The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

First Minister's New Year message 2015

Nicola Sturgeon highlights priorities for the coming year



Speaking from the maternity unit at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The staff who work here are just some of the tens of thousands across our National Health Service who give up time with their loved ones over Christmas and New Year to care for the rest of us.

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all of them and to the many others who work so hard, not just over the festive period, but all year round to provide us with the best possible care.


“The terrible events in Glasgow last week reminded us again of how much we owe our emergency services. Day in, day out, our police, ambulance and fire services go beyond the call of duty to look after us.

“Our thoughts and prayers today remain with the bereaved and all those affected by last week’s tragedy; and our heartfelt thanks go to those who are rallying round to provide them with love and support.

“As we look forward to a new year, it is worth thinking about the babies in this maternity ward - and about the sort of country we want them to grow up in.


“These young children are lucky to have been born into an NHS that is free at the point of need. 

“Your Scottish Government - a government that I am now proud to lead - is determined to protect that principle, and we will work every day to support and improve our public national health service. 

“As the boys and girls here grow up, we also want them to benefit from high quality pre-school care. That’s why in 2015, we will significantly expand childcare for two year olds – and move forward with our even more ambitious plans for the future. 

“And as these babies become young adults, we want to ensure that they have the opportunity to fulfil their potential in whatever career they choose. 

“I am proud that this government restored the principle of free higher education - a principle I benefitted from as a young girl.

“Now I am determined that we will step up our work to close the attainment gap between schools in different parts of Scotland, so that more young people can take advantage of that free education.

“We will also continue to support a record number of modern apprenticeships, to give our young people the skills they need and help our businesses to innovate, export and expand. 

“And we will strive to create opportunities for all. The baby girls in this maternity unit deserve the same chances in life as the baby boys - the chance to succeed in fields like science and engineering, and to become senior managers, board members, even First Ministers.

“The simple fact is that if we can give every child here a fair chance to fulfil their potential, we will build a stronger, happier and more successful country. 

“Doing everything I can to make that a reality is my New Year resolution and it is one my government – in partnership with many across our country - will be focussed on throughout next year.

“Despite the great sadness of recent days, there is no doubt that 2014 has been the most extraordinary year for our country. Our economy has grown and unemployment has fallen. We hosted a hugely successful Ryder Cup, and staged the best ever Commonwealth Games. 

“And we had a referendum recognised around the world as a shining example of democratic engagement. A referendum that - regardless of which way you voted - empowered all of us in this country like never before.

“As the bells chime on Hogmanay, I hope that the spirit of empowerment that so lit up 2014, will guide us into the New Year. Let's resolve not to slip back to business as usual. 

“Instead, let us harness the wonderful enthusiasm and engagement of 2014 and use it to build a fairer and more prosperous Scotland for these babies to grow up in.

“Wherever you are, in Scotland or around the world; at home with family and friends, or at work – let me wish each and every one of you all the very best for a happy, peaceful and prosperous 2015.”


Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Marie Macklin awarded CBE

By: Murdoch MacDonald

Kilmarnock-based entrepreneur and business woman Marie Macklin has been appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s New Year Honours list 2015.

The award citation reads “for services to economic regeneration and entrepreneurship in Scotland.”


Commenting on the honour, Marie Macklin (pictured above) told Ayrshire Scotland Business News: “Words can’t express how I felt when I learned I was to be recognised in this way. I’m overwhelmed. I feel both privileged and proud to receive this honour. 

“I’m the first to recognise that this is also a reflection of the endeavour and commitment of those around me, who have persevered with me in taking on difficult challenges. It has been all the more satisfying to see people living and working in buildings we’ve created in regeneration schemes that others have considered ‘too difficult’.

“I’ve been privileged to work alongside bright and talented young people, encouraging them to consider business as a career, and to help creative and energetic entrepreneurs to make the most of their talents.” 

Marie Macklin is Chief Executive of The Klin Group, an entrepreneurial company engaged in economic and social transformation in Scotland. This second-generation family business is distinguished by an inspired and creative approach to investment and economic regeneration. The company’s foundations are in revitalising land and property and investing in challenging and demanding initiatives which help to transform communities. 

Marie Macklin has a background in construction, financial services and banking. She is a member of the Board of Ayrshire College and Business Patron to Centrestage Music Theatre, an Ayrshire social enterprise arts organisation. In 2013 she received the Association of Scottish Businesswomen’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to business. 

Under her leadership, The Klin Group was one of the first private investors in the regeneration of Tollcross in Glasgow, completing several brownfield housing developments which helped to stimulate further third party investment in the area. 

The Klin Group has continued to redevelop brownfield sites throughout Scotland.

During 2003, the company introduced the first WM Morrison supermarket to Scotland, at Kilmarnock, as part of a £60million redevelopment package. This included the transformation of two historic category B listed derelict town centre properties, one the former headquarters of Andrew Barclay & Son, a world-leading steam locomotive manufacturer, the other a derelict Victorian opera house.  

Marie Macklin has a long-established commitment to the development, excellence and philanthropy of young people. She actively encourages entrepreneurs by advising, investing in, sponsoring and supporting local schools, colleges, arts and community organisations to engage young people in business. She is a mentor for Entrepreneurial Spark Enterprise and assists female entrepreneurs to build business networks through her initiative, ‘Women in Enterprise’ at Ayrshire Association of Businesswomen. This initiative is to be extended in 2015 through The Association of Scottish Businesswomen.


Monday, 29 December 2014

Trio of humanitarians reach finals of prestigious Burns Award 2015

Three outstanding nominees have reached the finals of a prestigious global humanitarian award, The Robert Burns Humanitarian Award, named after Ayrshire’s most famous son, Scots Bard Robert Burns.

