Friday, 10 January 2014

Marine Research Station saved

An internationally-recognised marine research facility based in North Ayrshire has been saved, thanks to an investment of £1-million provided jointly by the SNP Scottish Government and local government agencies.

The Millport Marine Research Station was closed a year ago by its then owners, the University of London.  At the time, the station employed 30 permanent staff and every year attracted around 1,500 undergraduate students who carried out field-work in the coastal terrain around the Isle of Cumbrae.  The research-facility site also housed a museum and public aquarium.

The base is now expected to re-open in February, with the £1-million funding made up of a £500,000 grant to North Ayrshire Council from the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, which is financed and jointly-run by the SNP Scottish Government and the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA), and £500,000 provided by the Scottish Funding Council to Glasgow University, which will take over the running of the station.

The total funding package was finally put in place following a series of meetings chaired by the SNP Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Michael Russell MSP.  Mr Russell said, “Over the last few months we have worked very hard with partners including North Ayrshire Council, CoSLA, the University of Glasgow and the Field Studies Council to find a sustainable way to rescue the Millport marine base and safeguard its contribution to the local economy.

“Those efforts are paying off and I am delighted that the Scottish Government has been able to provide a total of £1-million to help secure the future of the base.  The station is expected to re-open, under new owners, in February and this is a significant success for all those who have played a role in developing plans.”

North Ayrshire Council’s SNP Leader, Willie Gibson, added, “I am delighted to see so many organisations pledging real support to ensure the Millport marine base has a bright future.

“Our own commitment of up to £1.5-million in capital investment, along with this latest round of regeneration funding from the Scottish Government and CoSLA, and a contribution from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, demonstrates just how important this facility is - not only for the island community, but for North Ayrshire and indeed Scotland as a whole.”

Cllr Gibson’s SNP colleague Alan Hill, one of the councillors representing Cumbrae, said, “Clearly this is just the start of the hard work needed to make the most of these valuable resources.  Contractors are due to be appointed in the spring with a view to starting work on new accommodation, teaching space, renewable energy facilities and additional parking in the summer.

“With a total investment of around £4-million there is an opportunity to improve upon what has always been a highly respected facility.”

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