Jun 1 2012 by Stuart Wilson, Ayrshire Post (main ed)
NEGLECTED towns across South Ayrshire are some of Scotland’s worst at coping with the recession.
So says a panel of rural experts who claim we harbour some of the country’s most “vulnerable” locations.
And they’ve warned that communities in the south west are at risk of sinking without trace.
A damning report from the Scottish Agricultural College has listed the nation’s most at-risk areas.
And ranked in the top ten are Girvan, Cumnock, Ayr and Maybole.
The SAC Rural Policy Centre has issued a 104 page document with a league table of economic losers.
Their index tests towns and villages using four measures of well-being.
They are the percentage of the population who are of working age, the proportion claiming Job Seekers Allowance, the number working in the public sector and a measure of income depravation.
But while South Ayrshire finds itself at the wrong end of the table, it’s towns in the north east of Scotland which appear to be faring far better.
Dr Jane Atterton is the researcher behind the report at SAC.
She revealed: “This is intended as a vulnerability index to highlight the very clear problems that exist in many of our rural areas.
“These places need to be looked at if fortunes are to be turned around and it’s clear from the report that the south west of Scotland is struggling.
“There seems to be a different approach taken in the Highlands and Islands to rural affairs, and that is reflected in many of their towns and villages scoring well in the index.
“When looking at South Ayrshire and the high proportion of towns in the top ten, we have to ask why.
“Is it the number of people out of jobs because of public sector cuts or is it because of a lack of funding in these areas?
“Whatever the reason, these trends cannot continue.”
New South Ayrshire Councillor, Alec Clark, has just taken up the role as rural panel chair.
And he admitted: “The findings of this report are concerning, but I am not totally surprised.
“These issues have been talked about in the rural communities of South Ayrshire for many years, but sadly too little has been done about them.
“It is one thing to listen to concerns – but quite another to act on them – and that’s one thing we must look to put right.
“Transport links must be looked at and rural people need easy access to urban areas.
“What we need is a strategy for our rural towns and villages so that we can market the benefits of these areas.
“We have a lot to be proud of and should be shouting it from the rooftops.
“Hopefully this report will make people sit up and take notice, not just here, but at Scottish government level.”