Plans to create a new partnership to boost the Ayrshire economy are moving forward following decisions by East, North and South Ayrshire Councils.
At the heart of the ambitious proposals is a single Ayrshire economic body that would drive change across the three areas.
The three Councils have collectively agreed that an interim development board will be created and further work should be undertaken on the option to develop a single Ayrshire body – working alongside national agency staff – that would deliver and support economic development across Ayrshire.
Once this work is complete, detailed proposals will be considered by all three Councils early next year.
The moves come after the Scottish Government agreed to explore ways that regional partnerships could stimulate the local economy.
Further work and engagement will be undertaken before detailed proposals are put before all Councils at the start of next year.
An Ayrshire partnership would build on the progress being made to deliver the ambitious Ayrshire Growth Deal, which is designed to boost business, jobs and prosperity. The intention would be to incorporate the delivery of Growth Deal projects into any new body.
Councillor Joe Cullinane, Leader of North Ayrshire Council, said: "We feel this approach offers us a real opportunity to work with our neighbouring local authorities to maximise the potential of the regional economy of Ayrshire.
"We know the benefits that the Ayrshire Growth Deal can bring to the region and by working together with the key agencies in a new Economic Partnership, we are in a stronger position to build on Ayrshire's strengths and focus on the significant challenges of the local economy.
"There is still further work to be done and we look forward to assessing more detailed plans over the coming weeks."
Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council welcomed the proposals. He said: "In order for Ayrshire to compete at a Scottish, UK and global level it's clear that there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we support local growth and inward investment.
"A regional agency will make the best possible use of all local assets, skills, expertise and resources and will provide an effective mechanism for achieving the ambitions of the Ayrshire Growth Deal."
Councillor Douglas Campbell, Leader of South Ayrshire Council, added: "What we have now collectively agreed provides a terrific opportunity to look at how we support the economy at local, regional and national levels and maximise the benefits for our people and communities. Our aim is to ensure that we have the right governance and operational model to support the major pieces of work – like the Growth Deal – as well as making the most of our day-to-day service delivery that supports skills, jobs and business growth.
"Ayrshire has the potential to be a real trailblazer in this regard and I look forward to seeing the proposals take shape over the next few months."
Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, Keith Brown, said: "This announcement by the three Ayrshire Local Authorities is very welcome. We believe that there are significant benefits in a collaborative regional approach to driving the Ayrshire economy, bringing new jobs, businesses and investment to the area.
"The Scottish Government is committed to supporting Regional Partnerships. We continue to support the Ayrshire councils as they develop their approach to working with all partners, including the private sector to drive inclusive growth across this beautiful part of Scotland."