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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 funding to boost growth for the region

South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the Finance Secretary’s commitment of £10 million for the new South Scotland Enterprise Agency.

The spending was announced in December's draft budget, along with a raft of measures that will also benefit Dumfries and Galloway.

Protecting the Small Business Bonus Scheme, lifting 100,000 properties out of business rates altogether and a £600 million investment to ensure every home in Scotland will have access to superfast broadband by 2021 will all help boost growth in the region, and across the country.

In addition the NHS will get an above inflation rise and public sector employees will see their pay lifted by 3%, something that has not happened elsewhere in the UK. Because Scotland’s budget has been cut by the UK government, the additional spending on health will be supported by modest tax rises on higher earners. Everyone earning less than £33k will see their tax bills fall slightly.

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“This afternoon’s draft budget includes a number of measures that will boost economic growth and improve productivity to ensure that Dumfries and Galloway is very much ‘open for business.’

“The funding for the new South Scotland Enterprise Agency will help support its objectives of ‘sustaining and growing communities’ and ‘capitalising on people and resources’ – objectives which mirror those of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and which has been so successful in addressing issues faced in the north of Scotland.”

Today’s draft budget will help support a stronger economy and a fairer society, with increased funding for the NHS and protection for low and middle income earners.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said:

“We are investing in our public services and supporting business to develop and thrive. This budget mitigates against the UK Government’s cuts to our block grant.

“It delivers an additional £400 million to the health service, it invests in expanding childcare, delivering broadband, building 50,000 new homes and supporting our police and fire services.

“It provides the investment we need to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of tomorrow.”

More Dumfries & Galloway businesses will have the opportunity and support to trade abroad, thanks to a new initiative.

A new Local Export Partnership (LEPs) is being launched by the Scottish Government, DGChamber and Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce with the aim being to increase the number of firms exporting their products and services.
The partnership is one of five pilot programmes taking place alongside similar schemes in the Cairngorms; Inverness/Highlands and Islands; Edinburgh/Lothian and Glasgow/Lanarkshire which will bring together Scottish Development International, local authorities and a range of local support organisations. They will offer support and expertise to companies, particularly SMEs, with little or no previous exporting experience and help them enter international markets.
The Scottish Government is providing up to £400,000 to the Scottish Chambers of Commerce to develop the pilot programme.
 
Economy Secretary Keith Brown said:
“With Brexit looming, international trade and export has never been so vital to the Scottish economy, but it can seem daunting to businesses who haven’t yet ventured into the field.
“It is crucial that we maximise the help and support available to those firms – particularly the SMEs which are the lifeblood of our economy.
“These pilots will test new approaches to support businesses to export, opening a whole new world to companies and employers throughout Scotland.”
As outlined in the Scottish Government’s Trade and Investment Strategy, the partnership will use a collaborative, One Scotland approach. It will bring together individuals, businesses and agencies to promote an international business awareness and mindset, collaboration around shared trade objectives and mutual learning and support.”
 
Liz Cameron OBE, Director and Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:
“On behalf of the Scottish Chambers Network, we are delighted to have the opportunity to work closely with The Scottish Government and its agencies in this exciting new Local Enterprise Partnership initiative.
“These new LEPs will build on the strong partnerships we have recently forged with government in the field of international trade, which has already resulted in promising new routes to accessing important markets for Scottish goods and services, notably China.
“The combination of the Chambers’ network at grass roots and the experience and in-market expertise within government and its agencies is a powerful one. This LEP initiative allows us to show what can be achieved for exporters with a Team Scotland approach.”
 
Tom Armstrong, President DGChamber, said:
"This is an exciting new project for DGChamber, we know that there are businesses here in Dumfries & Galloway that are looking to export. With this initiative we aim to bring the expertise from our currently exporting members together with Scottish Enterprise, SDI and Dumfries & Galloway Council to raise the profile of the great businesses that we have in this region. This programme will allow us to help upskill the business people of the region who want to do more and get their business offerings to a wider market. Working with our partners in Scottish Borders Chamber we look to forward to shining the light on the great range of businesses in the South of Scotland and truly putting the area on the international business map."
 

