Borders business alliance

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Dumfries and Galloway Council is joining up with Scottish Borders Council to launch a proposed new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency.

At a meeting of the Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee last week councillors backed the outline of the proposal that would see the new agency’s boundary cover Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders.

The proposal would involve establishing a joint committee/board based in the South of Scotland to run the agency which would bring together resources and staff from a range of existing agencies including the council’s, Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland.

However, the proposal also calls for the agency to have a significant additional resources form the Scottish Government.

The detailed proposals from the two local authorities come in response to the Scottish Government Enterprise and skills review. In developing the proposals 30 representatives from organisations with an interest took part in a workshop to establish role and remit of the agency and to consider how to tackle the key local economic challenges such as the area’s low average weekly wages; young people leaving the area, resulting in a shrinking workforce; high proportions of workforce in agriculture and low proportions growth sectors such as finance, scientific and technical areas; and connectivity issues in relation to transport and digital infrastructure. This resulted in the recognition that there was a need to be ambitious in the proposal for the vehicle and that this was a major opportunity which has the potential to leave a lasting legacy for future generations.

Chair of the South of Scotland Alliance, councillor Colin Smyth said: “When the South of Scotland Alliance met with the Deputy First Minister John SwInney at the end of last year we set out our view that the two local councils should develop a detailed proposal for the Scottish Government’s proposed South of Scotland Agency. John Swinney agreed and since then officers from both councils have been working round the clock to develop a proposal.”

“The plan will be for an agency based on the boundaries of Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders with a board based in the South of Scotland making the key decisions. Although we propose that it will bring together existing resources from the councils and national agencies, we are very clear that it will also need significant additional resources from the Scottish Government to make a difference. We are hopeful that the Scottish Government will accept our proposal at least in principle when the Government makes a statement on the review next month. In the meantime, our Chief Executive will continue to engage with Scottish Government and local stakeholders in order to develop the fine detail of the proposal. There is no reason in my view why a new agency could not be up and running in a matter of months if we get the go ahead form the Government. This is a huge opportunity to make as real difference to the economy in the South of Scotland and we are determined to make sure it succeeds”