aberfeldy, Castle Douglas, Ayr, Elgin, Galashiels, Kelso, Peebles, Alyth and Aberdeen. 

The partnership provides the full range of property consulting services across the residential, commercial, rural and renewable energy sectors throughout Scotland. CKD Galbraith also enjoys a successful relationship with its associate firm in London, CKD Kennedy Macpherson.

For further information:

CKD Galbraith 
7 Killoch Place 
Ayr KA7 2EA 
Ayrshire, Scotland 

Contact: R A Cherry BSc MRICS 
Tel: 01292 268181 
Fax: 01292 292300 

CKD Galbraith’s Ayr Office is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Finance Secretary warns Chancellor against further cuts

The UK Government must take action to support a sustained economic recovery through additional capital investment, improved access to finance and no additional cuts to spending, Finance Secretary John Swinney has stated in a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.

Mr Swinney (pictured above) has written to the Chancellor ahead of the Autumn Statement on December 5. The letter highlights the Scottish Government’s rejection of Westminster’s approach to the economy and public finances and sets out a number of priorities that the Scottish Government believe should be addressed in the Autumn Statement.

The letter also warns the Chancellor that in-year budget cuts – as the UK Government has imposed in previous years – are not acceptable and that the Scottish budget agreed by Parliament should be respected.

Earlier this week the Scottish Government launched Scotland’s Future – Your Guide to an Independent Scotland, showing that with the full set of economic levers at its disposal Scotland would be able to build greater long-term economic security, growth and job opportunities.

Mr Swinney said: “The current Westminster system is fundamentally flawed and has created one of the largest gaps between rich and poor in the developed world.

“While we are now seeing promising signs of economic growth, the fact that Westminster is now forecast to borrow over £240 billion more between 2011-12 and 2015-16 than it initially planned in June 2010, underlines the failure of the UK Government’s approach to the economy.

“The Scottish Government is doing all it can, within its limited powers, to support Scottish finances. The latest Scottish GDP figures show the economy is growing 1.8 per cent, which is faster than the UK, while our employment, unemployment and inactivity rates are the strongest of the four nations of the UK.

“However, successive UK budgets and Autumn Statements have undermined the Scottish Government’s ability to support economic revival, particularly through the significant cuts the Chancellor has made to capital investment over the spending review period and, in some cases, the in-year reductions he has made to the Scottish Government’s published spending plans.

“The UK Government retains the right to take money out of our budget mid-year and has done so in the past. It is not only deeply damaging to our plans for investment and to our public services such cuts completely fail to respect devolution and I have urged the Chancellor to assure me that there will be no such cuts in the future.

“There remains a need for additional direct capital investment to support recovery, and it is vital to ensure small businesses have access to finance. There is also a need for serious investment in energy infrastructure over the coming years to help deliver renewable generation across Scotland and the UK. We believe beyond doubt that the current Electric Market Reform proposals risk failing Scotland and the UK in a number of vital areas, and present a huge risk to UK security of supply as well as to investor confidence and our low carbon ambitions.

“As Scotland’s Future shows, an independent Scotland could build a more sustainable economy by delivering an effective industrial strategy, boosting productivity and exports and increasing innovation and participation in the workforce.

“However, until Scotland decides on its future, it is essential that the Chancellor and the UK Government adopts a new approach to ensure that we see a sustained economic recovery, and that the benefits of this are widely shared.

The Finance Secretary has called on the Chancellor to:

Provide assurance that there will be no more in-year cuts to the Scottish Budget. The March 2013 UK Budget applied reductions to the Scottish Government’s published spending plans for 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Provide additional capital investment to support sustainable and broad-based economic recovery and make the country as a whole more internationally competitive.

Invest in energy infrastructure to help deliver renewable generation across Scotland and the UK, arguing that the UK Government’s current proposals are putting the creation of a strong, domestic renewables sector and supply chain at risk, and could undermine Scotland’s security of supply.

Make access to finance easier for SMEs across Scotland. In particular it is important that UK wide schemes – such as the Enterprise Finance Guarantee and Funding for Lending Scheme are readily accessible to Scottish businesses.

Reconsider the UK Government’s decision not to pass on the full external convergence uplift to the Common Agricultural Policy budget to Scotland’s agricultural sector, despite the fact that this allocation is a result of Scotland having one of the lowest per hectare payment rates in the EU.

Make sure the negative impacts of welfare reform are not exacerbated by further announcements made in the Autumn Statement. The Scottish Government has consistently highlighted its view that many of the changes being introduced as a result of the UK Government’s programme of welfare reform are set to impact on some of the most vulnerable in society, and will have a wide range of implications for the organisations helping those affected.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Ayr Racecourse announces William Hill and QTS sponsorship extensions

By: Iain Ferguson

Ayr Racecourse has received a double boost on the sponsorship front.

