The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Friday, 6 February 2015

Ayrshire welcomes Chinese Consul General with a traditional Burns Supper

East Ayrshire met East Asia last weekend as Provost Jim Todd and senior officers from East Ayrshire Council welcomed a very distinguished Chinese delegation for a whistle-stop tour of prominent businesses and a traditional Burns Supper at Dumfries House.

Chinese Consul General Mr Pan Xinchun and Madam Consul General Yu Zhili spent Friday and Saturday as guests of East Ayrshire Council, learning all about local cultural heritage, academic, business and industrial achievements, while sampling the best of local produce and meeting prominent business leaders.

The visit started with a welcome to the Dick Institute in Kilmarnock from East Ayrshire by Provost Todd. The party met Andrew Aitken, a Grange Academy pupil, who has recently been accepted to Pembroke College, Oxford University to study Chinese language and culture including politics, society and history. Andrew’s linguistic ability came to the fore as one of the first pupils to benefit from Grange Academy’s Confucius Classroom, one of many set up in schools throughout Scotland, teaching Chinese language and providing opportunities for learning and cultural exchange.

On Friday evening, the party were guests of honour at a Burns Supper at Dumfries House where they met invited guests, including local business people. 

Enthralling entertainment was provided by pupils from East Ayrshire schools including accordionist Kenneth Dunlop from Grange Academy, piper Daniel Johnston from St. Josephs, and singers Kira Alexander and Chloe Walker from Cumnock Academy.

Cameron Hill from Grange Academy delivered a dramatic Address to the Haggis. Ian Lyell from Mauchline Burns Club delivered the Immortal Memory reminding guests that Burns was born in Ayr and died in Dumfries but lived in Mauchline, local poet Rab Wilson made a wonderful Toast to the Lassies and Heather Dunk Chief Executive and Principal of Ayrshire College provided a very witty reply. Guests enjoyed a traditional Burns Supper prepared using local produce and had the opportunity to sample whisky provided by The Lost Distillery Company, a Kilmarnock based business.

Two local textiles companies, MYB Textiles in Newmilns and Lochaven International in Stewarton were the venues for Saturday morning’s tour of the district. MYB has been producing traditional lace since 1900 at their factory in the Irvine Valley. Famed for their own collections, MYB have also worked with a range of well-known names including John Lewis and Hobbs. Recently they have also developed a niche market producing period appropriate interiors for both film and television.

Lochaven International produces Harry Potter knitwear for Universal Studios and works with other international design houses to export their products throughout the world.

Provost Jim Todd (pictured above exchanging gifts with the Chinese Consul General) said: “We were delighted to welcome Consul General Pan Xinchun and Madam Consul General Yu Zhili and show them some highlights of East Ayrshire. Consul General Pan Xinchun is particularly interested in Burns and was delighted when I showed them the Kilmarnock edition and other artefacts in the Dick Institute. He was very interested in finding out about our educational links with China and his meeting with Andrew Aitken gave us a chance to discuss how we can build on our cultural and educational links. He kindly invited me to a concert later in the year at the Chinese Consulate in Edinburgh and I have invited Andrew to accompany me as an ambassador for our schools programme.

“Meeting with some of our business leaders and entrepreneurs at the Burns Supper was a great way to showcase our culture and heritage and Mr Pan has agreed to return at my invitation to have a more in depth tour of East Ayrshire so that we can explore how to build further on our existing links.”

Chic Brodie MSP said: “I am delighted to have been associated in some way with this momentous event for Ayrshire. The opportunities for this long term friendship and entrepreneurship link are immense.”

