TAG | Kirriemuir
I am backing the Scottish Lib Dem campaign to get the SNP Government to support businesses and particularly hotels, facing huge increases in their businesses rates. Speaking to a debate on this issue at the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference, I highlighted the issues facing tourism during a year of celebrations across the whole of Angus.
Jeremy Purvis MSP, Lib Dem Shadow Secretary on Economic affairs, introduced a motion to press the Scottish Government to support hotels facing rises of up to 120% in the 2010 Business Rates revaluation. He called for the SNP to provide transitional relief, staggering increases over a number of years, in the same way as the previous Lib Dem / Labour Government had done whilst in power, and is standard practice across the rest of the UK.
In Angus, the recession is already hitting Scottish Hotels and Tourism. In February, a stately home, the Castleton House, near Glamis, closed its doors as a hotel.
This year, there are bicentenary celebrations for the Royal Montrose Golf Course and the Bell Rock Lighthouse as well as the 150th anniversary of J M Barrie’s birth in Kirriemuir. All of these celebrations have developed great relationships with local hotels and B&B’s. But already a lack of hotel beds in Angus limits how big their events can be and how much extra business they can bring to the local area.
I spoke to Fraser Ogston, the owner of two hotels in St Andrews, who will open a third in Arbroath in April. He had little idea of what his business rates will be, particularly with the rates revaluation. How can hotel owners plan their business without knowing what their taxes will be?
The issues with business rates go further than the hotel industry and transitional relief, however. In particular, business rates are discouraging investment to tackle climate change, as any savings made on energy bills are swallowed up in increased rates. I talked to a shipyard owner, Harry Simpson of Mackay Boat Builders, again in Arbroath, where they rebuilt a workshop building, with one with an insulated roof, motion sensitive lights and taps, and a better working environment for staff. With little warning their rates were doubled, not least because they were taken over the threshold for small business relief.
How can it make sense that a business that has added no new capacity, is no longer regarded as small, simply because they have replaced a building with a greener, safer one?
I am asking Forfar, Kirriemuir and Brechin residents to have their say on plans to change fire station provision in Angus. Tayside Fire and Rescue Board are proposing to switch a whole time night shift at Balmossie Fire Station to a whole time day shift at Forfar Fire Station. Currently there is no whole time provision in Forfar, Kirriemuir or Brechin. Instead, the stations are retained, which means that firemen are on call, but not based full time at the station.
I visited Forfar fire station with local Community Councillor and activist, Avril Simpson. As I understand it, the overnight crew at Balmossie fire station in Broughty Ferry were not called to a single house fire in the last 3 months of 2009, and were only called to two, relatively minor secondary fires between October and December. The Fire Board are arguing that a retained service overnight at Balmossie would be sufficient to meet the needs of local residents, based on 6 years of operational incidents across Tayside.
The retained fire crews across Angus and the whole of Tayside provide an excellent service, securing the safety of local residents.
The Fire Board noted that the peak time for incidents were during the day. They also stated that research indicates that prevention and early detection is the best way to save lives. They argue that a whole time day shift in Forfar would allow fire crews to carry out Home Fire Safety Visits, which the retained fire men are currently unable to do, due to their full time employment commitments.
Cllr Ken Lyall, Chair of the local Fire Board believes that this change will improve emergency response in Forfar, Kirriemuir and Brechin during the day, without impacting overnight cover in Broughty Ferry. The Board also believes that by conducting Home Fire Safety Visits, Tayside Fire and Rescue Service will be able to save more lives.
It is crucial that local people have their say on whether they would like these changes to go ahead. I will be distributing a Focus leaflet in Forfar and will ask local residents about their wishes. In the meantime, residents from across Angus can contact me with their views by commenting below. Or if you wish to keep your views private, you can email me at email@example.com or by mail at Viewpark, Meethill Road, Alyth, PH11 8DE.
Sanjay urged all residents in Angus to support the buy local campaign as a way of supporting local shops, businesses and producers. Buying local is particularly important at a time when many local businesses are feeling the pinch and will ensure they are better placed when the economy grows. Buying local also helps to cut down our carbon footprint and plays a crucial role in tackling climate change.
Montrose is blessed with many pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels. There is also a great variety of our own independent shops such as arts and craft boutiques, antique dealers, first class butchers, bakers, florists and fishmongers, By spending our money in independent shops, we are investing more into our own town centres, preserving the heart of our community and helping to generate work for local people.
Natures Garden, in Montrose, which has only been open for a few months, is a great example of a local shop that not only provides employment, but also sells produce from local farms which could not be fresher, and so gives even more of a boost to the local economy.
David Irons & Sons, in Forfar, is one of those shops that can only exist in towns like those in Angus. Providing employment for local people, selling items that chain stores would not carry and supported by a community that fully appreciates its rich history. I’m sure that whatever you want, if David Irons & Sons don’t have it stock, they will order it for you! Buying local can help to ensure that David Irons & Sons continues to serve the community in Forfar for another 100 years.
Winning Town Centre Regeneration funding is a real opportunity to re-invigorate Brechin’s town centre. By supporting local shops, Brechin residents can help ensure Brechin has a thriving town centre.
Falconers Family Butchers, in Arbroath, is exactly the sort of independent local business we should be supporting. Angus is blessed with a number of independent butchers, and it is heartening to seem them thrive. And we need to support other independent businesses in the same way.
The Star Rock Shop is exactly the sort of independent shop we need to be supporting. Founded in 1833, it is part of the town’s history, providing local employment and offering something that little bit different from chain stores that have come to dominate our high streets.
Having met Sandra Affleck, Chair of Kirriemuir Heritage Trust, I am looking forward to next year’s celebration of the life and work of Kirriemuir’s own J M Barrie.
It was an enormous pleasure to talk to Sandra and discuss her experience with organising the Barrie Celebration. We discussed the need for more tourist accommodation, proposals for developing Kirriemuir Hill, Kirriemuir residents’ modesty about their heritage and the opportunities for celebrating the town’s illustrious past.
I am looking forward to a varied fortnight of events to be held from 7th May next year, and I hope that people from all over Angus, and Barrie’s fans from around the world will join Kirriemuir residents in celebrating his contribution. You can find out more about the celebrations on the Kirriemuir Heritage Website, by clicking here.
I am also backing proposals by Angus Council to enhance Kirriemuir Hill in time for 2010′s celebration of J M Barrie’s 150th birthday. The proposals not only celebrate J M Barrie, but also take advantage of this anniversary to improve facilities on the hill for all Kirriemuir residents.
During my visit to Kirriemuir, I also took the opportunity to visit the Gateway to the Glens Museum, the plaques celebrating J M Barrie, Charles Lyell, Bon Scott, Sir Hugh Munro and recipients of the Victoria Cross, along with a tour of local shops and places of interest.