TIME FOR UK AND SCOTTISH GOVERNMENTS TO “PAY UP” IN BORDERLANDS GROWTH DEAL

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has urged the Scottish and UK Governments to use their forthcoming budgets to find funds for a Borderlands Growth Deal.

The call was made by the local MSP in the Scottish Parliament last week during a Ministerial statement updating parliament on city region deals.

During the statement Colin Smyth questioned Keith Brown, the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy on the Borderlands Growth and said, “The cabinet secretary will be aware that local councils in the borderlands—Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders in Scotland and Carlisle, Cumbria and Northumbria in England—have been working together for some time to develop a Borderlands Growth Deal. Given the Cabinet Secretary’s comments in his statement about inclusive growth and his pledge to work closely with the UK Government, will he give a commitment that the proposals for a Borderlands Growth Deal will be considered as part of the Scottish Government’s budget process this December, and will he encourage the UK Government to ensure that the proposals are considered as part of its budget in November, so that there is investment in the economy of the south of Scotland sooner rather than later?

In reply, Keith Brown said, “We have said that we support the idea of a Borderlands deal but, if that were agreed, there would be the anomaly of the Scottish Borders having had two deals when other parts of Scotland have had no deals. That is what underlies my point about trying to get a bit of coherence”.

“We have said in good faith that we will look closely and sympathetically at the proposals that are made, but we have to have time to consider them. If we are about to make a financial commitment, people will expect that we do so on the right terms for the taxpayer. Our willingness to work with the borderlands proposal is on the record”.

Speaking after the exchange Colin Smyth said, “Local authorities from across the Borderlands have been in discussion for some about how they can work together to promote economic growth and competitiveness for the area and that has been developed into a Borderlands Growth Deal proposal. That proposition is now with UK and Scottish Government Ministers which means they have time to consider the projects for their budgets in November and December. To date, only the Councils have funded the work needed to develop the projects and no funding has come from either the Scottish or UK Government’s despite them both claiming to support such a deal. Across Scotland we have seen other communities benefit from investment in city region deals and its time for the UK and Scottish Government’s to pay up for a Borderlands Growth Deal.”

The Borderlands Initiative brings together the five cross-border local authorities in South Scotland and the North of England to promote economic growth and competitiveness of the area that straddles the Scotland-England border. The initiative was established following a report in 2013 entitled, ‘Borderlands: can the North East and Cumbria benefit from greater Scottish Autonomy?’ The Councils have now developed a series of projects as part of a Borderlands Growth Deal for consideration by the Scottish and UK Governments.