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Scotland’s Native Oyster Season Opens as Countdown to Oyster Festival Continues

Scotland’s native oyster season opened yesterday, Sunday 1st September, with the landing of the first Loch Ryan oysters of the season. Famously native oysters can only be harvested in months with an ‘R’ in them, avoiding the summer breeding season. 

A two week race is now on to gather a tonne of native oysters, approx. 10,000, most of which will be enjoyed by the thousands of visitors travelling to Stranrarer Oyster Festival, taking place from 13-15 September.  However, Scotland’s native oyster fishermen will return 95% of all the oysters they catch back to the sea to help Loch Ryan’s precious native oyster bed to grow.


Former footballer, Allan Jenkins, now Project Manager for Stranraer Development Trust, the community organisation that runs the oyster festival, landed the first catch of the season.  He commented:

“It was fantastic to be out on the Vital Spark oyster boat at the start of the native oyster season, and to get a personal oyster fishing lesson direct from Scotland’s native oyster experts. The story of these oysters is just fascinating, and it’s great to hear they’re in such high demand in some of the world’s top restaurants.

“Before Stranraer Oyster Festival started three years ago it was almost impossible to find these in Scotland. A big part of Stranraer Oyster Festival is about making our iconic local produce accessible to local people and visitors alike, and we are once again looking forward to introducing more people to native oysters in just over a week’s time.” 

Romano Petrucci, Chair of Stranraer Development Trust, said:

“We are delighted to work closely with Loch Ryan Oyster Fishery who have supported Stranraer Oyster Festival from the very first spark of an idea into what has now become one of Scotland’s most exciting food festivals. 

“It is a privilege for the festival team to be involved in landing the first native oysters of the season. As we put the finishing touches to this year’s remarkable oyster festival it’s a real honour to spend a few hours on the Vital Spark experiencing the beauty and the majesty of this loch and learning more about the precious oysters hidden beneath its waters. They truly are the jewels in Stranraer’s crown and we are looking forward to sharing them with visitors to Stranraer Oyster Festival.”

Stranraer Oyster Festival is a 3 day celebration of the town’s native oyster heritage, making Scottish native oysters accessible and available for local people and visitors to experience. The coastal food festival programme is headlined by Scotland’s spice king Tony Singh. The packed programme of events includes the #ShuckOff, where more than a dozen of Scotland’s top seafood chefs will compete to be named Scottish Oyster Shucking Champion. There’s also a host of cookery and cocktail demonstrations, live music, artisan produce and family activities; including the harbour-side Extreme Pond Dipping challenge, where children can explore creatures found at the bottom of Loch Ryan.

Councillor Adam Wilson, Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Events Champion, said:

“Dumfries and Galloway Council is delighted to support the third Oyster Festival. The Festival’s success over the last few years has been thanks to the Development Trust, many volunteers and the local community. This year’s Festival once again will celebrate Loch Ryan, our local food and drink industry and provide a huge economic boost for Stranraer and the wider Wigtownshire area.”

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said:

“EventScotland is delighted to be supporting the Stranraer Oyster Festival again through our National Events Programme, showcasing the town’s native oyster heritage. Scotland is the perfect stage for events, and the festival will undoubtedly prove popular with visitors and locals alike who will get the chance to sample some of Scotland’s best seafood as well as enjoy a fantastic programme of cookery demonstrations, live music and children’s activities.”

Stranraer Oyster Festival is part of Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight, the two week promotion of Scottish produce which launched yesterday.  The festival includes a celebration of local and regional artisan produce, which has been supported by Connect Local’s Regional Food Fund. 

Stranraer Oyster Festival takes place on 13-15th September 2019 and tickets are already selling fast.  The exclusive An Evening with Tony Singh event has already sold out, and only a few  tickets remain for the Big Oyster Bash. People wanting to attend Tony Singh’s cookery demos are advised to book early. The full programme can be downloaded from 

MP Helps Secure Farm Funding Boost

A funding boost for Scottish agriculture will bring extra support to rural Dumfries and Galloway.

