The Latest news from Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce -

Keep up to date with the latest news and stories from across Dumfries & Galloway.


McAlpine welcomes reprieve for RBS Gretna branch

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the decision by RBS to keep its Gretna branch open until at least the end of 2018 – followed by an independent review.

Ms McAlpine has been lobbying RBS bosses to reverse closures in the region. 

She says the decision to close the branches is a betrayal to loyal customers and communities.

RBS bosses had previously said that they would not reconsider the decision – but lobbying from the SNP’s Westminster Leader Ian Blackford has softened their position.

She said:

“It is welcome news that the Gretna branch will be open until at least the end of 2018.

“The decision seems to have been made because if the Gretna branch closes, there will be no other Royal Bank branch within a nine mile radius. 

“It is to the credit of SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford that RBS have softened their position on at least some closures.

“However, RBS is taxpayer owned, and it is about time the Secretary of State for Scotland was lobbying the bank to stop these closures completely.”


The Royal Bank of Scotland has today (6 Feb) announced it plans to press ahead with the closure of three of its branches in Dumfries and Galloway despite widespread opposition to the move.

RBS have confirmed they won’t go ahead with the closure with 10 of the initial 62 branches in Scotland they planned to shut, following a back room deal with the SNP to stop the firm being held accountable for its decision- but this include just one in Dumfries and Galloway.

Only Gretna will have its local RBS bank remain open, whilst Lockerbie, Langholm and Annan will all see its branches close.However, the reprieve is only temporary and the Gretna branch will only remain open only until the end of the year before it is reviewed, putting further jobs under threat. The other 3 bank branches will have their branch close within the next few months.

The deal is an especially difficult for Langholm with whom RBS is the only remaining bank in the town.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said, “This dodgy deal just doesn’t go far enough. There is no logic in a decision that says the RBS in Gretna should stay open because it’s the last in town when the same can be said about Langholm. The fact that the Gretna branch is only a reprieve until the end of the year will act as a real disincentive for customers to join the bank or staff to stay in their jobs as it may just be a short term stay fix. In the meantime, those staff and the public losing yet more services in Langholm, Lockerbie and Annan will rightly feel aggrieved at the way they are being treated. RBS should reverse all four of these closure proposals and give a longer term guarantee to staff and customers. If they don’t then frankly the UK Government and the Secretary of state for Scotland should get a grip and intervene. The Government own the majority of shares in the bank and could put a stop to these closures now. Their failure to do so and their inaction has been a total dereliction of duty”.


The future of phase 2 of the Dumfries Learning Town project has been left in doubt after Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney failed to deliver on a promised funding announcement for school buildings.

In September 2017, South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth asked John Swinney what plans the Scottish Government had to provide funding for their schools for the future programme. In response John Swinney said “options are being developed and we will announce details later this year”.

However, no announcement on funding has been forthcoming and when Colin Smyth challenged John Swinney on the issue again in Parliament today (1 Feb 2018) , the Deputy First Minister confirmed that a funding announcement had been kicked into the long grass and now wouldn’t happen until “later this year”.

Colin Smyth also asked the Deputy First Minister to meet with himself and representatives of Dumfries and Galloway Council to discuss the Dumfries Learning Town project but John Swinney failed to reply to the request, prompting fears that no funding would be forthcoming.

Commenting after the exchange in Parliament , Colin Smyth MSP said , “John Swinney has let down the parents, teachers and pupils of Dumfries by failing to announce more funding for school buildings by the end of last year as he promised in Parliament. His dithering really does leave phase 2 of the Dumfries Learning Town project in doubt and the longer it takes to secure funding the more expensive that project becomes”.

“The timetable for the completion of phase 2 is now pretty much in the bin and the fact he didn’t even reply to my request to meet with myself and the council to discuss the project, does raise concerns that the Government won’t come forward with any funding at all. That will mean the council having to pick up the full costs which would mean all of phase 2 not being delivered at once as promised. This would be an utter betrayal and mean the council breaking their clear pledge to the people of Dumfries.”

