AN AYRSHIRE MP has demanded a "significant increase" in UK Government funding to breathe new life into former coal-mining communities.

In a Parliamentary debate last week, Allan Dorans MP (SNP, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) spoke of his family's history in mining and called for major investment to allow struggling areas to become "thriving and sustainable communities able to face the future with hope, aspiration and confidence".

Mr Dorans told the Commons his late father, Peter Dorans, had been one of the many miners, in Ayrshire and across the UK, who suffered long-term health problems, injuries and early death as a result of the working conditions in the country's deep coal mines.

He also referenced the disasters at the Knockshinnoch colliery near New Cumnock in 1950, in which 13 men died, and at the Barony colliery near Auchinleck in 1962, where four lives were lost after a mine shaft collapsed.

Mr Dorans said: "I am proud to have been born and brought up in Dailly, a coal mining village in South Ayrshire, alongside the former mining towns and villages of Cumnock, New Cumnock, Dalmellington and Patna.

Ayr Advertiser: Mp Allan DoransMp Allan Dorans (Image: Office of Allan Dorans MP)

"The debt owed by this country to the men who risked their lives to power the country and economy for generations is immense.

"They paid a terrible price over the centuries in loss of life and limb, and in shortened lives caused by the brutal working conditions and inadequate housing and health services, just to enable others to become wealthy - some obscenely so."

Deep mining ended in Ayrshire when the area's last two collieries, Killoch and Barony, ceased production in 1987 and 1989 respectively, with the loss of thousands of jobs in mining itself and countless more in the supply chain and wider economy.

And Mr Dorans said it was "with great difficulty" that he was resisting the temptation to mention the role in the demise of the coal industry played by the former Prime Minister, the late Margaret Thatcher.

Ayr Advertiser: Cumnock miners during the dispute

Referencing the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, Mr Dorans said: "Of the 610 coalfield areas, 31 per cent are among Scotland’s most deprived.

"However, in East Ayrshire, in my constituency, that figure was a shocking 40 per cent in 2016, and it remains the same in 2020.

"Coalfield communities have lower incomes, worse health and lower education and employment outcomes than those in 80 per cent of Scottish communities.

"Coalfield communities need and deserve far greater funding from the Treasury to significantly increase access to health promotion and care, to provide the best schools and colleges and access to university, and to stimulate economic activity, with an emphasis on high skills and high pay.

"Former coalfields continue to have large numbers of people out of work and claiming incapacity benefits.

"Growth in the number of businesses was generally slower than in the rest of the UK and the employment rate was below the national average."

Mr Dorans said studies by the Coalfields Communities Trust found average life expectancy in the former coalfields was around a year less than the national average.

He told MPs: "The findings are a damning indictment of how former coalfield communities have been neglected by successive Governments for the past 50 years.

"For those reasons alone, a concerted effort is required by the UK Parliament, the devolved administrations and local councils. They must have a joint focus on development and improvement across the board in these communities.

"Much has been made of the current Government’s levelling-up agenda, which is designed to address the long-standing problem of the UK’s regional economic disparities. However, none are targeted specifically at former coal mining areas.

The MP said: "The former coalmining communities, which once powered the industrial revolution and contributed immensely to the wealth of the United Kingdom, must now be prioritised, receive significant investment, and be supported and developed to ensure that they once again become thriving and sustainable communities able to face the future with hope, aspiration and confidence."

In response, housing minister and former Levelling Up Secretary Lee Rowley MP, who represents a former mining area in Derbyshire, said: "The mining community that I have the privilege to represent wants to celebrate its history, but to be known for its potential, opportunity and renewal.

"The past is what we inherit, but the future is what we build.

"It is the future that this Government will continue to build, to ensure that mining communities such as mine, and everybody’s in this place, continue to prosper and thrive."