Olivia Giles OBE, Sompop Jantraka and Dr Sanduk Ruit have been shortlisted for the award, which is supported by South Ayrshire Council.


Olivia Giles (pictured above) is a lawyer from Edinburgh who became a quadruple amputee after contracting meningococcal septicaemia in 2002 – an illness which almost killed her. After recovering, she made a conscious decision not to go back to her old job, deciding that she wanted to do something more than just develop a ‘nice career’. In 2007 she founded the charity 500 Miles, which supplies prosthetic limbs to developing countries and, through her work, she has helped hundreds of amputees regain some form of independence. 


Dr Sanduk Ruit (pictured above) founded the Tilganga Eye Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal, in 1994 – the first out-patient cataract surgery facility in the Himalayan region. In 1995, along with fellow ophthalmologist Dr Geoffrey Tabin, Dr Ruit founded the charity Himalayan Cataract Project. The aim of the charity is to bring eyesight back to anyone who needs it, regardless of their ability to pay – and to do this with pre- and post-operative care that rivals the highest quality health care in the world. Dr Ruit has dedicated his life to eradicating unnecessary blindness.


Sompop Jantraka (pictured above) is a Thai activist who has worked for the past 26 years to rescue children from exploitative labour, prostitution and child trafficking. In 1989 he founded the Daughters Education Programme (DEP), funding education in order to prevent vulnerable girls being forced into the sex industry. His work has directly saved young women from being sold into prostitution by poor farming families. His work proves that women can be more valuable to Thailand as educated members of the work force than as sex slaves.

All of the finalists were delighted to hear of their nomination and shortlisting.

Olivia said: "I am delighted and honoured to have been shortlisted for the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award 2015. Burns' humanitarian values and global outlook both resonate strongly with me and to be associated with his name and memory is, to a proud Scot such as me, a source of enormous inspiration."

Sanduk said: "The news has touched my soul! The RBHA award means a lot to the dozen organisations that I am involved with globally for alleviation of blindness and for the profile of Nepal."

Sompop said: “Being nominated for the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award is a true honour and I am humbled and delighted that I am being considered for this. I am sure all the nominees are very deserving and to have been selected is a big and welcome surprise.”

The Robert Burns Humanitarian Award recognises a group or individual who has saved, improved or enriched the lives of others or society as a whole, through personal self-sacrifice, selfless service or 'hands-on' charitable work. Winners receive the equivalent of 1759 guineas – a sum which signifies the year of the Bard’s birth and the coinage then in circulation – as well as a specially commissioned award handcrafted in Scotland.

This year a record number of 120 nominations were received with Olivia, Sanduk and Sompop eventually selected as finalists by the RBHA Judging Panel, chaired by Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council. 

Also on the panel are Jane Brown, President of the Robert Burns World Federation; John Cairney, actor, writer and painter; John Duncan QPM, Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire & Arran; Heather Dunk, Principal Ayrshire College; David Hopes, Director of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum; David Leask, Herald Reporter; Habib Malik and Guy Willoughby former RBHA winners and STV Chief Executive Rob Woodward.

The Herald Newspaper Group continued their media partnership with the event, promoting it widely through their publications and online.

South Ayrshire Council Leader Councillor Bill McIntosh said: “The RBHA has really captured people’s imaginations this year and the record number of nominations is very pleasing.

“Once again, we have three very worthy finalists in the running for the Award, each of whom undertakes far reaching and important humanitarian works, consistently putting themselves before others.

“Rabbie’s ethos and values live on here at home as well as further afield and I’m he’d have approved of each of our worthy finalists, to whom I offer my sincere congratulations and best wishes, ahead of the awards ceremony on 22 January – the Bard’s birthday.”

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop said: “Robert Burns is recognised internationally as a champion of social justice and humanitarianism and this legacy endures through these awards.

“The nominees are again an inspiration. Their work and dedication are an example to us all on how to act more generously, selflessly and with greater kindness towards others. 

“They join a select group of individuals – both previous winners and nominees – who have a shown an incredible generosity of spirit and drive to improve humanity for the benefit of all.” 

Further information on the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award can be found at www.robertburnsaward.com and the winner will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday 22 January 2014 at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.

The Robert Burns Humanitarian Award takes place during the annual Alloway 1759 Festival, a unique commemoration of the birthplace, life and works of Robert Burns. Celebrating its sixth anniversary in 2014, Alloway 1759 offers an impressive line-up of well-known names as well as some brand-new events. With lots of fun, free events and popular paid-for productions, Alloway 1759 has something for everyone. 

Full details available at www.alloway1759.com  

The Robert Burns Humanitarian Award is part of Scotland’s Winter Festivals, a programme of events funded by Scottish Government and managed by EventScotland. 

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


Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Scottish economy makes further headway

2014 has been a positive year for the Scottish economy

Scotland’s economy is on track to record its strongest performance this year since 2007. 

After a vigorous pace of growth in the first half of 2014, economic indicators point to the positive momentum continuing in the second half of the year. With two years of continuous growth the economy remains in expansion mode.


The labour market has also continued to improve with employment growth and unemployment moving back down towards its pre-crisis average. 2015 may see continued headwinds from Europe and the global economy, but with strong growth in some of our major export markets and a positive domestic picture the outlook remains confident and growth in Scotland’s economy should stabilise at close to its historical average next year. 

Challenges remain, for example, whilst the recent volatility and low oil prices has helped reduced costs for some industries and provided a boost to households, it has also caused uncertainty for North Sea operators. Whilst expectations are for prices to start to rise again next year further reforms to the North Sea tax regime are likely to be required to support long term growth in the sector.