East Ayrshire’s links with China took a step forward in 2014 with a major investment from UPIC, an investment consortium involving retail, tourism and education from Dandong city in Liaoning Province, who have purchased Glaisnock House in Cumnock as a base for a Culture & Enterprise centre. [READ REPORT HERE]

A number of local businesses already export to China and the connections established through the Council’s education programmes provide a strong foundation on which to build and attract further investment.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Health and Education at Heart of Budget

Swinney outlines plans to tackle inequality, 
boost the economy and protect public services

Deputy First Minister John Swinney today set out the Scottish Government spending plans to create a fairer and more prosperous Scotland. At the heart of the Budget is the recognition that a strong economy is only successful, if it is underpinned by a society that is fair and equitable.

Setting out the budget to parliament, Mr Swinney said the plans respond to Scotland’s improving economic conditions and would enhance economic growth, tackle inequalities and continue to protect and invest in Scotland’s public services. 

The Finance Secretary also put key public services of health and education at the heart of the budget confirming an increase of £383m in frontline health spending next year and setting out the government’s commitment to our teaching workforce and their key role in raising attainment and tackling inequality with £51m investment to maintain teacher numbers and £20m of new spending to improve educational life chances for all.

The Scottish budget is set against the context of cuts by Westminster to the Scottish Government’s Fiscal DEL budget of around 10 per cent in real terms over five years, including capital spending cuts of over 25 per cent in real terms. 

Mr Swinney set out the following key additions to the original budget today:

• An increased investment in energy efficiency of £20m to provide a total budget of £114m.
• An additional £127m for frontline healthcare in our NHS taking our total additional resource investment for 2015-16 to £383 million.
• A further £10m in addition to the previously allocated £41m of funding for local authorities who commit to maintain teacher numbers.
• £20m additional funding to tackle educational inequality and raise attainment. 
• £15 million held to support prudent management of tax revenues in 2015-16.
• £3.9m to support cycling and walking infrastructure.
• £200,000 to progress the Fair Work agenda. 

Setting out the budget to parliament John Swinney said: “The people of Scotland want to live in a more prosperous and a much fairer country than it is today. 

“This budget is focused on meeting those ambitions, as far as we can within our current powers, by tackling inequality, investing in our economy and protecting and reforming our public services. 

“This budget will see £4.5 billion invested in infrastructure with new colleges, health facilities and schools being built across the country.

“This budget continues our actions to mitigate UK Government welfare cuts with £81m of support and delivers on our commitments to expand childcare and to provide free school meals for all p1-p3 pupils.

“It is also a landmark budget, including for the first time our proposals for the rates and bands of Scottish Landfill Tax and Land & Buildings Transaction Tax, devolved through the Scotland Act 2012 and which take effect for the first time in 2015-16. As a result 50% of homebuyers will pay no tax and over 90% of taxpayers will pay no tax at all or be better off compared to the UK’s current tax rates.

Focussing on health and education the Finance Secretary said: “The health of our population and the education of our young people are two of the most important responsibilities of government and they are at the top of our priorities.

“A vote for the budget today will see an additional £127m of extra spending for frontline healthcare in our NHS. That will take our total additional frontline investment for 2015-16 to £383 million as part of a total NHS budget in excess of £12 billion, and every penny of that money will help our frontline services. 

“The education of Scotland’s children is the key to both their future and to the future of Scotland. Our investment in schools and in teachers forms a critical part of this effort but we can and will do more. When sufficient funding is available to support the employment of teachers it cannot be acceptable that the numbers of teachers declined slightly last year and the ratio of pupils to teachers rose slightly.

“To help ensure delivery of the teacher numbers commitment and in recognition of the general budget pressures authorities are facing I am providing a further £10 million for 2015-16 in addition to the £41 million previously allocated to support this commitment. In order to protect that investment in teacher numbers this total resource of £51 million will only be available to local authorities on a council by council basis if they are prepared to sign up to a clear commitment to protect teacher numbers. Any council that does not make and deliver on that commitment will not benefit from that funding.

“As we signaled in the Programme for Government tackling inequality is one of our key priorities. Too many of our young people have life chances narrowed by circumstances out of their control. Improving opportunities for our children will require focused and targeted action; it will involve providing additional support to our teachers and parents. 

