The capacity turnout at Monday evening’s public meeting at the Ryan Centre highlights the frustration felt by many about the absence of effective communications and consultation with Stranraer residents on waterfront and regeneration issues.
This matter has been repeatedly raised over the years, most recently at the council’s Stranraer Regeneration Forum, on which Councillors Willie Scobie and Grahame Forster sit, and is something which clearly must now be addressed as a matter of urgency. Given their responsibility to oversee what the council does, we must hope that councillors will now direct officers to rectify this without further delay.
It was also disappointing that the business sector, so crucial to the success of any economic regeneration initiative, were not invited to be part of Monday’s meeting, especially as the need for jobs and prosperity for a town named Scotland’s fourth most vulnerable has never been greater.
For its part, Wigtownshire Chamber of Commerce has been actively and positively engaged in pressing local economic interests on a wide variety of bodies from the Regeneration Forum, the Task Force, Destination Dumfries and Galloway and, many meetings later, our efforts are starting to bear fruit. The chamber’s proposals for the railway station, first put forward more than four years ago, are increasingly accepted as a sensible way forward, even by some local councillors who once derided it.
At times, this process has been frustrating and very time consuming, but there is a real danger, fuelled by the vacuum of ongoing information and consultation, that the impression is given that no progress is being made, which is not true.
Stranraer has never before had such an opportunity to turn its economic fortunes around. Nor has the spotlight ever been shone on this town as it is now.
What is needed (aside from better communications) is for all parties to work properly together, setting aside their own interests for the greater good of the this area, which has so much to commend it and so much to offer.
The former Stranraer and District of Wigtown Chambers of Commerce led the way by merging earlier this year to create a single, stronger body working for economic growth. In turn, the Chamber of Commerce is working with a range of organisations to try to secure a more prosperous future for us all.
Alex Fergusson MSP was absolutely right when he commented that we must use the £2.4m available to draw down extra money to give the town the economic kick-start it so desperately needs. From that will flow a range of facilities for both residents and visitors alike. But, most importantly, we must ensure that our young people have a future in this area, which means good jobs and the chance to grow.
The Chamber of Commerce has already recognised this and is, in conjunction with Stranraer Academy, about to launch a Junior Chamber of Commerce, hopefully later this year, to encourage entrepreneurship and harness the creative talent of our young people as well as giving them some influence in decisions about economic regeneration initiatives such as the waterfront. Funding for this project is being sought.
The chamber has also put forward a range of what it believes are commercially viable projects to build on the strengths the town has and is working hard to bring these about in partnership with the council and government. Information is regularly published on the website www.wigtownshire.org.
The chamber is having a stand in the Main Marquee at this year’s Stranraer Show where chamber representatives will be happy to answer any questions.
President, Wigtownshire Chamber of Commerce,
The Business Centre, 6-8 Queen Street, Newton Stewart.