NHS, economy and the low paid to benefit

Scotland’s NHS, the economy, public sector workers and the low paid will benefit from the Scottish budget, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said today as he confirmed he had reached an agreement that will see the financial plan passed at all stages by the Scottish Parliament.

The budget takes steps to mitigate UK Government cuts, increases funding for the NHS by £400 million, invests in the expansion of early learning and childcare, delivers on our commitments to broadband, supports the building of 50,000 new homes, backs small businesses and innovation and provides essential funding for our frontline police and fire services.

The Finance Secretary also confirmed he will extend the Scottish Government’s commitments on public sector pay to ensure all public sector employees earning up to £36,500 receive a minimum 3% pay increase - meaning 75% of public sector workers, including NHS staff, will benefit from an inflationary pay rise.

As part of an agreement with the Scottish Green Party, the budget will now include a real terms increase in revenue investment for local authorities with local services benefitting from an additional £159.5 million of resource funding, and following discussions with Shetland and Orkney Island Councils, funding of £10.5 million will be made available to support inter-island ferry services in 2018-19 - with talks continuing on a long term solution.

Investment in Low Carbon infrastructure – which is already increasing from 21% of planned infrastructure investment in 2017-18 to 29% in 2018-19 – will continue to increase in each year of the parliament, with additional support made available this year for home energy efficiency, the exploration of new local rail services and the delivery of marine protected areas.

In addition, Mr Mackay confirmed that, following publication of the Scottish Government’s tax proposals in December, he would take steps to remove an anomaly that meant some higher rate tax payers saw their bills fall while others on slightly lower incomes saw a rise, due in part to changes in the personal allowance. 

As a result, while 70% of taxpayers will continue to pay less next year than they currently do, 55% will pay less than they would elsewhere in the UK. All those earning above the new Higher Rate Threshold of £43,430, a 1% increase on the 2017-18 threshold, will see a modest increase in income tax. This distinct income tax policy will raise around £55 million and support an additional £420 million of investment in the Scottish budget.

Confirming the changes during the Stage 1 of the budget debate, Mr Mackay said:

“As a parliament of minorities, we must work across the chamber to find compromise and consensus in order to give support, sustainability and stimulus to our economy and to our public services.

“This budget invests record amounts in our NHS, supports our efforts to improve attainment in our schools, invests in our economy with support for infrastructure, for broadband and for innovation, and supports our ambitions to tackle climate change.

“We are lifting the pay cap with a real terms increase in pay for the majority of public sector workers and we are supporting local services with a real terms increase for day to day spending and for long term investment, with an additional £170 million going into local services, on top of the £10.5 billion already proposed.

“Our changes to tax ensure Scotland has a progressive tax system - with 70% of taxpayers paying less next year than they do currently and 55% paying less than they would across the rest of the UK - while businesses benefit from support for investment.

“The changes I have announced ensure that people in Scotland will benefit from the best deal for taxpayers in the whole of the UK.”


As part of today’s debate on the principles of the Scottish Budget, the Scottish Government has released further detail on its intention to increase income tax.

In addition to the creation of a new starter rate, and the introduction of previously announced intermediate bands, the level at which tax payers enter the higher rate has been further reduced from the initial proposals presented in December.

The higher rate will now begin at £43,431, compared to £44,274 presented in the initial Draft Budget. This means that higher rate taxpayers in Scotland will enter that tax band earlier than their counterparts in the rest of the UK, while also paying a higher overall rate.    

Reacting to the changes, Liz Cameron, Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:

SCC has repeatedly warned of the unintended effects of increasing taxation in Scotland out of step with the rest of the UK. Although SCC welcomes progress on the budget process, this should not come at the expense of making Scotland a less attractive part of the UK for skilled employees to locate and work, or for businesses to recruit and invest.”