“Today I am announcing £20 million additional funding to improve educational life chances for all and raise attainment. This funding for this coming year will be followed by further funding in next year’s budget and the details of how this additional investment will be utilised will be announced shortly.

“The actions I have taken today demonstrate the values and priorities of the Scottish Government. We drive forward investment in our economy, we protect our NHS, we invest in our young people and businesses and we protect the most vulnerable.”

The following key commitments were also reaffirmed: 

To make Scotland a more prosperous country the budget will:

• Secure £4.5 billion of infrastructure investment in 2015-16 
• Support £330 million of further capital investment in our Scotland’s Schools for the Future programme through NPD funding
• Provide £140 million to deliver 2 new college campuses through the NPD pipeline
• Continue to deliver the most competitive business tax environment in the UK
• Invest £16.6 million in 2015-16 to further take forward recommendations of the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce
• Maintain the most competitive business environment in the UK

To tackle inequalities the budget will:

• Drive investment in affordable housing of over £390 million to deliver 6000 affordable homes and £125m of additional financial support for the housing sector.
• Invest more than £300 million over two years to extend annual funded childcare to 600 hours for 3 and 4 year olds and vulnerable 2 year olds.
• Provide additional support for looked after children
• Provide £81 million to mitigate against Wesminster’s welfare reform including the ‘Bedroom Tax’
• Maintain a council tax freeze across Scotland 
• Continue the Scottish Government’s social wage commitments including free prescriptions, concessionary travel and free personal care

To protect and reform Public Services the budget will:

• Increase the health budget to over £12 billion with a funding increase of £383 million
• Invest over £200 million in 2015-16 to help drive integration of adult health and social care
• Support 1000 additional police officers
• Protect the Local Government budget
• Maintain a Scottish living wage for public sector workers covered by public sector pay policy
• Continue the commitment to no compulsory redundancies.

First February meeting at Ayr Racecourse features £11,500 handicap chase

By: Iain Ferguson

AYR Racecourse stages the first of two meetings this month on Tuesday 10 February – Winter Warmer Raceday.

The six-race card features three hurdles, two chases and a National Hunt Flat Race with the first race at 2.10pm.

The feature event due off at 4.20pm is a two mile four furlong handicap chase with £11,500 up for grabs, and that should attract a healthy field with entries expected from some leading northern yards including those of Nicky Richards, Lucinda Russell (pictured above), Nick Alexander and James Ewart.

The final race is due off at 4.55pm and gates open at 12.10pm. Ayr also races on Monday 23 February. For more information call 01292 264179 or go online at

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.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

£100,000 for South Carrick Community Leisure

Hadyard Hill Community Benefit Fund has awarded South Carrick Community Leisure £100,000 towards the creation of a new leisure and community facility in Girvan (artist's impression below).

This latest award builds on the grants awarded last year by South Ayrshire Council, Carrick Futures and the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund and brings the total commitments to over £4.6 million on an overall project cost of £5 million.  

Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council said: “The new leisure and community facility has always been a partnership project. I am delighted our partners, South Carrick Community Leisure, have played such an important part by raising this latest £100,000, bringing the community contribution to £350,000. My congratulations and thanks to them for their commitment to this project.” 

Scheduled to open in late 2016 the new facility will include a 25 metre pool, a two storey children’s soft play area, fitness gym, flexible multi-purpose studios which can be used for dance classes, arts and culture and community events and a viewing and cafe area.

Andrew Sinclair, Chair of the Board of South Carrick Community Leisure said: "I am delighted by this award which brings the community fund raising to more than £350,000 and is nearly the last piece of our overall funding jigsaw. By making this award the Board of Directors of Hadyard Hill Community Benefit Fund have given a huge vote of confidence in the project and has really gotten 2015 off to a great start. We're only waiting to hear back from sportscotland for the full funding package to be in place. This is great news.”

