IN RECENT years it has suffered the indignity of losing its best known employer and being featured in the hugely controversial reality TV series The Scheme.
Now Kilmarnock has been dealt another body blow after it was named as Scotland’s least desirable place to live.
The Ayrshire community, famed for its links to Robert Burns and Johnnie Walker whisky, has been listed in a new book that names and shames the “crappiest towns” in the UK.
The alternative guide brands Kilmarnock a “post-industrial wasteland” and claims visitors should be prepared to encounter drug addicts, violence, binge-drinking and litter-strewn urban decay.
However, the town’s MSP dismissed the slurs as the carping of “Champagne Charlies” and leapt to the defence of the birthplace of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sir Alexander Fleming, Johnnie Walker whisky and BBC broadcaster Kirsty Wark.
The new book, published by London-based Quercus, lists Kilmarnock as the worst place to live north of the Border.
The article states: “In 2004, the Rough Guide To Scotland described Kilmarnock as ‘shabby and depressed’. The guide noted it was ‘saddled with terrible shopping centres and a grim one-way system’. It has got worse since then.”
The book, which is expected to become a Christmas best-seller, describes the community as: “Leading the charge for our latest foray into recession.”
It states: “Once an industrial powerhouse, famed internationally for its carpets, Kilmarnock is now a post-industrial wasteland, with much of its once handsome town centre bulldozed. The main shopping drag is a grim, litter-strewn wind tunnel with nary an outlet that isn’t a pound shop or a pawnbroker. The town is ringed by a growth of dirty-grey, pebble-dashed flats of unspeakable misery.
One contributor described the community, which spawned the chart-topping rock band Biffy Clyro, as: “A truly crap town… where heroin addicts and stabbings, as well as football violence and pound shops, are aplenty.”
Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley MSP Willie Coffey claimed the comments were unjustified and deeply insulting to the town’s 45,000 residents.
The SNP MSP said: “Folk in Killie are getting sick and tired of these stuck-up types who want to run us down. First we had those who made The Scheme and exploited the chaotic lifestyles of addicts, all of whom are worse for appearing in a fabricated piece of documentary rubbish.
“These Champagne Charlie types don’t seem to care about the damage they do.
“Kilmarnock has seen a huge transformation in recent years with major investment in the town’s buildings and heritage.”
Former Scottish education and justice minister Cathy Jamieson, now Labour MP for Kilmarnock and Loudon, added: “I’m proud to have been born and brought up in Kilmarnock and to call it my home town. We have our share of problems, but there is a real spirit of generosity in the town which would be hard to match.”
An East Ayrshire council spokesman said: “We are working hard to improve the townscape of Kilmarnock with a number of completed and ongoing regeneration projects all aimed at improving and celebrating our architectural heritage.”
In 2010 Kilmarnock gained UK-wide notoriety when BBC documentary The Scheme featured graphic scenes of drug abuse, violence and anti-social behaviour in the Onthank estate.
Critics dismissed the series as misleading and claimed it was little more than exploitative “poverty porn”.
There was a huge outcry and protests the previous year when drinks giant Diageo announced plans to close the Johnnie Walker whisky bottling plant which had been a major employer in the town for 289 years.
Broxburn in West Lothian and the Galloway village of Newton Stewart are also listed among the top 50 most undesirable British communities.
The book claims the West Lothian town’s main distinguishing features are “religious bigotry, alcoholism, drug guzzling, fighting and hopelessness”.
Newton Stewart, where much of the cult 1973 horror film The Wicker Man was filmed, is labelled “the town that God forgot”, while the residents are described as “desperate to escape” and “deranged looking”.
The publishers claim the book is based on public nominations as well as statistics. Editor Sam Jordison said: “It wasn’t entirely scientific, but it does feel right.”
Crap Towns Returns is a sequel to the 2003 best-seller which named Cumbernauld as the second worst place to live in the UK.