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Forestry business branches into sustainable future

Jas P Wilson, supplier of forestry equipment and machinery, is positioning itself for growth by investing in new sustainable measures, following a £695,000 funding package from Bank of Scotland.

Headquartered in Dalbeattie in Dumfries and Galloway, the business will grow its green credentials and increase efficiency, after benefitting from the bank’s £2bn Clean Growth Finance Initiative (CGFI).

Over the next four years, the firm will implement a range of green infrastructure improvements to its production processes and heating of its factories.

This includes new insulation, glazing and cladding, and the installation of a new biomass boiler fuelled from sustainable sources.

The project will also see new recycling systems installed and the modernisation of its water management process. A new purpose-built training centre will also be built to provide the firm with a dedicated space to help improve ongoing learning & development programmes as well as helping to attract new staff.  

Founded in 1964, the business’ current 20,000 square metre site includes a workshop, design studios, offices and training room.

The new site plans will see the two current factories joined together by a new middle building. This will house new offices and a showroom for customers.

The new green measures are funded by the bank’s new Clean Growth Finance Initiative, which provides discounted funding to help businesses transition to a lower carbon, more sustainable future. The funding supports a range of investments in sustainable business including small improvements in environmental impact through to large-scale renewable energy infrastructure.

Plans are also underway to grow the £11m turnover company to £14m by 2021 and increase the team from 55 to 75 people.

Billy Wilson, director at Jas P Wilson, said: “We want to make sure our business operates in the most sustainable way to create working facilities that support a greener economy. 

“Our current premises are outdated and need major development if we’re to stay on top of what is a £1billion industry here in Scotland. Fifty per cent of our sales are completed face-to-face with around 1,000 customers visiting our site each year. We want to provide a professional and sustainable space that will help us continue to grow while meeting our customers’ needs as they too become more eco-conscious.

“Thanks to the support from Bank of Scotland’s Clean Growth Finance Initiative, we will not only benefit financially through cost savings, but we will also reduce our impact on the planet.”

Stephen Owens, Relationship Director and Sustainability Champion at Bank of Scotland, said: “Scotland is leading the way as a climate change leader, but investment is essential if we are to maintain this position. By working with firms like Jas P Wilson, we can help them to act now to introduce sustainable measures that will not only reduce their carbon footprint but also boost productivity and profitability, and ultimately help the business grow.

“Initiatives like the CGFI form part of our commitment to help Scotland prosper. We support businesses across the country and look forward to working with other firms to create a greener future for all.”

CGFI forms part of Bank of Scotland’s broader support for the transition to a low carbon economy.

Training relationship managers on sustainability, in partnership with the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, also plays a key role in helping businesses in Scotland become more green.

SNP DRAFT BUDGET MEANS MASSIVE CUTS TO COUNCIL AND SNUB TO BORDERLANDS DEAL, SAYS D&G LABOUR

South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth and Dumfries and Galloway Council Labour Leader Elaine Murray have said that the SNP’s draft budget announced to the Scottish Parliament on 13 December will lead to yet more massive cuts in Dumfries and Galloway.

The Draft Budget outlined by the SNP’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work could only offer warm words for the much talked about Borderlands Growth Deal but not a single penny of funding. This was a similar announcement to that of the UK Chancellor in the Autumn Statement in October.

The SNP’s draft budget will mean that Dumfries and Galloway Council will have to make even more cuts to services. Analysis from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) has shown that despite the false words from the SNP Government of £198million cash increase for local government across Scotland when new financial responsibilities for councils are taken into account councils will actually face a £175million or 2% cut to revenue budgets. Based on financial projections from Dumfries and Galloway Council that will equate to over £14 million of cuts, although it will be next week before the Government shares the specific financial settlement for each council. 

The SNP’s draft budget also failed to end the Tory two child benefit cap and increase Child Benefit.

Colin Smyth MSP and Councillor Elaine Murray joined trade unions and Councillors from across Scotland yesterday morning in a protest against cuts to the public sector outside the Scottish Parliament.

