Easter Recess


Easter recess allows more to be done in the constituency. I was delighted to formally open the Portland in Galston. The refurbishment of this is a fantastic outcome for a building that had become a derelict eyesore. Some of the disruption may have been painful but we now have a first floor occupied by local businesses, a community room with lots of community events planned and another retail unit available for lease. A real hub.

I visited the “Wednesday Waffle” in Onthank. This is a community run group which offers a hot meal to everyone attending, and many activities including trips out. They have branched out into doing cooking lessons on a Thursday, and teaching how to cook healthy meals on a budget.

I also attended the Town Centre Partnership Board Meeting to hear the work being undertaken with Celebrate Kilmarnock. I am really looking forward to further town centre events this year, with for example Killie-ween and K-Fest. Additionally, ambitious plans are being formulated for community ownership and running of buildings with the aims of regeneration, events and the night time economy.

I planned a visit to the CHIP (Community Health Improvement Partnership) van to have a health check and see their good work undertaken. Unfortunately, the van itself failed its own health check and had to be put off road for repairs. Next time!

Rail Ownership

It was interesting to read Colin Smyth MSP’s press release that commuters from Ayrshire overpay on the rail when compared randomly to a route in France, proving the need for “Labour’s policy” on rail nationalisation. Nothing to say how this would actually lower fares which would be welcome. The fact that there are 8 state owned rail companies operating in the UK, shows state owned railways work. However, Labour politicians conveniently forget it was Labour UK Governments who in the Railway Acts of 2000 and 2005 refused to allow public sector bids or outright ownership.

They also refused to allow Scotland to have the powers to do so. After coming to power in 2007, the SNP asked three UK Governments for the powers for public sector bids but were rebuffed. This is why we have the Dutch owned Abellio operating Scotrail. However, after the SNP made sure the powers for public sector bids were included in the Smith Commission proposals we have been able to commit to the preparation of a public sector bid.

After Labour’s broken promises, it was the SNP who delivered a half hour service to Glasgow. It was the SNP who invested to end the practice of trains dumping toilet waste directly on the tracks [which still happens on some English services!]. Years of underinvestment in the rail sector has led to some of the network issues that contribute to delays and station skipping on the Kilmarnock-Glasgow services. That’s not to say Abellio are blameless and I will always challenge them on this. Another issue going forward is that the UK Government have allocated £600m less than required for rail upgrades in Scotland. So, there are many reasons which affect prices and services. I wish more politicians understood.

These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard.