The strategic business case for the proposed Ayrshire Growth Deal (AGD) has now been submitted to both the SNP Government at Holyrood and UK Tory Government at Westminster for their consideration.
A major collaborative project between the three Ayrshire local authorities, the aims of the AGD are both exciting and hugely ambitious; to unlock the potential of Ayrshire's people, communities and assets to improve the wellbeing and prosperity of all who live here and make Ayrshire the best area of Scotland to live, work and do business in. The deal is a major opportunity to strengthen Ayrshire’s Economy. Targeted investment throughout Ayrshire will act as a powerful catalyst, stimulating growth and increasing prosperity.
The vision is for Ayrshire to be vibrant, outward, confident and appealing to both investors and visitors. Objectives include attracting and developing internationally focussed companies with high levels of productivity and positioning Ayrshire as the 'go to' region for smart manufacturing and digital skills.
Ayrshire certainly has a lot to offer. Prestwick’s aerospace industry currently employs over 3,000 – half of Scotland's total in that sector – and in a few short years I believe we will also see the establishment of Europe’s first spaceport there. With additional opportunities for new industries to take root, such as diversification of Scotland’s evolving oil and gas sector. Clustered around Irvine, we have a successful life sciences industry led by major employers such as Glaxo Smith Kline and Sigma Aldrich, whilst future plans include developing a Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre.
Here in Cunninghame North, thanks to SNP Government investment in Road Equivalent Tariff, ferry tourism has expanded massively to Arran via the port of Ardrossan, now the busiest in the country, so the need to retain Ardrossan as Arran’s Ayrshire port is obvious. The Ardrossan Coastal Regeneration project will transform the region's marine tourism economy further, with a proposed expansion of 300 berths at the town's marina. As we seek to develop, the demands on our infrastructure will increase. The SNP Government has already committed to building the Dalry bypass, which begins work onsite in March, greatly improving connectivity and inward investment opportunities in the three towns and Kilwinning. In Dalry itself, DSM a global science-based company active in health and nutrition, continues to prosper.
A crucial aspect of the deal is that economic growth must be inclusive, meaning it must benefit everyone who lives and works in Ayrshire. We not only wish to attract business to Ayrshire, we want it to grow from within. For this we must invest in and empower our communities, providing people with the relevant skills to participate as the economy grows. A proposed health and disability support service will support those who are unemployed with health issues to return to work and help those in work retain their employment. For our next generation, the Ayrshire’s Connected Classroom initiative will ensure every pupil aged between 3 and 18 will have access to a high level of appropriate technology at the heart of their everyday learning experience.
To deliver the AGD requires much needed improvements to our infrastructure and investment of over £350 million. Whilst I am delighted that the SNP Government has already agreed to work with all partners concerned, I am disappointed that the Chancellor's Autumn Statement was a missed opportunity to propose a matching commitment from Westminster, despite intense lobbying by local MP Patricia Gibson. Supporting the AGD will not only be good for Ayrshire, but the Scottish and UK economies. As such, I trust that the Chancellor will reconsider, share our vision and back the deal in next year’s Spring Budget.