Ferguson Marine

I WAS pleased to welcome the new Deputy First Minister and Economy Secretary, Kate Forbes MSP, to the Municipal Buildings in Greenock last week to discuss the future of Ferguson Marine.

The meeting was organised by the GMB trade union and attended by local, regional, and national political representatives, as well as management from the yard.

It was reassuring that there was a consensus in the room on the importance of Ferguson’s as a local employer with a workforce of more than 300, and on its significance as the last remaining commercial shipbuilder on the Lower Clyde.

The yard supports hundreds of local families and has an apprenticeship scheme delivering skilled workers for the future.

There was also a consensus around the table that everything must be done to ensure a steady stream of orders for Ferguson’s to safeguard this Inverclyde and Scottish institution.

Time is running out, however, for the Scottish Government, as the owner of the yard and key stakeholder, to come up with a plan to ensure it can survive and, more importantly, thrive.

We are a maritime nation. We cannot afford for this yard to close. We need to build Scottish ferries in a Scottish town for Scottish people. We have lost enough jobs locally over the last 18 months and we cannot lose any more.

I supported the fight to save the yard twice before and I am speaking up again to try to ensure the gates stay open and Ferguson’s has a bright future.

West Blackhall Street support fund

I ATTENDED the latest meeting of the Council’s Environment and Regeneration Committee on Thursday, and it was agreed that a fund is established to support local businesses on West Blackhall Street with pressures caused by the cost of living crisis, as well as potentially being impacted by the works that are ongoing there.

Eligible businesses will soon be able to apply for a one-off grant from the new business resilience support scheme, which is being funded using £100,000 from the Council’s allocation from the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund.

Councillors also agreed to spend a further £75k to develop a pilot project to tackle economic inactivity as requested by the Scottish and UK governments through the Inverclyde Socio-Economic Taskforce, which they are both part of.

These are just some of the ways we, as a Council, are trying to support businesses and encourage economic growth and employment opportunities within the limited resources we have at our disposal.

The redevelopment of West Blackhall Street is of course one of several exciting Greenock Town Centre regeneration projects, with the £20m Levelling Up development, the £20m Town Fund project, and the £19.2m Ocean Terminal visitor centre, all aimed at improving the look of Central Greenock and creating opportunities for growth and employment.

It is inevitable that there will be some bumps along the road with projects of this scale, but I hope people will share in our positive vision for the future of the town centre and get behind Greenock.

Council Tax Credit

ELIGIBLE households should now have received their credit offsetting the 8.2 per cent increase in Council Tax approved by the Council on 29 February. I am using my credit, equivalent to £3.66 a week, to buy food at my local Co-op for the Inverclyde Foodbank.

The short-sightedness of the former First Minister is clear for all to see in the Accounts Commission’s recent briefing on Council budgets. This briefing highlighted the huge financial challenges facing Councils over the coming years, with many difficult decisions required to balance budgets.

Humza Yousaf’s irresponsible Council Tax freeze has made these challenges significantly greater.