Region’s wages are among the lowest in Scotland

Councillor Colin Smyth
Councillor Colin Smyth

The extent to which Dumfries and Galloway suffers from low pay was revealed this week in the Scottish Parliament.

The answer given by Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Keith Brown last week (21 July) revealed that both of the region’s Scottish Parliamentary Constituencies were in the list of the ten lowest paid constituencies in Scotland.

The average Median Gross Weekly Pay in Dumfriesshire was £346.9 per week and in Galloway and West Dumfries the figure was just £338.5 per week. This compares to the highest paid constituency, Aberdeen Donside where the figure was £595.30 per week.

The figures have prompted a call from South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth for a radical change in the Scottish Government’s economic policy to focus more effort on peripheral communities such as Dumfries and Galloway when it comes to creating higher paid, skilled jobs.

Colin Smyth said: “These figures really do expose the shame of low pay in Dumfries and Galloway. Dumfries and Galloway council has led the way in trying to tackle the problem, leading by example by becoming the first council in Scotland to be a Living Wages accredited employer. However, significant Government cuts in public sector jobs in the council and NHS in recent years are driving wages down. The weakness of the local economy means these job cuts are not being replaced by enough new, high skilled jobs in the private sector. We need a radical re-think in the Scottish Government’s economic policy that places far more emphasis in supporting businesses to create well paid jobs in peripheral areas such as ours which are currently missing out.

“At the moment the Scottish Government simply looks at the performance of the overall Scottish economy. So if we have economic growth or falling unemployment in Scotland that is enough for the Government. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. They need to look beyond a Scotland wide approach and realise there are parts of Scotland suffering appalling levels of low pay and target resources better in those areas. For our own region that means a fairer distribution of Government jobs to our area and an end to centralisation, a change in the remit of agencies like Scottish Enterprise to support more local businesses and increased investment in both our physical infrastructure such as the A75, A76, A77 and A7 and also our digital infrastructure”.

Galloway MSP Finlay Carson commented: “ These figures are yet another reminder of the challenges facing the local economy. The Scottish Investment Bank has invested more than £122m in the last 3 years in Scotland, none of which was spent in Dumfries and Galloway. As a result, the Scottish Government have created a rural / central belt imbalance and this must be addressed. More emphasis needs to be put on promoting Dumfries and Galloway as a place that is open for business. During the election, the Scottish Conservatives and I called for the creation of a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency. Such an agency would be tasked with devising tailored solutions to the unique problems facing the South of Scotland, not least the lack of high-skilled and well paid jobs. I’ve also led a campaign for Stranraer to be awarded Enterprise Zone status, which would give Stranraer a new lease of life and help drive their economy. Dumfries and Galloway is calling out for action and it’s time the Scottish Government started listening.

“This region deserves better”.