This outlook was confirmed earlier this month in the Scottish Government Chief Economist Dr Gary Gillespie’s State of the Economy report which also highlighted: 

• The labour market has continued to benefit from the strength in demand and flexible supply. Solid jobs growth has increased employment and helped push down the headline unemployment rate. Real wage growth is still muted although this year has seen the first modest increase since 2008.

• Evidence on rebalancing within the economy this year is mixed. Strong consumption – underpinned by household confidence buoyed by better employment prospects and rising house prices – and growing investment have been offset to some degree by more difficult trading conditions for exporters. 

• Economic conditions, whilst at their strongest since 2007, have yet to completely normalise. Underemployment and youth unemployment remain elevated and it may take some time for wages to recover to pre-recession levels. Alongside this, some of the structural changes which have resulted in a noticeably different labour market response in this recession and recovery compared to previous periods will also determine how the economy evolves as it recovers.

• However, overall, economic indicators and forecasts point to a continuation of positive trends in the economy throughout the rest of this year and into next. 

Commenting on the report, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “This Government is determined to build a fairer, more sustainable, and more balanced economy and 2014 saw the Scottish economy log its strongest performance in seven years. With further headway in economic conditions expected next year, this should bring opportunity for business and security for hard working people across the country. 

“The picture in the labour market continues to strengthen. Scotland is leading the way with the highest employment and economic activity rates and lowest unemployment rate of the home nations of the UK. We have a record high in female employment, we are closing the gender gap and youth unemployment is at a five-year low.

“It is good to see household confidence growing as people’s job and pay prospects are improving but more needs to be done to help families after an unprecedented period of difficulty which has seen families struggle to meet living costs. 

“Looking forward to 2015 my budget will continue to enhance economic growth, tackle inequalities and continue to protect and invest in Scotland’s public services. 

“We will see £4.5 billion of infrastructure investment in 2015-16 and this Government will support £330 million of further capital investment in our Scotland’s Schools for the Future programme. In addition we will provide £140 million to deliver 2 new college campuses and we will continue to deliver the most competitive business tax environment in the UK. We will also invest in the future of our economy through £16.6 million in 2015-16 to further take forward recommendations of the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce.

“The Scottish Government is focused on delivering a stronger, fairer, and more resilient economy in 2015 and beyond.”

The State of the Economy outlines recent developments in the global, UK and Scottish economies. It is available HERE


Monday, 22 December 2014

South Ayrshire Council’s ‘positive response’ recognised by Accounts Commission

A positive attitude and clearly delivered actions sum up South Ayrshire Council’s response to criticism from the Accounts Commission earlier this year. 

That's the findings of the follow-up report published by the Commission last week, which also states that the Council’s positive momentum must be sustained.

The report examines the extensive work undertaken by the Council since February and notes that “in a relatively short time period, the Council has made a good start in developing an improved framework to help it demonstrate Best Value”.

Actions taken by the Council include the approval of plans that establish clear performance measures and targets for the Council and its services.

A Best Value Working Group (made up of Councillors and officers) has also been established, arrangements revised to improve Councillors’ scrutiny of operational performance and service delivery, a programme of service reviews underway and senior management posts restructured.  


South Ayrshire Council Leader, Councillor Bill McIntosh (pictured above) said: “I’m very pleased the Commission recognises the huge amount of work that has been progressed over the last 10 months or so, and also acknowledges that more time is needed to fully embed some of the changes we’ve made throughout the organisation.

“We will continue to build on these changes in the coming months, with Councillors and officers working together to further improve the Council and continuing to deliver high-quality services to the people and communities of South Ayrshire.”


South Ayrshire Council chief executive Eileen Howat (pictured above) added: “Our improvement journey is now well underway and our destination firmly in sight. The Commission clearly sees how far we’ve come and knows what we’re working to achieve, and we have the drive and determination to make that happen.”

The full report is available HERE

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


Saturday, 20 December 2014

First Minister cuts first steel for new hybrid ferry

Start of £12.3 million contract to build new vessel

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has marked the start of construction of Scotland’s third hybrid ferry, during a visit to Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd (FMEL) on the River Clyde.


[Pictured: First Minister cuts first steel for new 
hybrid ferry at Ferguson Marine Engineering.]

As part of the ceremony, Ms Sturgeon started the computer-guided laser to cut the first steel. She also toured the facility and met some of the workforce who built the two previous hybrid ferries, including the MV Hallaig, launched by Ms Sturgeon in December 2012.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I am delighted to be invited to take part in this steel cutting ceremony and mark the start of work on Scotland’s third hybrid ferry.

“This investment by the Scottish Government is a vote of confidence in our shipbuilding industry, and shows that Scotland remains at the forefront of ferry design and innovation.

“We want our ferries to be sustainable and reliable. This new vessel will be fuel efficient and have lower maintenance costs, whilst ensuring a quality service for passengers.

“I’m also very happy to see FMEL getting down to business and showcasing their expertise in low carbon marine technologies. This will help them show that they are a competitive and attractive option to future clients.

“The Scottish Government responded very quickly to the closure of Fergusons, with Ministers forming a task group which met within days. We worked hard to achieve the purchase of the yard as a going concern and were delighted when Jim McColl’s bid delivered this.

“I wish the shipyard success with this project and look forward to seeing Hull 727 take to the waters in 2016.”

The £12.3 million contract to build the new vessel, known as Hull 727, was awarded in September and is the first major deal for the company since it was taken over by Clyde Blowers Capital.

The new vessel is expected to be launched in spring 2016, before entering service in the autumn of 2016. It will use a low carbon hybrid system that combines traditional diesel power with electric battery power. The system will lead to a reduction in fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions. It will be built to accommodate 150 passengers, 23 cars or two HGVs, with a service speed of nine knots.

