The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Friday, 31 January 2014

Record year for Scottish exports to China

First Minister welcomes positive numbers
in his Chinese new year message

By: Murdoch MacDonald

Exports from Scotland to China were at their highest ever level in 2013, totalling almost £560 million. 

Latest figures from the Global Connections Survey have shown a rise in food and drink exports and in sectors such as chemicals and engineering, contributing to a total increase of 30 per cent from the previous year.

[Click on image above to view video.]

First Minister Alex Salmond announced the new figures in his Chinese new year message heralding the arrival of the year of the horse, noting that ‘the strength of the ties’ between Scotland and China will allow the solid economic link between the two countries to continue to flourish for decades to come.

Mr Salmond said: “As we say farewell to the year of the snake, and look forward to the year of the horse, a very lucky year coming ahead, I’d like to wish a very happy new year to the people of China and Chinese people everywhere. 

“Just three months ago I visited Beijing and Hong Kong. It was my fourth visit to China as First Minister. Once again, I saw the strength of the ties and growing relationship between our two countries. 

“During the visit, eight Scottish companies signed agreements with Chinese firms in sectors such as digital technology and oil and gas. Eight is a lucky number in China; 88 has been doubly lucky for Scotland. Our exports to China have increased by 88 per cent in five years. Our Global Connections Survey this week reported a 30 per cent increase between 2011 and 2012 alone.  It is clear that China sees Scotland, the land of invention, as an important business partner.

“But our friendship is based on far more than economics. Just two years ago, we welcomed Tian Tian and Yang Guang, our giant pandas, to Edinburgh Zoo, more than a million people have now been to see them. 

“We have strong cultural links. A team from Historic Scotland has used technological expertise of Scotland to create a digital record of China’s Eastern Qing Tombs. 

“During the summer, a spectacular exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland will showcase the achievements of the Ming dynasty. And in the same year that those treasures from China come to Scotland, three of our performing companies, Scottish Ballet, the Chamber Orchestra and the National Theatre of Scotland will go on tours of China and Hong Kong. 

“And there are close ties between our educational institutions. Heriot Watt recently signed an agreement to become the fifth Scottish University to establish a Confucius Institute. More than 8,000 people from China now study at our universities and colleges. 

“Many schools, as well as universities, are holding special events to mark Chinese new year. Some are hosting traditional art workshops. Others will go to Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall, to see a special concert from a Chinese children’s choir. St Ninian’s High School in Giffnock, which won a global award last month at the World Confucius Institute Conference in Beijing, is planning a celebration of Chinese dance, music and songs. 

“It’s a great sign for the future that young people in Scotland are learning about China, and that young people from China are learning about, and studying in, Scotland. It means that we can look forward to many more years of co-operation between our two nations. And it shows that the friendship between Scotland and China will continue to flourish, during this year of the horse, and for decades to come. 

“So as First Minister of Scotland, I would like to wish all of you a very happy new year.” 

Key facts:

• New data from the Global Connections Survey shows that exports from Scotland to China in 2012 were up over 30% to £560 million, compared to 2011 when they were £425 million.

• From 2007 – 2012 the share of Scottish exports to China has also increased from 1.9 per cent to 2.6 per cent of Scottish exports. Source: HMRC, Regional Trade Statistics

• There has been a significant export growth in the last five years. Food increased by 343 per cent to £19.5 million, beverages increased by 78 per cent to £73 million and machinery and transport equipment increased by 77 per cent to £249 million. Source: HMRC, Regional Trade Statistics

• Chinese visitors brought £29m into the Scottish economy in 2010-12 (Source: Office for National Statistics’ International Passenger Survey)

• Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Strathclyde and Heriot-Watt Universities all have Confucius Institute Status.

Full details of Scottish productions in the Far East:

• Scottish Ballet are touring their production of Matthew Bourne’s ‘Highland Fling’ to Hong Kong from 21-24 February 2014.

• The Scottish Chamber Orchestra are planning a tour of the Far East including a performance at the Cultural Centre, as part of Hong Kong Arts Festival, on 20 and 21 February 2014.

