REGION MUST LEARN FROM HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS EXPERIENCE, SAYS NEW MSP

Dumfries and Galloway needs to learn from the experience of the Highlands and Islands if it is to ensure it doesn’t continue to be the “forgotten region”, according to newly elected Member of the Scottish Parliament Colin Smyth.
 
The MSP for South Scotland argues that effective lobbying by the Highlands and Islands and a “team” approach over many decades has ensured they received a fairer share of Government funding than the South of Scotland, including their own Enterprise Company to support businesses as well as more investment in infrastructure.
 
Colin Smyth believes that the region’s MSPs need to work together with other local stakeholders to fight for Dumfries and Galloway, arguing that a “Team DG” approach is needed.
 
The South Scotland MSP has already tabled a series of Parliamentary questions on a range of local issues including upgrading the A7, A77, A75 and A76 and seeking a clear timescale from the Scottish Government on funding for the Stranraer Waterfront project and argues that despite political differences, local issues such as these should unite local politicians not divide them.
 
Colin Smyth said, “Too often Dumfries and Galloway is a forgotten region in the eyes of Government whether that at UK or Scottish level. In recent years, in particular we have seen a real centralisation of services like the Police and Fire Service and that has meant jobs being sucked from Dumfries and Galloway into the central belt.
 
If we are to change that, we can start by learning from the success of the Highlands and Islands who got their act together decades ago and took a very “Team Highlands and Islands” approach to lobbying. Instead of blaming one part of the region for the woes of the other, key stakeholders, whether that’s national politicians, the local council, the local media and others  worked together to fight for  a better deal for their region.
 
The success of the Highlands and Islands is there for all to see. They have a Highlands and Islands University and  a Highlands and lslands Enterprise Company whose remit means invest in the types of companies and circumstances that Scottish Enterprise don’t have  a remit to do for businesses in the rest of Scotland including Dumfries and Galloway and as a result we lose out.  
 
The Scottish Government have promised  to invest £3bn on a dual carriageway from Perth to Inverness, yet there is no current commitments for any major upgrade work on the A7, A75, A76 or A77 within Dumfries and Galloway.  
 
Tourism is a success in Dumfries and Galloway but if you compare the region to further north you can see that we still have a long way to go with so much untapped potential to attract even more people to the region.
 
We need to change the mindset of Government so when they think about rural Scotland they don’t just look north. That will take time and I appreciate that it can be difficult for MSPs whose party is in Government to be seen to highlight some issues because they will be worried it looks as if they are attacking their own Government but the reality is on local issues political differences need to be set aside and we need to remember that ultimately we aren’t elected to simply do what the Government says but to fight for our constituents.”