The Scottish Government investment, which is being taken forward by Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL), secured around 80 jobs for the Port Glasgow and Inverclyde area, many of whom were employees of the shipyard’s previous owner and worked on the first two hybrid ferries.

Jim McColl, CEO and chairman of Clyde Blowers Capital, said: “This is a great day for Ferguson Marine, for the workforce, Port Glasgow and commercial ship building on the Clyde. I am very pleased to have Scotland’s First Minister with us today to witness the yard’s traditional ceremony which takes place at the start of work on every new vessel.

“When we acquired the company three months ago I said that I believed there was a great opportunity to grow the business, I’m even more convinced of that now. It’s encouraging to get this first order under way today. I am excited about the potential here and look forward to this being the first of many new vessels to be built in this new phase of life for the yard. We have already started back over 70 workers who were paid off, and I am confident that we will be creating many more new jobs over the coming year as we win new business and grow our order book.”

Tom Docherty, CEO, CMAL said: “Today's steel cutting ceremony marks the first important milestone in the construction of a new hybrid ferry for Scotland as work gets underway to build the vessel.

“Hull 727 will become the third hybrid vessel in our fleet, strengthening our commitment to using cutting edge technology and design to create innovative, sustainable and reliable ferries.

“We look forward to the new hybrid vessel going into service in 2016 to join MV Hallaig and MV Lochinvar, our existing hybrid ferries. It is the latest step in our ambitious fleet renewal plans to ensure our ferries continue to meet the needs of the communities we serve.”

The vessel has been designed and procured for service under the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services contract between the Scottish Ministers and CalMac Ferries Ltd, which has been extended to run until 30 September 2016.

CMAL will hold a competition in the New Year to decide the name of the new vessel, which will be the third in the Scottish Literary Class of ferry.

The two hybrid ferries previously constructed at the yard, the MV Hallaig and the MV Lochinvar, are currently in service with Calmac Ferries Ltd.

The MV Hallaig was launched in December 2012 operates on the Sconser-Raasay route.

The MV Lochinvar was launched in May 2013 and operates on the Tarbert-Portavadie route.


Friday, 19 December 2014

Making Ayr safer with SafeAyr initiative

Christmas and Hogmanay are just days away now and more people than ever are out and about in Ayr, shopping, meeting work colleagues for a night out, having a family get together or a special night out with friends. 

Once again this year, the SafeAyr initiative, managed by the South Ayrshire Community Safety Partnership, will be running – helping make the town centre an even safer and more attractive place to be during the festive season.


If you are out and about at night SafeAyr will be there to help keep you even safer, taxi marshals will be in Boswell Street and additional police will be in the area. 

Additional street cleaning, toilet facilities, improved lighting and a St. Andrews First Aid ambulance and crew are all there to make Ayr even safer, especially in the evening and at night.

Community Support Workers will be carrying out short surveys while on high visibility patrols in the town centre.

Councillor Rita Miller, Chair of the South Ayrshire Community Safety Partnership said: “The festive season truly is a time for family, friends and fun. However, it’s also a time when one or two people take things to excess and that’s when trouble can flare.

“Our message is once again very simple – go out, have fun, but please do it sensibly and keep an eye on how much you’re drinking. We’ll do our bit to help keep you safe and secure, but we all need to exercise a little personal responsibility to help make the Christmas season go with a swing!”

Helping to support this year’s initiative, there will be a range of special safety messages projected on to the wall of the Gaiety Theatre to remind people how to stay safe.

Councillor Miller concluded: “If we set out with the intention of being extra patient and more understanding when we’re in town for a day or night out, we can all play a positive part in staying safe and sound as we enjoy everything Ayr has to offer.

“The main aim is for us all to get into the festive spirit and play our own small part in making sure everyone has a very safe, happy Christmas and a superb New Year!”

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


Another record year for renewables

21 per cent increase in renewable electricity generation

For the first time, electricity generated from renewables in Scotland accounted for the same as fossil fuels. 

Final 2013 figures released today by the Department of Energy and Climate Change show renewables and fossil fuels both accounted for 32 per cent of total electricity generated in Scotland. 


Scotland also continues to be a net exporter of electricity, exporting a record 28 per cent of generation in 2013, up from 26 per cent in 2012.

When taking the electricity exported into consideration, renewable sources of electricity accounted for 44.4 per cent of Scotland’s electricity consumption in 2013 - up from 38.8 per cent in 2012. The statistics also show that Scotland’s renewable electricity generation in the first three quarters of 2014 was 21 per cent higher compared to same period in 2013. This overall increase is primarily due to a 39 per cent increase in hydro generation and a 13 per cent increase in wind output. 

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “Renewable generation continues to go from strength to strength in Scotland – now matching fossil fuels for the first time. 

“The figures show 2013 was another record breaking year for renewables and we continue to be on track to do the same in 2014 – with renewable electricity production up 21 per cent on the same time last year. We remain on track for our targets of 50 per cent of demand by 2015 and 100 per cent by 2020. 

“Harnessing Scotland’s vast energy wealth has multiple benefits – reducing our carbon emissions, creating jobs and investment and improving the energy security of Scotland and the rest of the UK. And of course communities the length and breadth of Scotland are also benefitting from millions of pounds of community benefit funding. 

“We are committed to making Scotland a leading low carbon investment destination, delivering growth from the growing low carbon sector and ensuring communities across Scotland can benefit from the opportunities that the transition to a low carbon economy brings.

“The Scottish Government has made its energy policy a top priority and has achieved great progress, despite being limited in terms of its devolved responsibilities. We look forward to proposals for more powers encompassing the necessary levers to deliver Scottish priorities.”


