The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Matt Cardle to open Burns Festival Sunday!

Thirteen may be unlucky for some, but for Matt Cardle fans, it’s a winning number, as the talented singer and X-Factor winner has announced he will headline South Ayrshire’s 13th Burns an’ a’ that! Festival, in Scotland’s Year of Homecoming 2014.

An annual tribute to Scotland's poet Robert Burns, the Festival features a ‘Weekend in the Park’ –  offering two days of free music in a special music tent, plus a host of fun activities, held at Belleisle Park, Ayr. (Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 May 2014). 

Sunday 25 May will now be headlined by Matt (pictured  above), who had been scheduled to switch on the Ayr Christmas Lights in December 2013 but due to unforeseen circumstances was unable to attend.

He promised he would return at a later date and, true to his word, he’s taking time out from his 19-date ‘Porcelain Tour’ to perform at Burns an’ a’ that! – kicking off the second day of the festival’s Weekend in the Park in style, by playing a special acoustic set.

He said: “I’m so excited to finally come to Ayr and to be able to support the Burns an’ a’ that! Festival.  I love Scotland and have always received such warm welcomes on my visits there.”

Matt takes to the stage at 1pm and the open tent provides lots of room for fans to watch Matt perform from within the tent and on the surrounding lawn. However, if the weather is bad the tent may be closed with only the first 500 people admitted –so please arrive early to avoid disappointment.  

Matt will be followed by a unique blend of 20s and 30s frivolity from The Casablanca Steps, the much anticipated return of local legends Southbound and fiddle mashing with urban dance and rock grooves from Bahookie. An evening ticketed gig will feature Jim Diamond and band and popular singer Horse

Saturday 24 May also has a FREE line up including a perfect picnic vibe from The Easy Orchestra, local bands The Hostiles and The Colin Kennedy Band plus two great names of Scottish music – Altered Images and The Blow Monkeys. 

A comedy gig will take place in the evening with the hilarious Keara Murphy’s modern parallel on the Burns poem ‘To A Mouse’ providing an outlook on life, love, loneliness and the need for Snickers bars. 

Throughout the Weekend in the Park there will also be lots more attractions including a teddy bears picnic, the Fresh Ayr Buskers Garden, special Burns trails and arts attractions, Greenhouse Gass, The Burns Mobstars, Arts Market, Food and Drink and much more!

The Festival – which is supported by South Ayrshire Council and Homecoming Scotland – is an annual tribute to Scotland's internationally acclaimed poet Robert Burns, celebrating the best of Scottish talent. This year it also forms part of Scotland’s Year of Homecoming and is sponsored by The Balgarth Pines with charity sponsorship from Children 1st and Festival Friday display sponsorship from Owen Kerr Signs. 

Full details, booking information and updates are available on the Festival’s website at: and on

Homecoming Scotland 2014

In addition to the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, Homecoming Scotland offers a year-long programme of events and activities to showcase all that's great about Scotland - mouth-watering food & drink events, lots to get you active in our great outdoors plus spectacular arts, cultural and ancestral heritage to explore. Whenever you come and wherever you visit, you’ll be very welcome to join us and be part of Homecoming Scotland 2014! Find out more here:

Matt Cardle

Almost three years have passed since Matt was crowned the winner of the 7th series of The X Factor, the most successful series to date with over 19.1 million viewers. His debut single ‘When We Collide’ sold over 1 million copies and spent 3 weeks at number one. Matt Cardle: ‘The Porcelain Tour’ tickets are available from

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

Friday, 11 April 2014

Historical chair is set to be the driving seat for new Bruce Trail

A carved oak chair, once thought to have belonged to King Robert the Bruce (1274-1329), is being exhibited at the McKechnie Institute in Girvan to help promote local interest in Scotland’s first King and boost a series of themed heritage trails.

The ‘Bruce chair’ was unveiled at the McKechnie by Provost Helen Moonie, and was originally found near Dunfermline Abbey in 1654.

[Pictured: South Ayrshire Provost Helen Moonie (right) is pictured with the ‘Bruce Chair’, Girvan and South Carrick Councillors, and representatives from the Association of Community Councils and the local community.]

It bears two brass plaques stating ‘Carved Oak Arm Chair’ and ‘Believed to have been the property of King Robert the Bruce’. Prominently within the carvings are the initials ‘RB’ although a carving of a coat of arms would have been more likely for a knight or a king at that time.

