‘Momentous’ day for region
STEPHEN NORRIS Years of campaigning for a south of Scotland development agency have finally been rewarded.
MSPs rubber-stamped legislation at Holyrood last week to set up South of Scotland Enterprise.
Hopes are high the new agency will breathe new life into fragile communities and business sectors.
It will officially begin work tackling the south’s pressing economic problems on April 1, 2020.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing welcomed parliament’s approval of the South of Scotland Enterprise Bill.
He said: “This is a momentous day which I’m sure will usher in a new era for the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.
“We have been given the green light to press ahead with ambitious plans to create an enterprise agency that is tailored specifically to capitalise on the tremendous untapped potential in the area.
“It will drive inclusive and sustainable growth whilst taking into account the area’s distinct economic circumstances.
“Importantly the new agency will be an exemplar in delivering real progress on fair work practices, tackling issues like the gender pay gap and ageism in the workplace, as well as promoting the living wage.
“I’m confident that South of Scotland Enterprise will help us achieve a fresh and different approach to deliver growth.”
Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson was “absolutely delighted” the bill had passed.
He told the News: “The agency has got huge potential to unlock new business opportunities and create sustainable communities to forge a brighter future for the south.
“It has been a long time time coming. I am however somewhat disappointed that the SNP did not support moves within the bill to address the issue of affordable housing.
“That is one of the major barriers to young people staying in the area and for young people with ambition and talent to come and stay in south Scotland.”
South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine secured changes to the bill to recognise the economic importance of culture and natural heritage.
Highlighting Dumfries’ The Stove Network, the Midsteeple Quarter Project and Creative Futures as examples, she said: “The vibrancy of our area’s culture is renowned locally, nationally and internationally.
“It also has a diverse business base, many of which are small, and family owned. The economic seeds are all there and, with the right nurturing, can flourish.”
South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said: “Having campaigned for a new agency for a decade, I’m pleased we are now a step closer. I’m particularly delighted to have made a significant number of changes to the proposals in Parliament so that the new agency will be more accountable to the local area. It’s vital that the agency is rooted here in the South of Scotland and delivers those local solutions to the big challenges our economy faces. The sooner it gets to work the better.”
Sweet success Keith Irving with his award winning biscuits