Thursday, 18 December 2014

South Ayrshire Council boosts support for older people, roads, and children and families

South Ayrshire communities are set to benefit from the biggest investment in roads in more than a decade, new and improved schools for children and young people, more monies to support older people, and funding to drive the modernisation of how South Ayrshire Council works.


Increased funding for all of these areas was agreed as part of a raft of measures approved by Councillors today (18 December).

These include updated budget proposals that take account of any changes required since the three-year budget for 2014-17 was agreed in December 2013 and March 2014.

More than £252 million of revenue funding will be spent in 2015/16 as well as an unprecedented £145 million capital investment over the next five years to support the Council’s priorities of maximising the local economy, supporting children and families, adults and older people, and communities, and improving the environment.

Around £67 million of the Council’s capital plan will be invested in schools and education to give children and young people the best possible start in life, with a number of brand new as well as significantly upgraded schools. This will be supplemented by Scottish Government match-funding of approximately £38 million.

Projects to benefit from these monies include the £23 million new-build Queen Margaret Academy in Ayr, a brand-new Invergarven School, a new link building at Southcraig Campus, increased funding for the new dining hall at Troon primary as well as the new Ayr Academy, refurbished Marr College, and new Dailly and Tarbolton primaries. Confirmation from the Scottish Government of additional match-funding for the Queen Margaret Academy project is expected soon.

Complementing this, more than £10 million has been allocated to a dedicated school refurbishment programme to ensure the school estate can be upgraded and improved as needed.

The programme of works also includes substantial investment – £10 million – to improve the condition of South Ayrshire’s roads. This average investment of around £2 million per year marks the biggest financial commitment to roads improvement for more than a decade. 

Sport and leisure also benefits, with more than £1.5 million confirmed for the refurbishment of existing facilities in Troon.

A further £4.8 million will be invested to modernise and improve IT systems, enabling the Council to continue on its path to becoming an efficient, modern organisation.

“This is a bold and balanced capital programme”, said Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council, “that can only be delivered thanks to our robust and prudent financial management.

“By taking a planned and managed approach to our spending and putting the frameworks in place to ensure we deliver against the capital programme, we’re able to invest in a way that will make a real and meaningful difference for every single person in South Ayrshire.

“We know roads are a big issue for our communities and we’re putting a huge amount into the pot – in fact, the largest investment for more than ten years. Whether you’re a resident, visitor, driver or pedestrian, we know what this will mean to our communities. 

“We’re also focusing on children and families with nearly half our entire capital programme earmarked for schools and educational improvements. That will deliver a legacy for years to come and it’s something we can all be proud of. And we’re making sure we will be a fit for purpose organisation that operates efficiently and effectively, delivering best value. 

“These are still very austere times for Councils and this budget will make sure every penny counts and does exactly what we need it to.”

An additional £1 million will be invested in the revenue budget for adults and older people to ensure the services they require are available to them. This will be funded from available reserves, which are now expected to be around £8.7 million by the end of the financial year.

This is in line with the Council’s new five-year financial strategy – also approved today – which sets out a planned and prudent approach to managing the Council’s finances.

Councillor Robin Reid, Portfolio Holder for Resources and Performance, said: “In these challenging financial times, it’s encouraging that we can still deliver increased funding where it’s needed most. This budget focuses on our key priorities and ensures we’re putting our money where it can make the biggest difference.

“It’s not been easy to do this and we’ve had to make some difficult decisions in setting our revenue budget and buildings investment programme.

“Our focus is on ensuring we make the best use of our resources so they can have the maximum impact on our communities and allow us to develop and improve what we do and how we do it.” 

Councillor John McDowall, Depute Leader of the Council, added: “This budget has something for everyone and shows just what we can do through sound financial management and a focus on priorities. It also shows the importance of flexibility to meet the needs of our communities, with additional monies agreed today that will make a real difference and support some of our most vulnerable people.

“We’re investing massively in our children and families and in our environment. I’ve no doubt the millions we’re putting into our roads in particular will be welcomed everywhere – from Barassie to Ballantrae. We can all be very proud of this budget and I look forward to seeing the difference this will make in practice.”

Councillor McIntosh concluded: “This budget is a terrific example of how far we’ve come in the last few years. It’s complemented by confirmation from our external auditors that the Council is in a strong position to meet future financial challenges and the approval of our first-ever five year Financial Strategy that sets out how we will set a prudent and sustainable budget and deliver best value.

“That’s exactly what our communities deserve and that’s exactly what we’ve achieved today.” 

Full details of the budget proposals approved today can be found HERE where information on previous decisions relating to the 2015/16 budget can also be found.

Today’s approval of the budget also confirmed the continuation of the Council Tax freeze for the eighth year in a row, maintaining payments at 2007/08 levels.

The revenue budget is subject to confirmation of the Council’s funding allocation from the Scottish Government, which is expected to be confirmed by the Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2015 in February 2015.

Further details on additional efficiency proposals required for 2016-2018 will be subject to further work and presented to members for consideration in due course.

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


Scottish house prices to increase by 4% in 2015

House prices to increase by 4% in Scotland
Cost of renting Scotland to grow by 2.1% 
Sales transactions to edge up to 1.25 million across the UK
Mortgage repossessions to fall to 20,000

House prices in the Scotland will see an average increase of four percent over the course of next year, bolstered by recent changes to Stamp Duty and introduction of Land and Building Transaction Tax, continuing demand and lack of supply of property, according to the RICS housing forecast for 2015. The forecast looks ahead to the next 12 months, across all parts of the housing market, from house prices, sales, rents and repossession levels.


Across the UK, RICS expect all parts of the country to see modest price rises during 2015, at an average of three percent. Meanwhile, the South West, Wales and London will experience the lowest rises with prices increasing by two percent and zero percent respectively.