Colin Smyth MSP said, “On the same week that we learn 650 more people will be looking for a job in our region this Christmas, this budget failed to deliver for our economy and for local services. Instead of seizing the moment the SNP could only offer warm words for the Borderlands Growth Deal, no more than the UK Tory Government budget offered. It means that there will likely be no money spent on the proposals put forward by the five cross border local authorities until 2020 at the very earliest. 

When we see the highest level of unemployment in our region since 2014 we need to see action to grow our economy, support businesses and communities and create high skilled jobs, none which will happen as a result of the SNP’s budget.  

Yet more cuts to local council funding will mean services more services and jobs having to be axed.

The budget was also a missed opportunity to tackle the scandal of child poverty by failing to adopt Labour’s plans to increase child benefit and the two child benefit cap. The Scottish Parliament now has the powers to do this and it is scandals the SNP has chosen not to use them”

Labour Group Leader Elaine Murray said, “The Scottish Government’s draft budget is another blow for local services as we will face severe cuts  to Dumfries and Galloway Council’s budget. That will have a devastating impact on schools, social care and for local roads and amenities. Under this Government, Dumfries and Galloway Council has already been cut to the bone, if they are serious about ending austerity the SNP Government must properly fund our council in line with inflation and an additional 1% so we can invest in our valuable local services, support the economy and deliver for our local communities.”

DGChamber Comment on Draft Scottish Budget

Commenting on the draft Scottish Budget for 2019 - 20, published by the Scottish Government, Tom Armstrong, President & Chief Executive, DGChamber, said:

"Much weighs on the mind of the regions businesses, amongst the midst of Brexit uncertainty and a lack of stability in Westminster. the draft Budget announcement by Cabinet Secretary Derek Mackay has responded to many concerns that have been raised by business."

On Business Rates: "The Cabinet Secretary has responded to the calls of Scottish business and announced the scrapping of the out of town levy, which was not practical or plausible. Whilst we recognise this will be kept under review, this is an important signal welcomed by the business community. . The announcement that the main Uniform Business Rate (UBR) is being kept lower than England is positive, however, the continuation of the 2.6p large business supplement is not good news for larger companies."

On the Appeals System: "We look forward to seeing the intention of Ministers for the much-needed reforms of the appeals systems that will be brought forward in February 2019."

On Scottish Income Tax: "Mr. Mackay's decision to freeze the higher income threshold at £43,430 from April, while the UK threshold increases to £50,000, will mean a divergence between north and south of the border. While it remains difficult to quantify the impact the divergence in income tax will have on attracting talent and skills to Scotland, businesses and employees will look at the net balance of measures presented in today's Budget. We do know the task of retaining and recruiting talent has remained a stubborn economic challenge for businesses, so we will remain alert to the impact of this policy, and others, that have the potential to further exacerbate this challenge."

On Skills: "The demand for skills is a top issue and businesses need to be able to hire people with the right skills at the right time. The Cabinet Secretary has recognised this with continued support for the Further and Higher Education sector, as well as expanding provision for apprenticeships, which continue to provide businesses with high-quality talent.”

Town Centres Fund: "The £50m capital fund to support the High Street and Scotland's town centres is a welcome move. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to understand how this fund will be distributed across Scotland's towns and cities, making sure we support the development of thriving and bustling town centres."

On Fair Work: "With a tightening labour market in Scotland and the UK, we welcome the Government's approach to widen the pool of talent available for Scottish companies, particularly its commitment to supporting women to return to work after a career break. In addition, the Government's commitment to supporting parents to address barriers to work and providing in-work support, will provide a much-needed lifeline to those who want to work, whilst also supporting businesses who hire a diverse workforce."

 

 

Brexit impact on rural third sector

The lack of research into the impact of Brexit on the third sector in Dumfries and Galloway has been highlighted as a major concern at an event during the Scottish Rural Parliament.

Calls were made for urgent investment into the potential of a hard or soft Brexit on rural funding, volunteers, employment, community planning, and resilience.

The event – Brexit: Deal or No Deal. What does it mean for the rural third sector in Scotland? – took place in Stranraer.

