South Ayrshire is an authority divided – with large disparities in income, health and outcomes.
last week, Ayrshire Live focused on the concerns of voters in the south of the county, in the Girvan and South Carrick ward.
This week, our destination is Prestwick, where the stark contrast between the towns would seem to stand out in one highly visible area – the town centre.
Girvan had earned the unwanted title of Britain’s worst High Street last year. Previously, Prestwick had been named Scotland’s best High Street.
In the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, much of Girvan is considered to be among the most deprived areas in Scotland.
This is not simply down to financial poverty, as issues such as health, education and employment are taken into account.
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One area in Girvan, Glendoune, is deemed the 430th most deprived of Scotland’s almost 7,000 ‘datazones’.
At the other end of the scale, Prestwick is home to the 337th least deprived area.
While Prestwick is home to some more deprived areas, there is no question that, overall, it is one of the west of Scotland’s more affluent towns.
You may be surprised, therefore, to hear that many of the concerns raised by Girvan residents were replicated on Prestwick’s Main Street.
Residents, while appreciating the town center continues to be a busy and popular destination, said they are worried that some shops were beginning to shut.
While it is hardly a cause for panic, many want assurances that councilors will work to prevent the same thing happening in Prestwick, utilizing incentives for businesses.
There is also concern about the future of Prestwick Airport and the failure to find a buyer. For a community that has seen the number of passengers using the airport plummet, along with the benefits this brought, there is a hope that plans like the Spaceport and other airport-related industries will bear fruit.
There was also an acknowledgment that South Ayrshire Council has been working to support moves to bring investment in.
John Caddis (ALBA)
Ian Cochrane (SNP)
Hugh Hunter (Independent)
Martin Kilbride (Conservative)
Owen North (Conservative)
Cameron Ramsay (Labour)
Norrie Smith (SNP)
Derek Stillie (Conservative)
The election on Thursday, May 5 will be a fascinating one for Prestwick, with a number of intriguing threads, not least the apparent confidence among Conservatives and the decision by former Tory council leader Hugh Hunter to stand as an independent.
In total, an unprecedented eight candidates will fight it out to take one of the four seats in the Prestwick ward.
The Conservatives have returned two councilors in each election since the introduction of multi-member wards in 2007.
But they will stand three candidates in the ward for the first time in May, hoping for the same success that they had in winning three of the seats in Ayr West in 2017.
What’s more, all three will be new candidates, following the deselection of the incumbent Cllr Hunter and retirement of Councilor Margaret Toner.
With the inclusion of Cllr Hunter, the voters will, in effect, have four ‘conservative’ candidates.
Ironically, in 2017, Cllr Hunter had secured his best return since the creation of multi member wards in 2007, with the highest number of first preference votes (29.9%).
In 2012 he was third in first preference votes (23.06%) and second in 2007 (25.1%). While he may expect to pick up personal votes from his time as a Conservative member, Prestwick has otherwise been an unhappy hunting ground for independents.
Only one has stood since 2007, at the last election, when Alasdair Malcolm picked up 9.1%, coming last.
SNP Councillor Ian Cochrane was first elected in 2012, with 24.89% of first preferences, dropping to 22.3% in 2017. On both occasions he secured second place and both times, the second SNP candidate failed to take a seat, receiving 7.97% in 2012 and 9.1% in 2017.
In 2007, the SNP stood just one candidate, Stan Fisher, who topped the first preference poll with 28.1%.
Prestwick has been one of the most ‘stable’ wards in South Ayrshire since it came into being in 1995.
Three of the four incumbent councilors – Cllr Hunter, Helen Moonie, and Cllr Toner – had represented the town for 19 years since 2003. Cllrs Hunter and Toner could look back further to 1999 for their arrival as representatives.
The decision of both Labor councilor Moonie, who has served as Provost for 10 years, and Conservative councilor Toner, to withdraw will mean the biggest injection of fresh blood for a generation.
It is 10 years since the town elected any new faces. Now, at least two of the four seats will be new.
The Conservatives have stood two candidates at each of the elections from 2007 onwards, while the SNP have stood the same number since 2012, Labor have moved in the other direction.
In 2007, they stood two candidates, with George Watson the sole candidate to miss out on a seat. Since then they have selected a single candidate.
This will continue in the 2022 election with Cameron Ramsay hoping to fill Cllr Moonie’s shoes.
Only one other party has put forward a candidate since 2007, with Liberal Democrat Allan MacBain picking up just 2.28% of first preference votes in 2012.
This year, Alba will become only the second pro-independence party to stand in Prestwick at local elections, with John Caddis their candidate.
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