RICS Scotland director Sarah Speirs commented: “The Scottish Housing Commission report, published earlier this year, highlighted the housing supply deficit and the need for revision around planning, development and delivery of housing in Scotland.  What we need is certainty, clarity and confidence from the Scottish Government, to keep us building homes. The Stamp Duty reform should encourage greater number of transactions to underpin public confidence and we hope this will continue with the introduction of Land and Building Transaction Tax in April 2015.”  

RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn added: “On a UK level, 2014 was a significant year for the property market as a more broadly based recovery took hold. Help to Buy funding helped to support the turnaround alongside the more positive trend in the wider economy. Although the MMR may now be resulting in mortgage lenders being a little more discriminating in the supply of finance, the recently announced, and long overdue reform of stamp duty, is likely to provide a tonic for the market across many parts of the country, particularly for first-time buyers. That said, the bigger affordability issue is not going to go away, highlighting just how important it is to speed up the supply pipeline of new homes over the coming years.”

Having outperformed in the early stages of the recovery, chartered surveyors reported London’s housing market was ‘pausing for breath’ both in terms of pricing and activity towards the end of 2014. Although sales levels remain below pre-crisis peaks in all areas of the country, they are currently particularly low in Northern Ireland, parts of Scotland and some regions in the North of England when compared to previous highs. Despite this, the RICS New Buyer Enquiries data in Scotland and Northern Ireland have recorded stronger and steadier growth than elsewhere.

Rents

The growth in rental demand softened in the early part of 2014 as the sales market began to recover across the UK, and potential purchasers took advantage of the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme. However, enquiries to rent property in Scotland have begun to pick-up once again and comfortably outstrip new supply of rental property from landlords. As a result, we expect rents to continue pushing upwards over the next twelve months, to a 2.1 percent increase in rents. 

Repossessions 

Throughout the UK number of houses taken into possession are expected to have fallen in 2014 to around 23,000, the lowest since 2006. Given the current macroeconomic picture, RICS anticipates that this could decline to below 20,000 over the course of the next twelve months, particularly as around ninety percent of new loans are being taken out on fixed rates, which provide some degree of protection against any adverse interest rate changes.


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

CKD Galbraith offers for sale rural hideaway in Ayrshire

Leading independent Scottish property consultancy CKD Galbraith is offering for sale Newhouse of Auchmannoch, a farmhouse enjoying an enchantingly private situation amidst its own land of some 86 acres surrounded by rural farmland, yet close to the hamlet of Auchencloigh and the neighbouring village of Sorn in Ayrshire.  


The farmhouse originates from the 1700s, extended in 1872, and more recently upgraded by the current owners, creating a practical family home yet retaining much of its original rustic charm.   

The accommodation is spacious and well planned. Original features are aplenty with oak beams, stone fire surrounds, flagstone flooring and window seating set into the thickness of the walls.


The kitchen is the heart of the home and has a rustic feel with its royal green Rayburn stove and Belfast sinks. 


Beyond the kitchen is a utility room and office and the more recent addition of a wonderful family room, formed from an adjoining outbuilding, adds a contrasting modern twist. 


Bi-folding oak doors ensure the room is naturally bright and open to a sheltered decked terrace and the gardens beyond. 


The master bedroom with its ensuite bathroom and a second bedroom are also a more recent addition – converted from adjoining outbuildings and finished to the same exacting standard. Three further bedrooms are located on the first floor. One room is ensuite and all have uninterrupted country views. 

The gardens of Newhouse are mainly lawn and are a natural playground for children and animals.  


A large decked area is ideal for alfresco dining and the pond at the rear is often visited by wildlife.  

The lands of Newhouse extend to some 86 acres and provide both mixed grazing and woodland. The house itself sits centrally within the land. Outbuildings include a wooden stable block with five loose boxes, a workshop, chicken coop and a field shelter. 

Newhouse of Auchmannoch is a wonderful family home which seamlessly combines traditional and modern features alike.  Perfect for hobby farming or just a uniquely private residence to sit back and enjoy nature’s ways. 

Offers Over £575,000 are being sought.  

PDF available on www.ckdgalbraith.co.uk

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.


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

ARPL Architects secure Kirkcudbright Art Gallery commission

Ayr based ARPL Architects have been appointed to design a new £1.6m art gallery within the historic Kirkcudbright Town Hall following an open tender.


The new venue will play host to over 300 artworks from the town’s artists’ colony, including paintings by Faeds, Hornel, Oppenheimer and Peploe alongside temporary exhibitions.

This will be delivered in partnership with FLN Consulting, Asher Associates and McGowan Miller by the end of 2016.

ARPL are also currently in the process of delivering a refurbishment of the grade B listed Parish Church and a new community centre in the Galloway town.

Over the 40 years since the original practice was established, ARPL’s status in the profession has grown steadily in line with its position as a medium-sized practice with a reputation for well executed projects with a particular emphasis conservation and sustainability, and their list of awards is proof of their achievements.

ARPL are currently working on new and refurbishment of social housing and schools, several church and historic building conservation and restoration projects and new community facilities in the South West of Scotland.

Appointments for church commissions involve a range of denominations and projects from conservation and repair to extensions and new build. ARPL are also involved in country houses and estates and the design of new houses for private owners. 

The practice typically handles projects with construction values ranging from £100k through to £15m.

ARPL have completed some £8m worth of commissions over the last two years, including the completion of an award winning new primary school in Colmonell, South Ayrshire, the conservation of Category A listed Trinity Church in Irvine, HS and HLF funded conservation repairs of several listed buildings, and the third phase of the new housing Ballymun Regeneration Project in Dublin.

ARPL have always taken pride in the number of projects where a long-term working relationship with a client has been realised, and have many clients for whom they have carried out several projects.

