My Column

Banking on a desire for drive to thrive

  • Date: Monday 17th June 2019
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Kilmarnock is the chosen one it would seem for prosperous new businesses and the model workforce of tomorrow – or at least that’s what Jes Saley, the Chief Executive of Barclays thinks.

Last week Barclays announced that the East Ayrshire town would be the first in Scotland to pilot the bank’s new Thriving Local Economies drive.

The three year study will see Barclays team up with local businesses, schools and council leaders with the ultimate aim of identifying how best to help businesses and stimulate growth through tailored training of young people and advice for businesses in their early years. 

As part of the project, the bank will provide support to start-ups, small businesses and entrepreneurs, while giving all secondary schools in Kilmarnock access to its LifeSkills programme.

This programme aims to bridge the gap between school life and employment, and help pupils prepare for the world of work – an initiative which I fully support.

Outreach charity Business in the Community, which exists to improve the impact of businesses on society, will also have a part to play in the project.

Alongside Barclays representatives, they’ll lead workshops in schools for pupils aged 12-14. They’ll look at the skills listed in applications for what businesses are looking for and host sessions to develop foundations for leaders of the future.

It sounds like a great initiative, and it’s the second of four pilot schemes the bank has planned, but why pick Kilmarnock?

Barclays commissioned research which revealed that just 28 per cent of businesses in Kilmarnock felt optimistic about the local economy and listed Brexit uncertainties and rising wages as the biggest challenges.

Just as worrying, only 12 per cent of the Kilmarnock organisations surveyed thought job applicants had the necessary skills for job roles with 72 per cent believing schoolchildren are not effectively prepared for the world of work.

So, by looking at these statistics, it seems Kilmarnock is the perfect fit for the pilot.

However, some have already taken their own steps forward. Businesses bucking the trend and already setting an example for employability success in Kilmarnock include Buzzworks, one of Scotland’s fastest growing hospitality businesses.

Buzzworks has operated The Long House restaurant in Kilmarnock since 2012 and invested in a £250,000 refurb in early 2017 to enhance the popular venue.

The company also announced further investment in the town recently by purchasing the former Jefferson restaurant and the adjacent building where it intends to relocate its head office premises. Most importantly for enhancing local employment prospects, it’s also here that it will build a centre for excellence training suite.  

7Saints is another, although much smaller scale, example of investment in Kilmarnock. The group opened premises in the town late last year and it seems that the venture has proven more successful than the original Prestwick incarnation. It’s developing a new concept for Kilmarnock and introducing a broad spectrum of entertainment, from live music to themed quizzes and sport.

The thinking behind the community focus for Barclays’ Thriving Local Economies drive is that for businesses, the overall economy, and our younger generation to succeed, we can’t just invest in big cities. Instead, we must also promote the role that smaller towns play and target grass roots as part of a more holistic view.

A singular community success story can create fresh jobs and provide a model to spur wider economic growth across the region and the country. It’s about inspiring a domino effect.

I hope that as the first Scottish town to pilot the scheme, that Kilmarnock’s businesses, community leaders, schools and more, seize the moment and really get on board to make the most of this brilliant opportunity.



I’ve been glued to the telly since the Women’s World Cup kicked off in spectacular style. Not only that, we actually have a Scottish team at a major finals that the whole nation can get behind.

It has been over 20 years since the men graced the world stage, so what an achievement for Scotland’s women to win their way to their first World Cup in France this month.

What’s more, it’s great to see that the number of women and girls lacing up their football boots and taking part in the game has doubled over the past five years.

Looking at the figures, those registered with the Scottish Football Association has risen from 7,126 in 2014/2015 to 14,071 in 2018/19.

Not only that, walking through parks up and down the country, you’re more than likely to see groups of girls kicking a ball between them or holding their own amongst a mixed groups of pals.

It’s testament to the investment in grassroots football within the women’s game here and the likeable team that manager Shelly Kerr has brought together, that figures for both those taking part and supporting Scottish women’s football have risen steadily.

That’s not to say we don’t need continued investment, and the parity between men and women’s football is as wide as ever, but we are on the right track and bearing down on goal to get there.

However well the Scots do in France this year, we have a group of women breaking new ground and finding themselves as role models, which can only be a good thing.

With a tough group, it will be a fantastic achievement for the team to progress, but you know what, progress is already being made and I will be cheering away from the sidelines throughout.



With the school holidays fast approaching, it’s not just Scottish women looking for the next big trend to sport on the beaches of Europe and beyond.

As in business, I enjoy taking a risk or two when it comes to fashion. However having recently discovered see-through lace outfits for men are now a thing, I will be playing it safe this year.

The lace shorts and shirt combos, which come in garish pink, blue, lilac, green and yellow, are being touted as the next big fashion.

Leaving little to the imagination and a lot to the elements, I can’t begin to imagine some of the tan lines brave Scots will be left with long after their break in the sun is over.

Bring back the knotted hanky.



I was moved by MP for Glasgow East, David Linden’s impassioned plea for a change in the law to extend parental leave for people whose babies spend time in neonatal care.

Both of the MP's children were born prematurely, along with about 60,000 babies each year in the UK.

Luckily, the MP could take time off work until his children came out of hospital. However for the majority, unless they have an understanding boss, they often have to return to work while their child still receives essential care.

As he said, parents shouldn’t have to rely on the "employee lottery" of having an understanding boss to allow them to care for a sick or premature baby.

Good luck to him in getting this across the line.


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