My Column

Vital to get balance on port plan

  • Date: Monday 20th May 2019
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When we think of Scotland’s west coast, we tend to conjure up images of sunny trips ‘doon the water’ - of sand castles, ice cream, fish suppers, and ferries.

 

However, believe it or not, the sun doesn’t always shine, and there’s much more to the area than just its fantastic tourist attractions.

Indeed, ever since marauding Viking invaders were repelled from Largs way back in 1263 by a plucky band of Scots defenders, Ayrshire has been good at turning its hand to numerous challenges.

It’s also excelled at maximising its many natural resources.

While urban visitors no longer escape to the county in their droves for its reviving sea air and many hydropathic establishments – as Victorians once did – Ayrshire has very successfully established itself in other ways across the past few decades.

Certainly, the county has offered, and continues to offer, vast industrial potential.

Hunterston in North Ayrshire particularly has been home to nuclear power stations, ore-importing terminals, wind turbine testing centres, and oil platform construction.

Less successfully, it was also mooted for a coal-fired power station, receiving more than 14,000 objections back in 2010 in the process.

Today, Hunterston is home to 300 acres of derelict brownfield at the heart of an industrial centre and major port which comprises a deep water dock and rail connections – and it should be no surprise that new plans are now being mooted for it.

After all, there aren’t many places that offer the holy trinity of deep water facilities, extensive land, and transport links.

Step forward Peel Ports who last week revealed a masterplan which it believes will transform the site while offering 1,700 jobs amid a £140million boost to the economy.

Among its ideas are a liquid gas terminal, combined cycle gas turbine power station, and train manufacturing plant.

Local campaigners will surely complain of potentially adverse impacts on the environment and tourism, but there’s no denying that Hunterston has been synonymous with industry for decades with the result that few tourists explore it, preferring the more obvious seaside charms of neighbouring Largs and Millport.

Future uses could even provide marked sustainable benefits, if Peel Ports’ suggestion that it becomes a location for plastics recycling and storage gets off the ground.

The promise of so much fresh employment will be the chief lure though, particularly given that the closure of the terminal in 2016 meant the loss of 120 jobs.

This must be kept in perspective of course – if those jobs do arrive, then they will do so years from now.

However, against the backdrop of a declining population in North Ayrshire and a significant unemployment problem, perhaps Peel Ports’ masterplan is exactly what the area needs.

Asked his opinion on the masterplan, local MSP Kenneth Gibson pointed to “a prime site for investment” and “a once-in-a-generation chance for the region to lead the way with innovative and sustainable industries, potentially in the circular economy or renewable energy”.

He also mourned the continuing “drain of talent to Glasgow and beyond”.

While the latter is inevitably a fate visited on the more rural areas of Scotland, Mr Gibson’s “once-in-a-generation” belief is not without basis.

Sometimes when an area with such obvious economic assets alights on a purpose, it must fight to retain that purpose amid dissenting voices and grab opportunities – but if an environmental balance can be struck with this sensitive stretch of coastline then all the better.

Will industry be going ‘doon the watter’ once again? I’ll be watching the debate with interest.

 

SIDE

Social media can make or break a brand – and getting the content balance right can be a tricky proposition.

With the right team of social media experts in place, a company can use its social channels to its advantage and engage with customers on a whole other level.

However, with every positive comes a negative and Twitter especially can be a breeding ground for complaints.

The brands who do social media well often have witty and genuinely interesting content and are not afraid to take risks.

If the risk does pay off, the outcome can often mean the post goes viral which is exactly what happened when Aldi tweeted a link to an article about the supermarket announcing that it was selling square slice sausage – or ‘sausedge’ as they christened it.

Incredulous Scots were quick to point out that Aldi had not invented the square sausage as claimed, and it then went viral for all the wrong reasons when Lidl stepped in.

Hats off to Lidl’s quick-thinking social team who responded cleverly with: “Things Aldi also claim to have invented: 1. Irn Bru 2. Haggis 3. The Proclaimers 4.Yer Da Selling Avon.”

Their response quickly gained traction, and despite Aldi Scotland’s Twitter account comically admitting “looks familiar”, all the bragging rights went to Lidl.

With an engagement figure of over 60,000 likes within two days, this mini battle of the brands significantly boosted Lidl’s engagement figures and followers.

Paddy Power comes to mind when you think of other brands who use social media to their advantage. Despite not having the largest market share, or being a household name, the company’s cheeky social marketing campaigns have boosted the brand’s reputation thanks to its quick and often near-the-knuckle response to topical news content.

Social media is instant which is why brands who react instantly to what’s going on in the world are the ones who are benefitting not just from an increase in followers but an increase in sales and profits thanks to a useful profile boost.

The engagement between competitor brands is all in good fun of course, but I just hope this doesn’t cause a square go between Aldi and Lidl. I reckon Lidl might ‘edge’ it.

 

LAUGH

Whilst I’m on the subject of reactive brands, it’s impressive to see Greggs recording a profit surge for the third time this year thanks to its infamous vegan sausage roll.

It may have left us divided initially, but it’s clear that the launch of the vegan snack in January this year has helped the bakery chain continue its incredible profit streak.

So big was the demand for the vegan product that the company failed to keep up with demand – but that’s a nice problem to have when you’re expanding your customer base and enjoying great publicity.

Greggs was one of the first companies to cash in on the vegan trend which has swept the UK – and there are no prizes for coming second.

 

WEEP

I winced when I read that ScotRail had to pay out over £1 million in compensation under its Delay Repay Scheme after what critics called a ‘year of hell’ for its passengers.

The company is infamous amongst Scots for regular delays and cancellations and this just proves how unreliable it can be.

What’s worse is that this figure has rocketed by 70 per cent since last year, taking the total to a massive £1,119,818 for 2018/19. Many more will have not claimed.

For commuters who use ScotRail services on a daily basis it will all sadly come as no surprise, and despite the compensation, I think we would all just appreciate if it could pull its socks up, meaningfully tackle its recurrent problems, and provide the service we need.

 

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