ARPL Architects
11 Wellington Square
Ayr KA7 1EN

Tel: 01292 289777
Fax: 01292 288896


ARPL Architects Ltd is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.


Monday, 15 December 2014

Winter wonderland awards for shop window 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.

Repeating last year’s highly successful format, 2014 saw three local shops receiving highly commended awards and one overall winner. 


Table Topper on Newmarket Street in Ayr won one of the Highly Commended awards and, accepting the award from Provost Moonie, Jean Ingram (pictured above) said: “What a wonderful surprise for us! I’m delighted to accept this and many thanks to the organisers for choosing our shop. The trophy now has pride of place in our window!”


Just around the corner on the Sandgate, Azure (Giving and Living) also picked up a Highly Commended award and owner Eileen Gray (pictured above) said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to receive this. Christmas really is a special and busy time of year for all retailers and to have our display pick up an award is great news – and a great early prezzie for us!”


Last year’s winners, Rotherwoods of Beresford Terrace also picked up a Highly Commended award and owner Claire Bell (pictured above) said: “The annual contest is a great idea and we love dressing the window in the festive season. This year we thought a polar scene would be fun and our penguins and polar bear have really captured the imagination – especially from our youngest visitors! The award is a special honour and we’re delighted with it.”


The winning award went to Hourstons of Alloway Street whose warm, homely festive fireplace display caught the judges’ eye. Accepting the award, Deputy Managers Lisa Ferrie and Carol Capperauld (pictured above) said: “This is brilliant. Our staff night out is in a couple of days and we’ll really celebrate now! We’d like to thank the judges for this great award.” 

Chair of this year’s judging panel, Norman McLean of the Fort, Seafield and Wallacetown Community Council added: “Every year we have some difficult decisions to make and this year was no exception. In particular, the variety and range of displays continues to improve and some of the themes and interpretations are quite literally showstoppers. 

“Supporting local and High Street businesses is essential and I’m delighted so many shoppers have commented on the window displays – so full marks to every retailer who made the effort this year adding a bit of magical sparkle and festive fun to Ayr town centre!” 

Provost Moonie added: “Every year it is a real joy to present retailers with well-earned awards for their creativity and this competition really gets me feeling festive as Christmas approaches.

“I’d like to offer my sincere thanks and best wishes to all those who made the effort to dress their windows this year and on behalf of the judges, wish our retailers, shoppers and visitors to the town a very Happy Christmas.”

[Also appearing in all four photographs above are: Robin White (Ayr & Prestwick Lions Club), Ronnie Wilson (Ayr Rotary Club), Michael Hitchon MBE (Ayr Guildry) and Norman McLean (Fort, Seafield & Wallacetown Community Council) and Councillor Allan Dorans.]

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


Sunday, 14 December 2014

QTS Group sponsors £100,000 Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr Racecourse

By: Iain Ferguson

THE QTS Group and Ayr Racecourse have announced exciting new sponsorship plans for 2015 that include boosting prize-money for the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle to a massive £100,000.

This is a rise of £30,000, more than a 40% increase from this year, and elevates the race, the main supporting event on Coral Scottish Grand National Day on Saturday 18 April, to one of the top five two-mile handicap hurdles in British racing.


[Pictured: Court Minstrel, winner of the QTS Champion Hurdle in 2013.]  

The cash injection is certain to see the Grade 2 race attract even more high quality entries from both the UK and Ireland. Screened live on Channel 4, QTS first sponsored the Scottish Champion Hurdle in 2013 when it was won by Court Minstrel and last year’s race went to the ill-fated Cockney Sparrow.

The new sponsorship agreement also includes the Drumclog-based company’s continued support of the popular QTS Ladies Night on Saturday 8 August, when it will sponsor a total of four races and the night itself.

David Brown, Managing Director of Ayr Racecourse said: “In recent years QTS Group has been one of our most loyal supporters, and we are delighted to be associated with such a successful company. Their increased sponsorship enables us to enhance the prize-money of the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle to £100,000 which is a significant rise and in keeping with the status of the race.

“QTS Ladies Night is firmly established as one of our most successful and eagerly anticipated meetings, and to have a sponsor of this calibre backing the evening only adds to its prestige.”


Alan McLeish (pictured above), Managing Director of QTS, said: “By continuing our strategic partnership with Ayr Racecourse, we can help support the horse racing industry and one of the best sporting venues in our local area. The team has worked hard to ensure that the venue remains Scotland’s premier horse racing and entertainment destination. Our increased investment in the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle Race will firmly cement the reputation this fantastic race deserves.

“We are really looking forward to this year’s QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle Race and hope that the race attracts another brilliant line-up. We are also eagerly anticipating this year’s QTS Ladies Night, which will be full of surprises you won’t want to miss. Make sure you get your tickets!”

Founded in 1992 originally as a tree surgeon business, QTS 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 were placed 62nd on this year’s Sunday Times BDO Profit Track 100, which details the UK’s 100 most profitable companies. 

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, 12 December 2014

Christmas message 2014 from South Ayrshire Provost Helen Moonie

I can hardly believe that another festive season has arrived.  2014 has flown by.  

At this time of year I often find myself in a reflective mood, looking back at what has happened in the last 12 months and looking ahead, anticipating what a new year might bring.  


2014 has been a challenging year for many people in South Ayrshire. Some people have struggled financially and have had to rethink how they live their lives. I spend lots of time with people from communities across South Ayrshire, many of whom are facing such hardships.  I can honestly say these are the most generous people you could meet.  Christmas is a time for giving, and I find often that those with the least give the most. 

They are often the first people to step forward and offer to help others. It may be to do voluntary work for a charity, pop in on a neighbour, get shopping for someone when they are ill, support the vulnerable in our society or simply sit and have a cup of tea and listen to others who need someone to talk to.