Firstly it was announced William Hill have extended their sponsorship of the Ayr Gold Cup Festival by three years until September 2016 and then the QTS Group agreed to support sponsor Ladies Night at the track on 9 August next year in addition to sponsoring the Scottish Champion Hurdle in April.

[Jockey Oisin Murphy celebrates his triumph on his mount Highland Colon at the 2013 William Hill Gold Cup at Ayr Racecourse.]

William Hill have sponsored the festival since 2009 and during that time the fixture has grown in stature and this year the third and final day featuring the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup was for the first time Channel 4’s showcase meeting on the day.

The bookmaking giant initially signed a three year deal with Ayr Racecourse in 2009 and renewed that in 2011 with a two year deal that ended in September this year. This latest extension was welcomed by both parties.

The contract covers full naming rights of the Festival and sponsorships of the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup – Europe’s most valuable sprint handicap, the Silver and Bronze Cups, plus the Doonside Cup, Ayrshire Handicap and Kilkerran Cup.

Jennie Prest, Sponsorship & PR Manager for William Hill said: “We are delighted to be renewing our sponsorship of the Gold Cup Festival once again, and to be continuing our now long standing relationship with the team at Ayr Racecourse. 

“Year-on-year the meeting is popular with both the punters, who love the challenge of the Bronze, Silver and Gold Cups and the racegoers, who are always treated to a superb Scottish welcome. We look forward to working alongside the course to ensure the meeting continues to be a success each year.”

Ayr Racecourse Chairman Alan Macdonald (pictured above) welcomed the extension and said: “William Hill and the Ayr Gold Cup Festival has proved to be a good fit and is now firmly established as one of the best working sponsorship partnerships in horse racing.

“By signing this three year extension both parties can look forward to continuing to work together to maintain and increase the profile of this marvellous three days of racing which is without doubt one of the highlights of the flat season in the UK.” 

QTS first took naming rights to the glamorous Ladies Night at Ayr last year and prior to that  sponsored a race on the card.

Based in Drumclog, Lanarkshire QTS was founded in 1992 originally as a tree surgeon business and now provides an extensive range of engineering infrastructure and training services to major organisations across the rail, utilities, construction and public sectors.

The group is also one of the UK’s largest providers of rail operations, working very closely with Network Rail and other major suppliers.  With various engineering and infrastructure contracts, as well as providing market leading training courses, the company is a one stop shop for most business needs. 

Alan McLeish (pictured above), MD of QTS Group commented: “We are really excited by the prospects of working with Ayr Racecourse for the upcoming year. The QTS Champion Hurdle was a great success this year and we are looking forward to repeating in 2014.

“When we signed up to sponsor Ladies Night this year we knew straightaway that this was a great social event and I’m proud to say that we will support the racecourse next year  as we continue to sponsor Scotland’s premier ladies night.”

Alan Macdonald added: “I am naturally delighted that QTS are sponsoring both Ladies Night and the Scottish Champion Hurdle again next year. It further underlines the partnership we have built up.

“It is important we have high quality sponsors to help us provide the best racing and days out possible for our racegoers. Having a major company like QTS as sponsor is a huge boost.”

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.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

CKD Galbraith offer luxurious family country home in South Ayrshire

Leading independent Scottish property consultancy CKD Galbraith is offering for sale Burton Cottage, an outstanding conversion of two traditional country cottages to form a wonderful family home with an excellent level of specification.

Burton Cottage is a truly wonderful conversion of two traditional stone cottages by Dawn Developments, available at offers over £495,000. Situated within a secluded, sheltered plot on the edge of the Carrick Hills, Burton Cottage enjoys fine country views yet is within walking distance of the amenities of Doonfoot and Ayr Shore.

The property extends to approximately 213 square meters and offers generously proportioned accommodation on one level. Glazed oak doors open to a spacious reception hall with bright aspects towards the patio at the rear and stream beyond. 

The lounge is an equally bright room with double aspect windows. 

The dining kitchen is the hub of the house and is fully fitted with a range of bespoke handmade units by Alno incorporating an induction hob, central island and granite worktops. Kardean flooring runs through the kitchen to the sun room which is a wonderfully relaxing area. Bi-folding doors form a bay window around the sun room opening to the landscaped gardens and ideal for summer entertaining.

Five bedrooms and a family bathroom complete the accommodation – two bedrooms have en suite shower rooms and all sanitary ware is Porcelanosa.

Burton Cottage occupies a sheltered plot of approximately one acre entered via electric gates which opens to a gravel sweep at the front of the house and lit by low level lighting. The gardens are fully landscaped and planted with a variety of shrubs and bushes. A large decked patio is enclosed and overlooks a small stream at the rear and in addition there is an integrated double garage with electric doors.  

Burton Cottage is a luxurious country home formed from traditional cottages and enjoys all the benefits of rural living within easy reach of local amenities.

About CKD Galbraith 

CKD Galbraith is an independent property consultancy employing 250 staff in offices in Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, Cupar, Inverness, Aberfeldy, Castle Douglas, Ayr, Elgin, Galashiels, Kelso, Peebles, Alyth and Aberdeen. 