An outcome document highlighted that there was a “strong feeling” that the sector had not featured in the Brexit debate in Scotland.

Sessions on the topic by the Rural Parliament and Scottish Rural Action were welcomed but did not focus on third sector issues.

Those attending asked for immediate action by intermediaries (another possible phrase?) and the Scottish Government and encouraged host organisation Third Sector Dumfries and Galloway (TSDG) to take this forward.

Norma Austin Hart, TSDG chief executive officer, said: “The third sector will have a critical role to play if the result of Brexit has a negative impact. The most vulnerable are often the most severely impacted by social and economic uncertainty and the third sector are the organisations most likely to step into the gap in a crisis, creating additional demand.”

There are over 2300 third sector organisations, including 854 registered charities, in Dumfries and Galloway. Rural voluntary organisations experience the same challenges as those in urban areas: shortage of funding and volunteers and difficulties with recruitment and retention. The rural third sector also delivers services covering hidden poverty, poor public transport, an aging population and a low wage economy.

Speaker at the event Elaine Murray, leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, said: “The third sector plays an important role in supporting the economy and communities in Dumfries and Galloway therefore this session on the effect of Brexit on the third sector was very pertinent to our region.

“Despite the emphasis there has been on Brexit over the last two and half years, very little has been said about its impact on the third sector. Our discussions highlighted some very important points which need to be addressed when any final decision on Brexit is taken.”

 

Austerity cuts have already affected the amount of grant funding from public agencies to the third sector. The loss of European funding - in particular rural development programme LEADER - was of great interest to the audience and whether this shortfall would be made up by the Scottish or UK governments. The removal of the Common Agricultural Policy on the farming sector was also highlighted with the industry underpinning the local economy both by direct and indirect employment.

Norma said: “Existing public sector services are stretched and third sector support has often been cut as a result of austerity measures. For example, foodbanks currently cannot meet demand which raises questions about how the third sector would meet future demand? Will emergency support be available to assist with the delivery of services in the event of a hard Brexit?”

There was also concern that any action to respond to possible impacts could have an urban or central Scotland bias. The roles of the future South of Scotland Enterprise Agency and the Borderlands Initiative were welcomed as potential catalysts for the third sector in strategic planning across the south of Scotland and in supporting micro and social enterprises.

Other speakers at the event were: Grace Cardozo, executive managing director of Sleeping Giants; Helen Forsyth, of chief executive of Berwickshire Housing Association; and Harry Harbottle, chairman of Dumfries and Galloway Leader.

JOBLESS TOTAL RISES 650 IN DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY IN ONE YEAR, REVEALS LOCAL MSP

South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has revealed that the total number of people claiming benefits and looking for work in Dumfries and Galloway has risen by 650 in just one year.

The latest figures published by the UK Government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that in November this year there were 2,130 people in Dumfries and Galloway claiming out of work benefits. This is an increase of 45 people from October and an increase of 650 from November last year.

The rise in the jobless total across the region follows a number of economic shocks to face Dumfries and Galloway over the past 12 months including the closure of the Pinney’s factory in Annan, the move of Edinburgh Woollen Mill Headquarters from Langholm to Carlisle and the closure of Castle Douglas’ M Corson Bakery.

Colin Smyth has lodged a motion to the Scottish Parliament in a bid to secure a parliamentary debate on the local economy.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said, “We have seen a number of economic shocks to our local economy this year in Dumfries and Galloway. Our region remains the lowest paid in the whole of the UK and we face an extra 650 local people spending this Christmas looking for work compared to this time last year. We need to see urgent action from both the Scottish and UK Government’s to reverse the continual increase in unemployment here in Dumfries and Galloway. Our region is simply being forgotten about by Government’s in London and Edinburgh”.

“That is why I have lodged a motion to the Scottish Parliament to try to secure a debate in Parliament on our local economy. I would encourage MSP’s of all parties to support my motion to allow us to secure a Parliamentary debate and ensure both the Scottish and UK Government take immediate steps to grow our local economy and create high skilled jobs”.

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