Employment in Ayrshire is still recovering from the Blair years; 14,500 manufacturing jobs - 53% - were lost under Labour in the decade to 2007; some 2,200 in North Ayrshire from 2005-2007 alone. Then the recession struck, with austerity imposed by successive UK Governments.
Despite setbacks, North Ayrshire hosts ambitious, world-class companies such as GSK, Highland Meats and DSM, which have invested millions and continue to, showing their faith in the people of North Ayrshire.
SNP led NAC has developed an innovative ‘Team North Ayrshire’ consisting of public and private sector leaders committed to driving business growth, including Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland and Scottish Development International. This network offers greater collaboration, a single point of contact and more flexible business support.
Scottish Enterprise, working to attract inward investment, identified 40 export led growth companies in North Ayrshire, and supports another 150. A re-elected SNP Government will establish export and innovation hubs in London, Dublin and Brussels to help businesses access markets and investment.
We are encouraging entrepreneurial skills in our schools and developing the Women in Enterprise Action Framework to increase the number of women starting and leading businesses. In North Ayrshire between January 2012 and December 2015, the number of women in work rose from 11,600 to 13,300; a record! We will develop ‘returnships’ for people returning to work after a long break, such as women who have raised families.
Apprenticeships in North Ayrshire have doubled in three years and youth unemployment has fallen faster than anywhere else in Scotland. I organise an Employment Fayre each year to help match jobs to job-seekers locally, with 60-70 businesses and 600-1,000 attendees at each event. Developing science, technology, engineering & maths skills, boosting productivity, innovation, improving infrastructure and promoting the living wage is vital for sustainable growth. We support key sectors, including food and drink, financial and business services, renewable energy, tourism, creative industries, construction and life sciences.
Infrastructure developments range from 1,066 affordable homes across North Ayrshire in partnership between NAC, the SNP Government and housing associations and refurbishing Saltcoats Town Hall to the £38 million out-to-tender Dalry Bypass and major construction projects such as the new £22.8 million Brodick Harbour, £47 million Arran ferry at Port Glasgow, Woodland’s View Mental Health Hospital, Largs para-sports facility, Garnock Campus and a new Largs Academy Campus and Ardrossan Academy to follow.
Encouraging social enterprises to maximise social benefit is also important.