The partnership provides the full range of property consulting services across the residential, commercial, rural and renewable energy sectors throughout Scotland. CKD Galbraith also enjoys a successful relationship with its associate firm in London, CKD Kennedy Macpherson.

CKD Galbraith’s Ayr Office is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

First Minister Alex Salmond launches blueprint for independent Scotland

First Minister Alex Salmond today launched the “most comprehensive blueprint for an independent country ever published” - Scotland’s Future – Your Guide to an Independent Scotland.

The guide, which runs to 670 pages and 170,000 words, outlines the shape of the thriving Scotland that will emerge in the event of a vote for independence in next year’s referendum. It also offers a transformational vision of work and social policy, with a revolution in childcare at its heart.

The guide sets out the case for independence and outlines the journey, following a yes vote on 18 September next year, that Scotland will make to independence day on 24 March 2016.

The guide is structured in five parts:

• An overview of the case for independence, including why Scotland needs independence and what a newly independent Scotland will look like.

• A description of the strengths of Scotland’s national finances, a projection of Scotland’s opening financial position at the point of independence and the current Scottish Government’s priorities for the first term of a Scottish Parliament if elected in the May 2016 elections.

• A detailed analysis of the changes needed across Scotland, the opportunities that independence provides for any future Scottish government to make those changes, and the particular priorities for action identified by this government. 

• The timescale and process for Scotland to become an independent country following a yes vote; the transition that will take place and the negotiations and agreements that will be required. It also sets out the opportunities for a modern democracy with a written constitution and describes how equality and human rights will be protected and promoted.

• The answers to 650 detailed questions about the opportunities and practicalities of independence.

The guide, published today, includes details of the savings that can be made with independence, including half a billion pounds on defence spending and savings from no longer contributing to the funding of the Westminster Parliament.

It also outlines the Scottish Government’s policies on issues such as currency, international representation - including independent and equal membership of the European Union - citizenship, defence and security, the harnessing of Scotland’s natural resources for the benefit of current and future generations and the fiscal levers necessary to grow the Scottish economy.

The guide also details a range of polices that would be introduced if the current Scottish Government is elected to be the government of an independent Scotland, including:

• A transformation in childcare, helping more women into work and providing up to 35,000 jobs.

• A safe, triple-locked pension that meets Scotland’s needs and puts more money in the pockets of our pensioners.

• A guaranteed minimum wage that rises alongside the cost of living to make sure the lowest paid get a fair wage for a fair days work.

• Basic rate tax allowances and tax credits that will also rise at least in line with inflation.

• A change to the way ‘green levies’ are paid for - saving families around £70 a year on their energy bills.

• A fairer welfare system, including a halt to the rollout of Universal Credit and the abolition of the ‘Bedroom Tax’.

• A productivity and competitive boost to secure the position of Scottish business.

The First Minister said: “This is the most comprehensive blueprint for an independent country ever published, not just for Scotland but for any prospective independent nation.

“But more than that, it is a mission statement and a prospectus for the kind of country we should be and which this Government believes we can be.

“Our vision is of an independent Scotland regaining its place as an equal member of the family of nations – however, we do not seek independence as an end in itself, but rather as a means to changing Scotland for the better.

"We know we have the people, the skills and resources to make Scotland a more successful country. What we need now are the economic tools and powers to build a more competitive, dynamic economy and create more jobs.

“This guide contains policies which offer nothing less than a revolution in employment and social policy for Scotland, with a transformational change in childcare at the heart of those plans. Our proposals will make it far easier for parents to balance work and family life and will allow many more people, especially women, to move into the workforce, fostering economic growth and helping to boost revenues - which will in itself help pay for the policy.

“With these policies, we can begin the job of undoing the damage caused by the vast social disparities which have seen the UK become one of the most unequal societies in the developed world.

“And we believe it is only with the powers of Independence - by completing the powers of our national Parliament - that we will gain the tools we need to create a more prosperous and fairer society.”

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We want as many people as possible across Scotland to read the guide and make up their own minds about Scotland’s future.

“This is an incredibly thorough and detailed guide, which includes 650 questions about an independent Scotland – and delivers on the answers.

“When it comes to social equality, health, quality of life and economic performance, Scotland has too often lagged behind the performance of our near neighbours across Northern Europe – many of them countries of similar size to Scotland.

“We know that Scotland has huge natural resources and enormous talent among our communities and our workforce – but only independence will give us the ability to make the most of our potential. This is an unprecedented chance to transform our country for the better. Our employment and social policy proposals contained in this guide, including the revolution in childcare, show what is possible.

“It illustrates how the powers of independence can be used to benefit individuals, families, communities and the nation as a whole - and it has economic growth, jobs and fairness at its heart.

“This is the only detailed plan for Scotland’s future, and today’s publication marks a decisive shift in the debate on what that future should be.”