The design and build of the chair strongly hint that it’s Elizabethan in origin, some 300 years after Bruce’s time, although it may have been re-worked to preserve it after it was found at the Abbey.

However, the linkage to Robert the Bruce is intriguing because he was interred at Dunfermline Abbey’s high altar, so the discovery of a chair with his initials carved on it at this particular site is significant.

And the story of Robert the Bruce, his links and cultural impact in Carrick and South Ayrshire are to be further brought to life through three picturesque trails in the local area as part of a project led by the Association of South Ayrshire Community Councils (ASACC).

These will offer an extensive and joined-up network of paths that all link to the life and times of the King of the Scots covering three areas:

• Central – Maybole, Turnberry, Kirkoswald, Crossraguel Abbey, Maidens 

• North – Ayr, Prestwick, Dundonald, Loans, Barnweil Tower, Tarbolton 

• South – Girvan, Barr and Hadyard Hill, Ballantrae and Loch Ryan 

Supporting the trail, a number of road signs, plaques, information boards, cairns, marker stones and colour booklets are also planned, helping to set the scene and tell the tale of Bruce’s life and legacy in the area.

Provost Moonie said: “South Ayrshire and Carrick enjoy clear links to Robert the Bruce, and I am passionate about the need to preserve and develop such an important heritage.

“The Bruce Chair is an intriguing exhibit, and I hope it will help boost the profile of Robert the Bruce locally, inspiring people to come and learn more about our King and maybe follow in his footsteps.”

ASACC chairman Peter Mason said: “The Bruce Trail offers an ideal opportunity for our rich Bruce heritage to be formally recognised and marketed to those interested in history, both local and national.

"The paths make their way through many of the scenic areas, villages and towns that Bruce would have known, giving us the opportunity to develop additional hospitality, food and entertainment packages.

“We know many have strong and proud links to Bruce and his importance to the tourism potential of South Carrick cannot be underestimated. His time here is equally as important as Bannockburn and we’re keen to exploit that potential to maximum benefit.”

For further information on the Bruce Trail, contact Julia Whitaker at Ailsa Horizons on 01465 710628  or e-mail: 

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

Tidal Bay heading for Scottish Grand National at Ayr Racecourse

By: Iain Ferguson

THE curtain goes up on the 2014 Coral Scottish Grand National Festival this afternoon (Friday) with a seven race card featuring 62 runners.

All the leading jockeys are in action, including champion AP McCoy, Sam Twiston-Davies, Barry Geraghty, Tom Scudamore, Richard Johnson and Choc Thornton.

The feature race of the day is The Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase, and top weight in this is the Lucinda Russell trained, JP McManus owned and AP McCoy ridden Tap Night. Other notable runners here include Brian Ellison’s Viva Colonia and Alan King’s Bless The Wings.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s Coral Scottish Grand National, a full quota of 30 runners will line up including Tidal Bay (pictured above), trained by Paul Nicholls and the mount of Sam Twiston-Davies. Last year’s winner Godsmejudge aims to the first horse to win back to back Scottish Nationals since Androma in 1984-85.

The QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle is also set be given a huge boost with Nicky Henderson sending My Tent Or yours north to take on Court Minstrel, successful last year.

Tickets are selling fast with the Club badges likely to sell out before the first race, although there will be availability in the Grandstand.

For more information go online at or call 01292 264179.

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

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

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

House prices continue to increase in Scotland as supply fails to meet demand

RICS UK Residential Market Survey, March 2014

Demand for properties last month remained steady, with a net balance of 15 percent more chartered surveyors reported an increase in new buyer enquiries, says the RICS March Residential Market Survey.

Activity in the housing market is now showing encouraging signs of life in many areas that had been fairly stagnant, however, in general the market continues to be hampered by the continued lack of available housing stock. Despite growth in new buyer enquiries, new instructions from vendors in Scotland continued to fall in March as the predicted ‘spring bounce’ failed to materialise, a situation that was reflected in most parts of the UK. 

Significantly, the steady interest from potential buyers continues to be accompanied by rising house prices. During March, a net balance of 32 percent more surveyors saw prices rise rather than fall across Scotland, with this anticipated to continue for the coming months.  Prices rises are not expected to deter buyers, with 46 percent of respondents predicting an increase in sales during the next three months.

Sarah Speirs, Director RICS Scotland, commented: “Now that the housing market recovery is underway and mortgage finance is more readily available, buyers seem to be looking to test the market across Scotland. That said, it is a major concern that we are not seeing enough houses coming onto the market to meet this demand. For the market to operate effectively, we desperately need more homes in areas where people want to buy and want to live. Until this happens we’re likely to see prices to continue to increase and it is going to be ever harder for many first time buyers to enter the market.” 