Scottish Secretary and local MP Alister Jack, who held discussions with farmers at the recent Stranraer Show, believes part of the £160 million package could benefit struggling farms in upland areas.

Chancellor Sajid Javid confirmed the convergence money would be allocated to the agricultural industry north of the border while giving the UK Government spending review on Wednesday.

Alister Jack SOSMr Jack pressed for the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding to be delivered to Scotland after taking up the issue for constituents shortly after being elected with then UK Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Michael Gove.

The funding, originally drawn from the EU Multi-annual Financial Framework programme, was aimed at redistributing Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments more equitably across member countries.

And the UK qualified for the uplift because Scotland's per hectare rate is only 45 per cent of the EU average.  England, Wales and Northern Ireland are all above the 90 per cent qualifying threshold.

Mr Jack confirmed that the distribution of the funding would be handed over to the Scottish Government who have devolved responsibility over many areas of agriculture.

He said: "I'm pleased to have played a part in ensuring this funding comes to Scotland. It has been a bone of contention in parts of the industry for some time.

"I anticipate amongst the sectors that will benefit will be the upland sheep farms where support is essential on the less productive hill land. 

"My hope is some of this will eventually filter through helping support jobs in the wider rural supply chain."

Allocations Set For Agreement With Town Centre Living Fund

At the inaugural meeting of the Council’s Economy and Resources (E&R) Committee (12 Sept) Members will be asked to agree to a number of allocations from the Town Centre Living Fund 2019/20.

Dumfries and Galloway Council agreed to put in place a £1m Town Centre Living Fund in February 2019. This local initiative has been widely recognised as delivering a variety of positive regeneration projects across the region, making the best of the additional income generated by Council Tax on second homes

The allocations which are being put forward for recommendation include:

An additional £24,065 from Council Tax on second homes income to the Town Centre Living Fund to support the development of new housing development projects.

The allocation of £160,000 to Cunninghame Housing Association to enable re-development of the former Lockerbie Academy Site.

The allocation of £77,865 to Cunninghame Housing Association to carry out a feasibility study in relation to the creation of a community facility in the Grade B Listed Albert Hall in Annan.

The allocation of £144,000 to Loreburn Housing Association which will enhance the affordable housing development at the former Garrick Hospital site in Stranraer.

The allocation of £142,200 to Loreburn Housing Association to support the affordable housing development at the former Scottish Power yard at Brooms Road, Dumfries.

The allocation of £120,000 to provide empty homes grant funding to bring back the Grade B Listed building at 93 Irish Street, Dumfries to bring it back into use as 6 flats.

Chair of E&R, Rob Davidson said: “Providing members agree, these are exactly the type of projects our £1m Town Centre Living Fund was set up for. We need housing development such as these projects to support the regeneration of our town centres, attracting more people to live centrally, bringing extra income into our town centre businesses. These are prime sites which should provide modern affordable living accommodation for single people or families, revitalising the heart of our towns.”

Archie DryburghVice Chair, Archie Dryburgh said: “Economic regeneration in our town centres is vital, but it has to start from a source, and the best starting point is allowing people more choice to live in the centre of town, if that’s what would suit them. The knock-on effect will be more vibrant areas with shops, cafes, bars, social and community enterprises, leisure, culture and a boost to our tourism.”

The full report can be viewed at:

Council To Consider Changes To Grading Structure To Ensure Living Wage

Dumfries and Galloway Council considers the Living Wage to be the single most important contribution to tackling poverty across our region and ensures that all of our employees are paid at least this hourly amount.  At the meeting the new Economy and Resources (E&R) Committee (12 Sept) Members will be asked to approve recommended changes to the pay and grading structure which will fully embed payments of the Living Wage to all employees.