• ‘Dragon,’ a co-production between the National Theatre Scotland, Vox Motus and Tianjin People’s Art Theatre will premier in June 2014.

• The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of David Greig’s sequel to Macbeth, ‘Dunsinane,’ will tour Shanghai and Hong Kong in Spring 2014.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Earth Hour Award for South Ayrshire Council

Ahead of WWF’s annual Earth Hour on 29 March 2014, South Ayrshire Council is celebrating after once again being named as WWF’s Earth Hour Local Authority Champion for 2013. This is the first time a local authority has won the award two years in a row.

[Pictured with the WWF panda and the 2013 national Award are (left) Councillor John McDowall, Portfolio Holder for Sustainability, and Callum Robertson, Environment and Climate Change Officer, South Ayrshire Council.]

WWF’s Earth Hour is a global event and last year saw hundreds of millions of people around the world take part to raise awareness of climate change.

Councillor John McDowall accepted the award after the Council was recognised for doing the most of all 32 local authorities in Scotland to support Earth Hour in 2013. The Council’s efforts included switching off feature lighting on 14 of the areas most iconic landmarks, a ghost walk around Ayr and golfing in the dark at Troon. Employees, partners, community groups and local businesses across South Ayrshire to sign up and switch off.  

This year’s Earth Hour will take place at 8.30pm on 29 March 2014, and is a powerful way to highlight that climate change is one of the most serious threats to our planet. 

After accepting the award Councillor McDowall said: “I would like to thank everyone who took part in Earth Hour and showed that our local authority and the people of South Ayrshire recognise the danger climate change poses to our planet.  

“People celebrated Earth Hour in many different ways including switching off lights, holding Earth Hour parties, organising or attending events and generally celebrating the night. 

“This year, we’d like to see more people than ever before in South Ayrshire make their own champion effort to switch lights off for an hour between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on 29 March 2014.

“We will be supporting the campaign and have already been awarded a ‘Super Local Authority’ badge for our proposed plan involving switching off many of our landmark buildings feature lights, a night cycle, ghost walk and more golfing in the dark. We encourage people from across South Ayrshire to take part, get involved, and make the darkest hour, South Ayrshire’s brightest.” 

Lang Banks, Director of WWF Scotland, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that South Ayrshire Council has won our Earth Hour Local Authority Champion title for the second year in a row.

“This award clearly demonstrates the massive commitment of the Council and its residents to protecting our brilliant planet. We look forward to working with our newly crowned Champions for Earth Hour 2014 in March and encourage everyone to add their voice to the millions taking part across the globe at our website”

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

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Double for Brian Harding at Ayr Racecourse

By: Iain Ferguson

JOCKEY Brian Harding continued his fine vein of form when riding a double at Ayr Racecourse on Monday.

Brian, one of the most experienced riders in the UK, partnered Oil Burner (11/1) to win The Non-Runner No Bet Championship Races At Cheltenham Handicap for trainer Willie Amos. The horse powered clear from the last to win by 10 lengths from the Jim Goldie trained Too Cool To Fool (5/1).

And win number two came in the feature race, the Back Of The Net At Handicap Chase, when the Nicky Richards trained And The Man (7/2) won by three and a quarter lengths from See Double You.

[Pictured: And The Man jumps into the lead at the last fence at Ayr on Monday in the hands of Brian Harding.]

There were wins too for trainers Lucinda Russell and Jim Goldie. Lucinda’s Final Assault (7/4) was left clear in the hands of jockey Peter Buchanan when the Lucy Alexander ridden The Orange Rogue fell at the last in the maiden hurdle.

Jim Goldie’s success came courtesy of Plus Jamais (9/4 fav) for jockey Brian Hughes in the Cheltenham 2014 NRFB At Handicap Hurdle.Rebecca Menzies, saddled her first Ayr winner as a trainer with Chavoy (16/1) ridden by her boyfriend Tony Kelly in the Download The BetVictor App Now Handicap Hurdle.

