On 24 June, Holyrood’s Local Government and Communities Committee undertook a fact-finding visit to inform its inquiry into the problem of empty homes and scrutiny of the SNP Government’s Non-Domestic Rates Bill.
The Committee went walkabout in Kilmarnock with Empty Homes Officer Liz King and Vibrant Communities Officer Elaine Millar before visiting a house being renovated and then meeting Celebrate Kilmarnock.
The Committee subsequently visited Morton Young & Borland, one of the Newmilns’ two remaining lace manufacturers. MYB employs 56 people. The town once had 12 lace mills, employing 6,000 people. England long ago lost its lace industry but Scotland’s is still in business. MYB exports 70% of its high-end soft furnishings directly and 15% indirectly, with its top quality lace being sold from Kazakhstan to Australia.
The Committee also met Newmilns Regeneration Association, which is an entirely volunteer-led group and an ambitious one. Newmilns is the first town in Scotland to develop a Placemaking Plan which envisions a revitalised community and NRA is at the heart of that, as their logo suggests.
Kenneth Gibson MSP said:
“Almost every Wednesday morning the Local Government and Communities Committee meets to take evidence or deliberate on subjects ranging from planning to fuel poverty and local government finance to housing. However, some of our most valuable work is when we get out and visit people, communities and organisations.
“Our visit to East Ayrshire not only helped to inform our two enquiries, we also were able to visit an historic, niche Scottish manufacturer which is still going strong through product innovation, quality, hard work and determination to not just survive but thrive. Some of our group did not even know that lace making continues in Scotland. Scott Davidson, MYB’s owner is keen for us to let folk know that it does!
“The ambition and commitment of Celebrate Kilmarnock and Newmilns Regeneration Association to their towns is heartening and it was great to see local people working together to revitalise their communities.”