Looking ahead, with no indication that the imbalance between buyer demand and homes on the market is going to change any time soon, surveyors expected prices to continue to increase as we enter the summer months. 

Andrew Hitchen BSc MRICS, J & E Shepherd, Stirling, commented: “We have continued to see an increase in price levels in smaller properties and new instructions remain encouraging, although the market now needs a greater increase in supply to meet the continued growth in demand.”

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

400 new jobs created in Kilmarnock

First Minister announces jobs and £1.2 million 
investment as part of Scotland Week programme

By: Murdoch MacDonald

Portfolio Recovery Associates UK (PRA UK) is anticipating future growth that could create up to 400 new jobs during the next three years adding to its current 300 staff in Kilmarnock offices, the First Minister Alex Salmond has announced.

The First Minister welcomed the creation of up to 400 new jobs supported by a £1.2 million investment as he continued his successful programme of business engagement in New York. 

PRA UK is a subsidiary of Portfolio Recovery Associates, Inc. (Nasdaq: PRAA), a leader in the US consumer debt buying industry. Ahead of meeting senior PRA representatives in New York as part of his 2014 Scotland Week programme, the First Minister said: “PRA UK is a well-known employer in Kilmarnock and the announcement of hundreds of new jobs is fantastic news for the area.

“Last month, the Scottish Cabinet met in Ayrshire where we focused on community regeneration announcing funding of £1.7 million to help the area flourish.

“I'm looking forward to meeting senior representatives of the company later today in New York as they confirm plans to create these new jobs for Kilmarnock. 

Steve Fredrickson, chairman, president and chief executive officer, PRA said: “Portfolio Recovery Associates sees opportunity for business growth in the UK resulting in additional call centre jobs and other roles. The support of the RSA and East Ayrshire Council will help enable this growth.”

[Pictured left to right: Cllr Jim Buchanan, East Ayrshire Council Spokesperson on Delivering Community Regeneration and East Ayrshire Council Leader Cllr Douglas Reid and, at The Cross, Kilmarnock inside the new office space being developed at The Cross for PRA UK.]

Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council, said: “East Ayrshire Council is delighted with the news that Portfolio Recovery Associates has plans to create another 400 new jobs in Kilmarnock, increasing the workforce of this valued and well-known employer. The Council has worked hand in hand with PRA to identify and fund the redevelopment of town centre office space to continue our priority to bring high value jobs into Kilmarnock town centre.

“The welcome jobs boost, along with financial support, adds to the ongoing regeneration of Kilmarnock as a thriving town which is open for business, as well as being a good place to live, with a strong sense of community and a real heart. This employment on a large scale, is just reward for the effort we are putting in to economic development, and I would encourage any company with growth plans to come and talk to us. I know that local people will make the most of this exciting opportunity, looking ahead to a great future for Kilmarnock and East Ayrshire”.

PRA UK provides consumer debt purchase and collections services to a diverse range of clients within the financial services, retail, telecoms and utilities sectors throughout the UK. For additional information, visit

Tidal Bay remains in Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr Racecourse

By: Iain Ferguson

Tidal Bay, who unseated his rider at the eighth fence in the Grand National at Aintree, heads the weights at the five-day entry stage for the Coral sponsored Scottish equivalent at Ayr on Saturday.

And My Tent Or Yours (pictured above), second in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, remains in the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle, the main supporting race on the day.

A total of 58 horses remain in the Coral Scottish Grand National including last year’s winner Godsmejudge from the Alan King yard and four horses – Green Flag, Lie Forrit, Nuts N Bolts and Kris Kross – from Lucinda Russell’s Perthshire stables.

It looks as if there will be a maximum field of 30 runners for the £200,000 Scottish National, and others who could go to post are David Pipe’s Edmund Kean, Roalco de Farges from the Philip Hobbs stable and last year’s third Mister Marker, trained by Nicky Richards.

Among the other horses remaining in the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle are Gordon Elliot’s Flaxen Flare, last year’s winner Court Minstrel from the Evan Williams yard, and the up and coming Clever Cookie trained at Malton by Peter Niven.

And if My Tent Or Yours does run, the sold out signs are likely to go up at the track for the second successive year.

There is more than £530,000 in prize money on offer over the two-day Coral Scottish Grand National Festival, and for more information or to book 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.