Ayr’s next meeting is on Tuesday 11 February. For more information or to buy tickets go online at or call 01292 264179.

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

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

Monday, 27 January 2014

High street on the up as retail investment grows in Scotland

RICS UK Commercial Market Survey, Q4 2013

As 2013 drew to a close, tenant demand for shops, offices and industrial units experienced growth, as increasing optimism about the economy and more accessible lending filtered through to the commercial sector.

After difficult times within the sector in Scotland, retail has begun to see some signs of an improvement as a net balance of 46 percent more chartered surveyors reported a rise in enquiries to invest in retail space. This looks set to continue with responses suggesting a further increase in expected volume of retail transactions over the next quarter (43 percent).

Sarah Speirs, Director RICS Scotland, commented: “The Scottish economy ended 2013 on a much more positive note and this was reflected in stronger demand from tenants for shops, offices and industrial space. The more upbeat picture is even beginning to filter through to rents and investment, although the improvements are still tentative at this stage.

"The shift in the retail market has been largely driven by the improved fortunes of the consumer and this is now feeding through, slowly but evidently, to high street. Should the economic momentum continue to gather pace we would expect the recovery in the commercial property market to gain further traction, particularly if interest rates remain on hold.”

Despite growing demand, a net balance of 33 percent of respondents reported a decline availability of commercial property which in part reflects the lack of new developments in recent years as bank finance has dried up.

Alan Gilkison MRICS, Ryden LLP, Glasgow, commented: “The greatest activity remains in the prime locations with acute shortages of smaller properties, however, there are signs of growing interest for new build solutions given the absence of suitable stock.”

Alloway 1759 celebrates life of Burns

The village of Alloway again got a real flavour of life from yesteryear when the sixth annual Alloway 1759 returned, celebrating the life and times of Rabbie Burns in South Ayrshire.

The five-day celebration again welcomed singer-songwriter Eddi Reader MBE, who headlined the Robert Burns Humanitarian Concert on Wednesday 22 Jan 2014 at Ayr Town Hall, an event which also featured a host of local talent, including Little Fire and Milla Crann, Jemma Kate, Sean Kennedy and Eilidh Grant.

The concert paid homage to the prestigious Robert Burns Humanitarian Award (presented at a special invitational event on Saturday 25 January 2014).

Speaking in Alloway during the celebrations, Provost Helen Moonie said: “Alloway 1759 is now in its sixth year – having been created to mark original Year of Homecoming in 2009, an event being repeated in 2014.

“During this year of homecoming, we will also be celebrating Burns in the Burns an’ a’ That! Festival in May as well as offering a series of themed Burns events across the year.

“All of these are form part of the Year of Homecoming’s South West programme making the whole region home to a series of vibrant events, festivals, exhibitions and attractions which all celebrate the life, times and legacy of Robert Burns.”

Events and experiences in 2014 included the christening of Burns’ twins Robert and Jean, an Auld Alloway Ghost Walk, a special photobox, where you could go back in time to have your photo taken in 1759 and, of course, the world haggis hurling championships – won again by Gary McClay (23) – who improved on his 158 foot effort of last year, with an impressive throw of 188 feet.

The pupils of Forehill Primary presented the Alloway Rap – a re-boot of Burns’ classic poem ‘Tam O'Shanter’, Rozelle House stepped back in time to see the Hamilton family welcome guests and history buffs enjoyed a Jacobean adventure in Alloway Church, following in the footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Also popular were the many stalls, offering some of South Ayrshire’s finest produce, the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra who entertained and led the dances, helping to keep people’s toes tapping, the Ayrshire Farmers Market and, for the younger visitors, a new Super Burns Supper proved to be an enticing and exciting mix of fun, games and quizzes!

Provost Moonie concluded: “Year on year, Alloway 1759 has grown in size, scope and popularity and I cannot think of a better way to pay tribute to Rabbie, than by celebrating his legacy here in the heart of the village that was his home.

“I've no doubt Rabbie would have approved and as the events, poetry, music and dances took place, I’m convinced he was with us in spirit enjoying every minute!”

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