PRIME Minister Theresa May delivered an early Easter gift to local people last week - when she agreed to commit to the Ayrshire Growth Deal.

The Premier made the statement in a whistle-stop tour of a factory in Ayr last Thursday before bundling into a car leaving newspaper journalists without the chance to question her statement.

The proposal read: “It is my mission to deliver a Brexit deal that works for Scotland and the whole of the UK, and today I’ve been speaking to workers here in Ayr about what our departure from the EU means to them.

“I am determined that the Brexit we pursue is one that strengthens the bonds that unite us - because I believe ours is the world’s most successful union. Scotland - with its diverse sectors ranging from wool, salmon and whisky production, to world-leading universities, tech hubs and cultural institutions - is such a significant contributor to our United Kingdom. I want to see it prosper as we forge a new role for ourselves in the world.

“That’s why we’re continuing to back Scotland and I am pleased today to announce we are opening talks over a new Ayrshire Growth Deal that should significantly boost the local economy and opportunities for people here.”

The Growth Deal has been on the table for a long-time, with parties across the political divide calling on the Conservative Government to agree to it and get the ball rolling for the people of North, South and East Ayrshire.

The Three local authorities having been working in tandem to plan and try to deliver the Deal, which could unlock investment, employment and regeneration throughout each area.

The three Ayrshire Councils issued a joint statement following the announcement and all three welcomed the news.

It said: “The Ayrshire Growth Deal aims to take forward a number of transformational projects across the region.

“At the heart of the proposals put forward is Inclusive Growth - creating opportunities that benefit everyone across all of Ayrshire’s communities.

“The Ayrshire Growth Deal will provide significant investment in the key sectors of aerospace and space, life sciences, manufacturing and tourism.

“The Growth Deal team – which includes the three Ayrshire Councils and national agencies, with support from the private sector – have been lobbying hard to gain the guarantee of financial support from the UK Government.

“The Scottish Government have made a firm commitment to progressing the Deal.”

Councillor Douglas Campbell, Leader of South Ayrshire Council, said: “Today’s announcement from the Prime Minister and the UK Government on the start of formal talks is a welcome and positive step forward in turning the Ayrshire Growth Deal from an ambition into a reality. It’s testament to the huge amount of time and effort that we’ve put in over the last couple of years to bring both the UK and Scottish Governments to the table and to get them to buy-in to Ayrshire’s potential.

“The Growth Deal is more than just a set of projects – it’s about investment and jobs, the transformation of our economy and our communities, and, ultimately improving lives.

“With the backing of both the Scottish and UK Governments and talks about to get underway, we want to hit the ground running to discuss exactly what support and funding they will be putting in place so we can get to work on delivering a terrific deal for the people of Ayrshire.”

Philippa Whitford MP for Central Ayrshire said: “After nearly 18 months of lobbying, I am delighted the UK Government has finally given a commitment to the Ayrshire Growth Deal.

“Although the PM stopped short of announcing funding, I am hopeful that the talks will result in match funding with the Scottish Government which would enable the plans to go ahead in full as laid out by the three local authorities.

“Having first raised the issue at Westminster in 2016, the period in between has been extremely frustrating; having initially had a positive response from the Secretary of State for BEIS but little in the way of firm commitment from the Treasury.

“The plan seeks to capitalise on the region’s existing strengths and infrastruc-ture through developing the aerospace, life sciences, Food & Drink and manu-facturing industries as well as capitalising on Ayrshire’s natural assets by en-hancing the tourism opportunities of our heritage sites, hotels, leisure facilities and stunning coastline.

“Having recently led for the SNP on the Space Industry Bill at Westminster I am hopeful we will see the development of the Spaceport and Aerospace Campus at Prestwick Airport, which I have been actively promoting since my election in 2015.

“A huge amount of hard work has gone into developing and promoting the proposal and I commend the three Ayrshire local authorities, my MP col-leagues Alan Brown and Patricia Gibson, our counterparts in Holyrood, and the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Keith Brown, for their commit-ment to achieving this outcome.

“The Ayrshire Growth Deal has always been ambitious in its aims but hopefully it now also has the financial support and impetus at government level to help it succeed.

Jamie Greene, Conservative MSP for the West of Scotland said: “This is extremely welcome news from the Prime Minister today that talks are now open over the Ayrshire Growth Deal.

“The Ayrshire Growth deal will provide a welcome boost to the local economy, create jobs and help make Ayrshire a more attractive place for future investment.

“This funding was made available through cooperative discussions between the UK Government and Scottish Conservative MSPs and MPs, who have spent months tirelessly putting the case forward.”