Alex Salmond officially opens Dark Sky Observatory
First Minister Alex Salmond is officially opening a Dark Sky Observatory on the edge of the Galloway Forest Park.
The facility at Dalmellington in Ayrshire has received almost £100,000 from the Scottish government.
The Galloway Forest Park straddles the regions of East Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway.
It received Dark Sky Park recognition in 2009, and is the only such site in Britain.
The new observatory, costing almost £700,000 in total, has been described as a "huge asset" to the area.
Mr Salmond said: "The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory is no less than stunning.
"It is situated in one of only five gold tier dark sky parks in the world, and is the only public use observatory in a Dark Sky Park anywhere in the world.
"Curiosity about science and a passion for learning more about the world around us are the cornerstones of ensuring the next generations of innovators upon whom Scotland's future depends."
He said it was a "fantastic asset" for the tourist economy in the area and for the whole of Scotland in general.
"Most importantly, it is also a huge economic asset for the local community - attracting direct employment, encouraging visitors to come here and providing an inspirational resource for local children and adults alike," he added.
After officially opening the site, Mr Salmond headed south to Dumfries to discuss a pioneering educational project being considered in the town.
The council is looking at the possibility of creating a single school for all S4 to S6 pupils in Dumfries.
Mr Salmond said he was pleased to see the Crichton campus in the town going from "strength to strength".
He said he had always had a "special affection" for the site which was now being proposed as the base for the school for young people aged 15 and over.
"This would be a new type of school offering exciting possibilities for young people, linking them to further and higher education and job opportunities," said Mr Salmond.
"Having met some of the outstanding students already learning here and having listened to some of the educators inspiring them day in, day out, I can see what an important role this campus fulfils for the community and for future jobs here in Dumfries and the wider region.
"I hope it continues to be a place of learning and enterprise for many more years to come."