Friday, 12 December 2014
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.
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
Tuesday, 9 December 2014
As Christmas and the New Year approach, I’ve been looking back at 2014 and reflecting on what a remarkable – and fast – year it has been.
We started the year knowing we had much work to do to improve as your local Council, and no-one was more determined to make this happen than me.
Our priorities were focused on the local economy, children and families, adults and older people, communities and environment, and we began knowing it would be a year of tough choices and difficult decisions, set against a difficult economic backdrop.
As the year draws to a close, I’m delighted we’ve made excellent inroads in that improvement journey, with our Council plan really setting the agenda in moving us forwards.
It’s an impetus that’s been helped by some excellent new partnerships with other organisations – all aimed at working smarter and more efficiently for you.
A good example is the Ayrshire Roads Alliance – the first partnership of its kind in Scotland – established to deliver shared Council roads and transportation services to our local communities in East and South Ayrshire.
We’ve also been working with the NHS Ayrshire & Arran to finalise plans for the new South Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership – set up to manage national changes in how health and social care services are delivered from April 2015.
Creating the framework for this saw us undertake a series of consultation events, to make certain that the end results deliver exactly what you – and your local communities – need most.
For me, 2014 was all about progress – getting things done.
In Kirkmichael and Barrhill, two fantastic new schools were opened – and plans for the new Ayr Academy and the comprehensive refurbishment of Marr College well progressed – with exciting plans in the pipeline for Tarbolton and Dailly primary schools.
Making the most of your education is something I truly believe in, but it’s essential our young people come out to jobs and bright futures.
That’s one reason I was particularly pleased when plans for a new multi-million pound retail, housing and educational developments at south-east Ayr were approved – and I also welcomed the approval of plans for a Waitrose retail development just off the Holmston roundabout.
Retail success and town centre development are the very lifeblood of South Ayrshire’s economy and, as I write, feedback sessions from five independent town centre surveys which we commissioned, have already been held.
We’ll act on those results to further tailor support measures for our towns and the shops and businesses in them.
In addition to this, 2014 saw the expansion of the Council’s AMBITION business development programme to help support retail shops, and the great news is that we’re well on target to create 1,000 new jobs by the end of 2016.
The local economy was also brought into sharp focus with the uncertainty over Prestwick Airport and its subsequent purchase by the Scottish Government.
The airport is an absolutely essential part of our economy, and I’m absolutely determined that we will continue to work to ensure its future prosperity – and make sure the jobs in the surrounding aerospace sector are protected.
I further welcome the news that tycoon Donald Trump is keen to develop the airport for high-fliers after his acquisition of the Turnberry Resort – an exciting development in itself.
Add to that the airport’s possible role as a future spaceport and we really are reaching for the stars in every sense!
Yet, while all of this (and more) was going on, we welcomed the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay to South Ayrshire, and you pulled out all the stops to make sure it received a fantastic warm welcome as it made its way through a superb, sunny South Ayrshire on its way to Glasgow for, arguably, the best Commonwealth Games ever.
That one day perfectly captured the essence of South Ayrshire – where people from our towns and villages came together and showed the world why we’re famed for our warm hospitality.
That community spirit has also been a key driver in the development of a brilliant new leisure facility in Girvan.
The support offered through South Carrick Community Leisure has been extraordinary, and I’m delighted the end of this year brings the positive news that contractors have now been appointed to design and construct the new £5million facility, due to open in 2016.
Another milestone in 2014 was the Scottish Referendum and, once again, South Ayrshire residents – on both sides of the fence – turned out in truly unprecedented numbers, to make sure their voices were heard.
For us, the months and weeks leading up to 18 September 2014 were some of the busiest we have ever been – with our staff working tirelessly to make sure you could register to vote – and then cast it quickly, easily and conveniently. Now it is time to move on, and tackle the many challenges at local and national level.
Looking ahead to 2015, there are still difficult decisions to be considered and more improvements to make.
I’m confident our priorities as a Council will continue to be met, as we continue to build partnerships and pull together to find new and even more effective and efficient ways to deliver first class services to you.
It is that spirit of partnership, of working together to make things better for others that defines this year for me and it is apt that as I write this, Olivia Giles, Sompop Jantraka and Dr Sanduk Ruit have been shortlisted as finalists in this year’s Robert Burns Humanitarian Awards.
The winner will be declared in January, and I look forward to learning who this might be.
I believe 2014 was a pivotal year for South Ayrshire Council and I trust our progress will continue and will build momentum in 2015 and beyond.
I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
- Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council.
Sunday, 7 December 2014
Scotland’s economy is continuing to grow, according to the latest reports from Bank of Scotland and Ernst & Young.
[Pictured: Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney]
The Bank of Scotland PMI figures show further expansion in the economy during November and robust employment growth across both the services and manufacturing sectors.
Meanwhile, the Ernst & Young Scottish ITEM club forecast for economic growth in 2014 was revised up. This reflects the strength of the performance in the Scottish economy.
Ernst & Young also sharply improved its forecasts for employment, with total employment in Scotland expected to grow by 82,000 and 38,000 in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Commenting on these reports, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Economic recovery in Scotland is now being sustained, with the latest GDP figures showing Scotland’s economy growing continuously for two years. With the 26th month of expansion in the PMI, and the most recent forecasts for Scottish GDP growth having been revised up, the economic outlook remains positive.
“The latest figures on the job market from July to September 2014 also revealed that Scotland has the highest employment and economic activity rates and lowest unemployment rate of the four nations of the UK.
“Supporting economic growth, by effective work with business and by tackling inequalities, is integral to this Government’s approach to creating a more prosperous and fair society.
"The focus of our economic strategy on innovation and internationalisation is essential to address the headwinds to the recovery, particularly weaknesses in key export markets as well as political uncertainty at the UK level.
“We will continue to do all we can to ensure the positive trends continue, but with further job creating powers, we could do even more to help families throughout Scotland.”