By Bruce Crawford MSP
First published in the Stirling Observer on 18th April, 2018.
The past few weeks have seen a number of exciting things happening around the Stirling area – and it is the determination of local people and a community spirit that has driven many of these achievements.
Doune Post Office has now been taken over by the local Kilmadock Community Trust. This is great news for the local community who intend to maintain these services for the benefit of local people.
Post Offices continue to play an important role in our day-to-day lives and this new business model will hopefully ensure that Doune will have a branch that is entirely self-sufficient.
Those involved will now have to embark on a lengthy process of training community members to run and manage the Post Office – so there is still a lot of work to be done. However, it is the determination of local people that has brought them this far and I thoroughly commend those efforts.
Towards the end of March, I joined the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and local Councillor Susan McGill in a visit to Riverside Primary School. The school has recently won the School and Community Partnership Reading Journey award for their participation in the First Minister’s Reading Challenge.
All staff, parents and pupils in schools like Riverside have shown a commitment to raising attainment for young people – no matter their background. The Reading Challenge is an excellent and inclusive tool for engaging children in reading at a very early age.
I was delighted to join staff and pupils at Riverside to celebrate this hard earned success and hope to see similar achievements in other local communities.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I was also in Balquhidder for the launch of the brand new community-owned, hyper-fast broadband service. This has been the result of a long period of hard work for those involved in Balquhidder Community Broadband and I am absolutely delighted that their hard work has paid off.
The service went live at the end of last month with incredible download speeds of up to 1Gbps. Compare this to standard super-fast broadband which is 24Mbps.
The delivery of future-proof broadband in Balquhidder will be a great support for local businesses and will ensure that local residents benefit from up to date online access.
Last month’s Thistle Awards saw two winners from the local Stirling area: Venachar Lochside, located on the banks of Loch Venachar in the heart of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, was awarded Best Informal Eating Experience. And Loch Earn Tourism Bliss Trail 2017, which runs through Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Strathyre and St Fillans, won the Geotourist – Innovation in Tourism award.
The Thistle Awards are the “Oscars” for the Scottish tourism industry and I was delighted to congratulate our stellar local winners in a motion to parliament. This was an excellent result and a real vote of confidence in Stirling’s strong tourism appeal.
I was also delighted to attend the public appeal launch to redevelop the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regimental Museum at Stirling Castle.
The redevelopment seeks to significantly increase the museum gallery space by a third, invest in conservation of archives and digital records, improve opportunities for school visits, and handle an expected increase of visitors.
Stirling Castle reported an 18% increase in visitors last year and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlander Museum remains a key attraction. The Regiment is crucial to Stirling’s historical relationship with the Armed Forces and this is an important appeal to upgrade the museum at the Castle.