All Scottish Local Authorities have committed to pay the SLGLW as a minimum to all employees.  Dumfries and Galloway Council has paid this rate as a minimum to all of our employees since 2012 as part of our ongoing commitment to tackle low in-work pay. The rate is set by COSLA annually in line with the local government pay award. It is derived from the Living Wage Foundation rate, calculated on the basic cost of living and defined as the basic amount needed to enjoy a basic, but socially acceptable standard of living.

As of April 2019, this amounts to £9.07 per hour and it is currently paid to as a supplement to the normal hourly rate to all eligible employees. This payment is included in the calculation of pensions and other relevant allowances. However, by continuing the process to pay as a supplement this has caused confusion at the bottom end of the pay scale, resulting in no difference between lower paid staff and those with line-management responsibility. Over time this will damage morale and cause recruitment and retention difficulties, challenging the integrity of the pay and grading structure.

Members of E&R will be asked to agree to the implementation of the revised pay and grading structure by removing any rates of pay which currently fall below the SLGLW. Distinctions will also be restored between pay bands 1,2 and 3 to recognise the differences in demands for each role within these grades. All costs of implementation have been considered through a number of options, with effect from 1 April 2020.

The cost of paying the SLGLW as a supplement (as at 1.4.19) is £824k. The 3% pay award for 2020/21 increases the SLGLW rate from £9.07 to £9.34, at a cost of £847k. Consolidation does not affect any other bands further up the pay scale. It only applies to bands 1,2 and 3, removing the supplement payment.

Chair of Economy and resources Committee, Rob Davidson said: “Dumfries and Galloway Council originally became an accredited with becoming a Living Wage Employer in June 2015. Paying a good wage for a good job is very important to us, and this is part of our ongoing anti-Poverty work to ensure people have a decent standard of living. We believe that this not only gives the advantage of helping to attract new staff, but also values and retains the workforce we already have.”

Archie DryburghVice Chair Archie Dryburgh said: “This is an this is an issue which needs corrected as it challenges the integrity of the Council’s job evaluation and pay structure. Low pay makes it difficult for employees to find time for community and family life and we have a duty to address this. “

Council Asked To Consider New Workforce Plan

At the first meeting of Dumfries and Galloway Councils new Economy and Resources Committee on 12 Sept, Members will be asked to consider and approve the new Council-Wide Workforce Plan.

This plan has been developed to reflect the current Transformation work which is taking place throughout the Council. The plan sets out proposals to ensure that we have a workforce which will deliver on our ambitions for the future, for our organisation and for our area. It describes the challenges we face, and the strategic actions required to deliver our Council Plan vision: ‘To create opportunity and support ambition to promote and establish Dumfries and Galloway as the best place to live, work and learn.’

The council’s workforce has been greatly reduced over the past 5 years and during this time the Council has been able to deliver significant savings through a range of measures: vacancy management, early retirement and voluntary redundancy and staff movement.

To deliver changes and improve services to our communities we must continue to develop a culture of high performance across our Council, maximise employee engagement and create a working environment where everyone can have a rewarding work-life.

Regular focus groups, monthly staff-engagement surveys and ongoing working groups continue to be used to encourage employees to feedback on a wide range of issues affecting our workforce, such as organisational culture, maximising attendance and health and wellbeing.

Chair of Economy and Resources, Rob Davidson said: “The public sector is facing challenging times and we must support our workforce to remain resilient and committed.  In our Council Plan we recognise that in order to achieve our vision and priorities, it is vital that our workforce is more diverse, flexible, skilled, engaged and motivated than ever before. We need to build on the initiatives already in place to align our workforce requirements directly to the Council Plan.

Archie DryburghVice Chair, Archie Dryburgh said: “This plan is essential to ensure we have a workforce which is efficient, streamlined and fit for the future. It recognises the need to change the way we operate, particularly in this current economic climate. Our employees do a great job for our communities every day and this is about recognising their commitment and professionalism but adapting to fulfil current and future needs.”