The old saying “It is better to give than to receive” is certainly alive and well in South Ayrshire.

Our Council employees certainly believe in giving. Throughout the year they have generously supported our eight Council charities: Ayr Housing Aid, Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline, Gardening Leave, PDSA, RNLI, Riverside Church Care and Share, Seascape and South Ayrshire Women’s Aid.  I recently had the pleasure of presenting a cheque to each of the charities for £250.  I am very grateful to all Council staff who have contributed to the Council’s charities. 

There were many highlights in 2014 and for me all of them came back to one thing, great people.  

I was proud to participate in the Robert Burns Humanitarian Awards which is a globally respected honour bestowed annually on a group or individual who has shown selflessness and dedication in a bid to save, enrich or improve the lives of others through the protection and promotion of human rights and work to deliver social reform and is named in honour of Scotland’s son, Robert Burns.

Another big event in Ayrshire was the Ayrshire Hospice 25th anniversary. Everyone in Ayrshire knows of a neighbour, work colleague, friend or family member whose life has been enriched by the people they have met at or through the Ayrshire Hospice. The Ayrshire Hospice team always seems like one big family, a family that is greatly valued throughout Ayrshire.

This year our Council, along with East and North Ayrshire Councils, formally marked national Armed Forces Day in South Ayrshire, particularly poignant in this the 100th anniversary of the First World War. This was a time to acknowledge the men and women who have served or are serving their country and to thank their families for the sacrifices they make too. 

Our wider Commonwealth family paid us a visit this year with the Commonwealth Games being hosted in Glasgow, and we participated in Fly-a-flag for the Commonwealth in March which publicly and collectively allowed us to celebrate the continuing success of the Commonwealth.

The Queen’s Baton Relay was the curtain raiser to the Games and came to South Ayrshire in bright sunshine, receiving a warm welcome from our local communities. What shone brightest for me that day was the way in which baton bearers of all ages enjoyed the event making us all proud of them and their role in this once in a lifetime event.  

We then welcomed Team Ghana for a three week Pre-Games Training Camp.  They were warmly welcomed by the people of South Ayrshire and local sporting clubs were fantastic in offering training sessions and support with equipment.  Strong friendships were formed between Ghanian and South Ayrshire sports men and women.

Getting young people involved is important and again reflects the notion that to give is better than to receive.  Earlier in the year I was very pleased to preside over a mock South Ayrshire Council meeting, which young people from our schools took part in. This gave them a true insight into how their Council debates, questions and considers items before making decisions, it brought the Council to life for them. 

Not all young people have such opportunities and I was particularly humbled when I met ten young girls from Chernobyl who visited our Council headquarters. Once again our employees willingly donated lots of gifts for the children. These are children who are glad to receive toothpaste, socks, combs, underwear, pyjamas and other things that we all take for granted. 

Life can be difficult for many but the warmth and generosity of people in South Ayrshire never ceases to amaze me.  In my role as Provost, it has been my pleasure to meet many people who work so hard in their communities and for the benefit of others, Victim Support, Gardening Leave, VASA, Rotary International to name but a few. 

However you choose to spend your time during the festivities I would ask you all to spare a thought for everyone who will be working over the Christmas season such as our charities, the police, fire brigade, NHS, Council workers and many more. These people will carry on working as normal delivering services to communities across South Ayrshire and beyond.

The people I meet keep me grounded and help me appreciate the important things in life, family, friendship, friends and my community. 

My wish for you all is to enjoy the festive season and that in 2015 you are contented and you find fulfillment in your lives. 

   - South Ayrshire Provost Helen Moonie

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


Nicola Sturgeon chairs first National Economic Forum meeting as First Minister

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon opened the National Economic Forum this week, and told delegates that the new Scottish Business Pledge will lead to a more competitive economy and a fairer society.


[CLICK ON IMAGE TO VIEW VIDEO.]

Nine Scottish Government ministers, including the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, took part in the event, chairing breakout sessions that take forward the Scottish Government's dialogue with businesses.

Addressing business leaders in Edinburgh, the First Minister invited businesses to play a part in shaping policies to grow the economy and tackle inequality. 


Businesses will be asked to commit themselves to good business practices, such as innovation and internationalisation, as well as a living wage, gender equality and supporting workforce engagement. In return, the companies will be offered more support from the Scottish Government and enterprise agencies. 


The First Minister said: “The principle of the pledge is straightforward. It enshrines the idea that just as Government will work with business to create a prosperous and strong economy, so business can play a part in delivering a flourishing and a fair society. Nine Scottish Government ministers are here today, covering a wide range of portfolio interests from External Affairs to Skills, Social Justice and Infrastructure. 

“Today marks the continuation of a dialogue about how best to make our economy more compatible and our society fairer. Part of that will be the Scottish Business Pledge and we will consider the scope of that further. We need to consider what business wants from government and what contribution business can make in return. We also need to ensure that the pledge makes a real difference.

“What I’m looking to establish is, in effect, a partnership. The Government will support a strong and competitive economy, so that Government and employers together can support a fairer, more prosperous Scotland.”

The First Minister also confirmed that in future forums will also be held outside Edinburgh: the next one will be held in Dundee in early 2015.


The First Minister added: “We value the opportunity this forum gives us, to engage with organisations and individuals from across Scotland. We want to ensure in future that an even wider range of people get a chance to participate.”

The purpose of the National Economic Forum (NEF) is to allow the Government to draw from the widest pool of opinion and good ideas to flow from the Forum to those directly advising the First Minister, her Cabinet and the Government.

Read the First Minister’s first major speech to Scotland’s business sector. CLICK HERE