It is an honour to follow Chris Bryant.
Sport has many forms. As far back as 1770, a racecourse was established in Ayr, and the sport of horse-racing has remained a local economic driver to this day. The present day Ayr racecourse is a modern venue with approximately 24 race meetings each year, including the prestigious Ayr gold cup and the Scottish grand national. It is Scotland’s premier racecourse. The racecourse and the sport of horse-racing generates income for the town, creates employment in the stables, grounds, catering outlets and so on, and affords invaluable work experience in various disciplines.
Today being World Cancer Day, it is interesting and a pleasure to note that Ayr racecourse has in the past supported race days for the local hospice and, I am sure, will do so in the future. It is also a changing venue. It holds ladies’ nights and special themed days for families, and so on. It has become a very enjoyable day out.
Scottish Racing’s economic impact study in 2016 established that more people went to racing than visited golf tournaments and rugby matches. The total attendance at Scottish racing in 2016 was over 300,000, with almost a third attending Ayr racecourse. Ayr racecourse generates more than £25 million per annum for the local economy—not an insignificant sum—and supports a significant number of local jobs in the community.
My constituency has a proud sporting tradition. Annually, we host the bowls Scotland national championships at Northfield and there is Cambusdoon cricket club, a very healthy cricket club. Former England cricket captain Mike Denness was from Alloway and educated at Ayr Academy. Ayr United football club is currently excelling in the league, although its pursuit of the Scottish cup came to an abrupt halt when a healthy and robust local junior team, Auchinleck Talbot, knocked them out—a wee red face for Ayr United, but well done to Auchinleck Talbot!
We also have golf, not least Turnberry—now known as Trump Turnberry, after its famous owner—which held the 1977 open championship and its famous “duel in the sun” between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus. We have a healthy rugby scene in my constituency, at Cumnock and Millbrae and Ayr. I commend Carrick Academy, in Maybole, for its range of healthy young rugby teams, covering all ages and genders. I give full credit to that school for bringing on the young ones in sport, particularly rugby, a sport that, through the British Lions, brings our UK nations together every four years to tour Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
My constituency also has swimming. Cumnock pool, New Cumnock pool, Britain’s newest, finest and warmest open-air pool, and Girvan and Ayr pools have gained popularity with locals, and it is a lovely area for cycling, too, while Scotland, being quite unique, also has curling, a sport suitable for all ages and genders. As a Scot, it would be remiss of me not also to mention the successes of Andy Murray, an exemplar in the field of tennis. Along with, I am sure, the whole House, I wish him a full and speedy recovery.
Such sports give people an ideal opportunity to engage with each other at a time when Governments and the NHS fear that some sections of the population are becoming insular and isolated to the potential detriment of their health, not least given the challenges of obesity.