First Minister to make keynote speech at Dumfries conference

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will deliver today's keynote speech at the  National Economic Forum in Dumrfries.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will deliver today's keynote speech at the National Economic Forum in Dumrfries.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is visiting Dumfries today to discuss how to drive forward the rural economy.

Ms Sturgeon will be addressing the 20th National Economic Forum which is being held at the Easterbrook Hall on the town’s Crichton campus.

The creation of a new enterprise agency for the south of Scotland is among the measures set to be discussed and series of consultation events is being held across the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway to gather public opinion on plans for the new organisation.

The First Minister’s visit to deliver the keynote speech has been welcoemd by local MSP Joan McAlpine who said that the establishment of the enterprise agency is “an important time for Dumfries and Galloway”.

She continued: “It is vital that we get this right - it is our chance to deliver a body that will truly make a difference to the economy in our region.

“The SNP government has invested in Dumfries and Galloway’s road network, overseen a 70 per cent increase in the number of Modern apprenticeships to help young people stay in the region; invested over £3 million in town centre regeneration and almost £40 million in the new Dumfries and Galloway College.

“Recently, Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse has been working extremely hard to save jobs in Annan after Young’s announced their intention to close Pinneys.

“The creation of the Enterprise Agency will help build on this progress and drive forward sustainable economic growth, while growing local communities, and capitalising on the skills and resources of local people.”

South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth also called on Ms Sturgeon to deliver for the region’s economy, pointing to the hundreds of jobs still remain under threat at the Pinneys factory in Annan.

He said: “The National Economic Forum coming to Dumfries will be a missed opportunity for the Dumfries and Galloway economy if the First Minister comes empty-handed.

“While Nicola Sturgeon and a host of her ministers make speeches, eighteen miles away hundreds of jobs remain under threat at Pinneys. That threat exposes the fundamental weaknesses in a local economy plagued by low pay and a lack of opportunities to keep young people in the region and a local roads and digital infrastructure which lags behind the rest of Scotland, and acts as a major disadvantage to local businesses. We need firm action from the Government not more talking shops.

“There is a real frustration that the Scottish Government don’t plan to have the full Enterprise Agency for the South of Scotland up and running for two years. The Economic Partnership is a step in the right direction but falls short of the economic stimulus the region needs now with a £10 million budget which is fraction of the size of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise Agency. There could be a full Enterprise Agency set up now under the proposals I outlined last year”.