“As a community Girvan has lobbied hard for this new facility and despite the ups and downs over the last couple of years I am more than ever confident that we will see a start to building works late this year. Indeed, much of our efforts in the immediate future are being directed towards getting the Board and the community in the right place to take on the running of the new building when complete. An exciting prospect for Girvan.”

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

Monday, 2 February 2015

Minister views £18M Arran Ferry Development

Scotland’s Transport Minister, Derek Mackay visited Arran yesterday to see plans to deliver an £18 million upgraded harbour at Brodick, and hear the latest on the delivery of a new vessel for the Ardrossan-Brodick ferry route.

And following the introduction of the Road Equivalent Tariff to Arran routes in October last year, part of a wider commitment to roll out reduced fares across the Clyde and Hebrides during the lifetime of this Parliament, carryings have increased significantly.

Minister for Transport and Islands, Derek Mackay said: “I was delighted to travel on one of our busiest ferry routes to visit Arran and hear from partners taking forward plans which will deliver a new upgraded harbour for the island’s capital, worth £18 million. 

“Arran is one of the true gems of our islands - a real favourite with tourists - which is why partners are pressing ahead to deliver the upgrades by the end of next year. 

“Thanks to partnership funding, work is under way to upgrade Brodick Harbour, with plans for a new pier, a new terminal building, improved passenger access, and a deeper berth to allow a greater variety of vessels to dock. The bus terminal will also be upgraded to ensure improved onward connection to all corners of the island and its wonderful assets.

“But we want to do more for Arran. The Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) which delivers reduced fares for passengers, cars and small commercial vehicles, has been popular on other routes, and since its introduction to Arran routes last October, is also proving to be a real success. 

“With car fares down by half and passenger fares down by around 30%, we have seen a real bounce in ticket sales. Passenger numbers on the Brodick route are up 10%, with car carryings up by more than 50%. The Lochranza route is up by over 50% for both passengers and cars, which can only be good news for the island economy. More communities will see the benefits of RET when the roll out to all Clyde and Hebrides routes is completed in October this year.

“And procurement of a new vessel is also under way for delivery in 2017 completing a package of ferry infrastructure improvements which will benefit Arran. With popularity of Arran routes on the up, the new vessel will be procured with capacity, resilience and improved passenger experience in mind, benefitting both locals and visitors alike. 

“Plans for Arran are just part of a wider stream of improvements to Scotland’s ferry services which the Scottish Government is delivering on, and we want to see this continue to ensure the very best for our islands and our ferry users.”

Brodick’s port facilities are around 40 years old and reaching the end of their serviceable life. The terminal redevelopment is included in the Scottish Government’s Ferries Plan (2012).

The Brodick Harbour Redevelopment Group was established in June 2013 to deliver the new infrastructure. The Group includes CMAL, Transport Scotland, North Ayrshire Council, Visit Arran and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and has worked in partnership to secure the funding to deliver the right solution for the project. 

A commitment of £1.2 million has been received from North Ayrshire Council, SPT will deliver a proposed £1 million contribution, with the balance of the funding from Transport Scotland and CMAL.

RET was introduced on routes to Arran in October 2014. On the main Ardrossan–Brodick route, car fares are over 50% cheaper compared to a standard single for the previous winter, whilst passenger fares are almost 30% cheaper. Fares on the Lochranza-Claonaig route have also reduced significantly. 

The procurement process to build and design two new ferries for use on the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services network was launched on 15 October 2014. The successful bidder will undertake detailed design and construction work of two passenger/ freight /car ferries of 100 metres length overall, as well as testing, equipping, launch and delivery. The first vessel is to be delivered by the end of 2017 with the second vessel to follow shortly after. The ferries are being designed to provide a fully flexible year-round service for Arran and the Uig Triangle, subject to final review by CalMac Ferries Ltd, CMAL and Transport Scotland. The vessels which are being replaced will be cascaded throughout the network.

North Ayrshire Council is a member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.