Wednesday, 23 December 2015
At this time of year we all reflect on the past 12 months, but also look forward to the coming year with hope and expectation.
I know from talking to people across South Ayrshire that times have been difficult for many, however in the face of adversity our communities are showing remarkable spirit and determination.
Christmas is a time for giving, but I am happy that giving is becoming more commonplace. Even giving up some free time to pick up some shopping for an elderly neighbour will be welcomed.
Charities are an important part of today’s society, and our Council charities have been generously supported. However, Gardening Leave has decided to close its operations. I am saddened by this news, as they have helped many veterans. I would like to thank the volunteers and staff for all their hard work over the years.
Helping one another can extend beyond our borders, and the plight of refugees is something which has touched us all. Council staff responded to an appeal and donated much needed items to help refugees in camps around Calais.
As a Council, we are supporting the Syrian Vulnerable Person Relocation Scheme, and we will be finalising this assistance in the New Year.
An appreciation of different cultures and countries is helped through our twinning programme, which can forge lasting friendships. Ayr, Girvan, Maybole and Troon are all twinned with French towns, and in light of recent events; we have been in touch to lend our support.
Twinning is one way to promote South Ayrshire, as is the hosting of exhibitions such as the 2020VISION exhibition which showcased the work of 20 of the UK’s top nature photographers.
This exhibition was part of the Place Partnership initiative which is set to turn South Ayrshire into a hub for arts and culture. Many of the partnership projects highlight the pressures on our environment and this is something we all need to protect for future generations.
With this in mind, I was delighted to launch the Provost’s Footprint Challenge which involves all our schools. Pupils will compete to come up with the best ideas to tackle climate change and reduce our carbon footprint.
I have also been engaging with lots of young people over the past year, telling them a bit about the role of the Provost. One of the first things I tell people is that I am proud to represent South Ayrshire, and high profile events like the Scottish Airshow provide a great opportunity to be an ambassador.
At this time of year we should remember the men and women serving our country around the world.
This year we have developed commemorative woodland at Rozelle in Ayr which we believe is the first of its kind in Scotland. There are breathtaking sculptures featuring soldiers from WWI and I am delighted that there are plans to develop the trail.
Whatever you are doing this Christmas, we should all remember those that have to work at this time of year.
Charities, the police, fire and rescue service, NHS, Council workers and many more will all have to work over the festive period to ensure we have a peaceful Christmas and a safe new year.
I would like to wish you all the best for the festive season; I hope that the New Year brings you all you hope for.
South Ayrshire Council is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.
Tuesday, 22 December 2015
UK government Minister of State for Transport Robert Goodwill opened a new £7 million coastguard search and rescue (SAR) helicopter base at Prestwick Airport during a visit to Scotland.
The minister officially launched the new civilian SAR service at Prestwick Airport, which will be operated on behalf of the UK Coastguard by Bristow Helicopters, after arriving on one of the Sikorsky S92 helicopter that will be dispatched to emergencies in the coming months.
Aircraft from Prestwick will serve west of Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland and be available to assist emergencies UK-wide when needed. The helicopters are equipped with the latest search and rescue technology including state-of-the-art night vision and improved onboard medical capabilities so they can operate in all weathers.
The new base is the latest stage of the £1.9 billion 10 year contract awarded to Bristow in 2013 to run UK services and joins Inverness which begun operation in April 2015.
UK Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill said: "The new Prestwick Search and Rescue base will provide a vital emergency rescue service at sea, in coastal areas and inland throughout Scotland and the UK. The brand new state-of-the-art helicopters flying from here will be on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to reach those in need. Our investment has provided helicopters that can fly further and faster than the previous service and shows our commitment to helping keep Scotland safe".
Operations under the new UK SAR Helicopter service successfully began in 1 April 2015 from Inverness and Humberside Airports, with services also commencing at Caernarfon in July, Lydd in August and St Athan in October.
Earlier in the day, Robert Goodwill flew into Glasgow Airport where he met Amanda McMillan, Managing Director of Glasgow Airport, and Leader of Glasgow City Council Frank McAveety to talk about plans for a brand new rail link, jointly funded by the UK and Scottish governments, that will offer fast, convenient travel times between the airport and Glasgow city centre and transform journeys for local people.
The business case for 2 possible schemes — one a tram-train line, the other a light rail system — were approved at the Glasgow and Clyde Valley cabinet meeting on Tuesday (15 December 2015), and could be up and running by 2025. The link would be funded through the £1.13 billion Glasgow and Clyde Valley City Deal fund, which received £500 million from the UK government.
Robert Goodwill also saw met representatives of the Jet 2 airline to see how a pioneering Glasgow Airport scheme on antisocial behaviour on flights is progressing. Duty-free alcohol for passengers boarding flights is being sold in tamper-proof sealed bags as part of a trial also being run at Manchester Airport.
Monday, 21 December 2015
With the festive season in full swing, I have been reflecting on what we have achieved over the past year.
We are progressing a number of exciting projects which could completely transform South Ayrshire. Working with partners, we are looking to bring the UK's first Spaceport to Prestwick; we are already recognised as leaders in the aviation, aerospace and technology sectors and if successful, we could be become the centre of the UK's space industry.
All of these sectors and many others could also benefit from plans to submit a regional growth bid to the Scottish Government. The bid sets out plans to tackle barriers to economic growth in Ayrshire.
Our aviation sector is thriving and I am delighted to welcome Bristow Helicopter Lt to Prestwick airport to run the new search and rescue service.
We are looking to attract even more business and new enterprises to South Ayrshire and we need to ensure that people living here can capitalise on any job opportunities.
We have our AMBITION programme which helps job creation and boosts skills and we are also investing in schools.
We are extending Marr College in Troon and work will start on the new Ayr Academy at Craigie in the New Year. The old Ayr Academy building could become a new home for Ayr Grammar Primary School. Plans are also progressing for new primary schools in Tarbolton and Dailly. Our investment in schools seems to be working as exam results continue to improve.
The new play park at Belleisle in Ayr is proving very popular and other improvements are set to make the park even more appealing.
I am hopeful that the Odeon cinema will move into the Kyle Centre in Ayr and Watt Bros recently moved to larger premises on Ayr high street. We are also looking to bring new Council offices into the heart of Ayr town centre, boosting footfall and improving access to our services.
Tourism remains a fundamental part of our economy, around 70,000 people from all over the country were mesmerised at the Scottish Airshow in September as the red arrows painted the sky red, white and blue.
With tourism and golf in mind, I am delighted that Royal Troon will host the 145th Open Golf Tournament in July. Up to 170,000 spectators are expected and our local businesses will benefit from this
I am also pleased that progress is being made on the refurbishment of both Belleisle and Troon golf clubhouses.
We are investing in sporting facilities across South Ayrshire. January will see work start on the new £5 million leisure facility in Girvan which is set to open in the spring of 2017.
There has been some sad news too this past year, former Provost Winifred Sloan passed away. She was a great ambassador for South Ayrshire and will be sadly missed.
Looking ahead, our Scottish Government funding has been reduced significantly for 2016/2017, so there will be some very tough decisions to make. We have already engaged with you to see how you would make savings of £1.6 million and I would like to thank everyone that took part.
The Scottish Parliamentary elections will be held on Thursday 5 May next year, so remember to register to vote.
It's the festive season and time for friends and family. However, not everyone is on holiday, so please remember those that continue to provide vital services at this time of year.
It's also a time of year when people may need a little help, so please remember to check on elderly or vulnerable neighbours, just doing a few small things could make a big difference.
I wish everyone a peaceful Christmas and a healthy and contented New Year.
South Ayrshire Council is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.