SCC PRAISES BUDGET, BUT REGRETS MOVE TO HIGHER TAX SCOTLAND

Responding to the Draft Budget 2018/19 announced by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP today, Liz Cameron, chief executive of SCC praised the Scottish Government’s commitment to the key economic drivers and welcomed additional spend for R&D, house-building, broadband connectivity and the National Manufacturing Institute of Scotland. However, she repeated SCC’s concern about Scotland’s new status as the highest-taxed part of the UK.

Liz Cameron, said:  “We welcome much of the substance of Mr Mackay’s announcement today.  In particular we appreciate his willingness to listen to the voice of business and move towards levelling the playing field with the rest of UK on business rates and incentives for housebuyers through the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax. We also welcome the announcement of the capitalisation of the Scottish National Investment Bank and the new Building Scotland Fund. This fund should help drive growth in the construction industry. ”

“On income tax, we will take the time to digest independent analysis of the potential effects of these changes in Scotland’s tax system and the net balance of measures within the budget.  

“Our continuing concern is primarily with outside investors’ perception of even slight increases in tax rates, on the overall costs of doing business here against the UK.”

Details on new Scottish rates relief needed urgently as potential occupiers fear missing out on large savings

Business rates experts at commercial property firm Colliers International have welcomed Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay’s adoption of the Barclay Review but say details and dates are urgently needed to help landlords and occupiers make decisions.

With 100% rates relief potentially available for a year on both new and improved premises, knowing the start date and the rules for qualifying is essential for businesses to make commercial decisions. This could either significantly reduce their occupational costs or stimulate investment and redevelopment by landlords.

Louise Daly, Associate Director - Rating of Colliers International in Scotland, said: “Mr Mackay has gone above and beyond the Barclay Review by adopting its additional suggestion - which fell outside of the cost neutral remit of the report - to move annual poundage increases from the RPI to the CPI inflation measure. This was essential in order to match England and ensure businesses aren’t disadvantaged by choosing to locate north of the Border. This still means that ratepayers will see a 3% increase next year, which is in excess of the levels capped at 2% in previous years, in an effort to remain consistent with England. While, on the face of it, a positive step and one that industry has called for, it would be better for ratepayers to receive a set uniform business rate across the term of the Revaluation when the rateable values come into effect. This would enable businesses to budget more accurately and with certainty over their liability.

“Of course, the promised adoption of the Barclay Review’s key recommendations on rates relief are also welcome, but landlords and businesses need to see a fully detailed implementation plan, with specific information on how these reliefs will apply and, crucially, dates.

“Proposed empty property relief for new commercial buildings, for example, is expected to start on April 1. But what happens to businesses signing leases or moving in before that date? The difference between paying full rates and getting 100% relief for a year is simply too significant for any potential occupier to ignore.

“In today’s speech, Mr Mackay also seemed to go beyond the recommendations of the Barclay Review, when he suggested this relief should also apply to improved premises. While this chimes with the Government’s drive to encourage investment and development, creating better quality stock onto the market, landlords will naturally be very curious to see what level of improvement or refurbishment is required in order to qualify for this relief.”

The Scottish Government had promised details of its changes to rates as a result of the Barclay Review by the end of this year. Ms Daly said that while reliefs encouraging new and improved property should eventually have a positive effect by making much needed premium business accommodation available, it remained to be seen what effect it would have on older stock which will become even less attractive to tenants.

She added: “On the face of it this has been a very positive statement. One final issue that remains to be seen is just how consistently the rules on relief will be applied across Scotland. Hopefully we will see a country-wide approach that gives clarity to landlords and tenants, rather than a situation where some billing authorities are less eager to grant relief than others. This could be a problem when it comes to refurbishments, in particular, as it seems inevitable that a judgement will have to be made as regards what level of improvement qualifies for relief - for both landlord and tenant.”

LOCAL MSP CALLS FOR BUDGET TO ATTACK POVERTY AND END AUSTERITY IN DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY

Ahead of the Scottish budget on Thursday (14th Dec), South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has called for a budget which will tackle growing poverty and end austerity within Dumfries and Galloway as a new report shows over 40% of children in the region live in material deprivation in the region.

The new Scottish Government report highlighted the growing levels of poverty across Scotland, with Dumfries and Galloway identified as one of the worst regions in the country for high levels of child poverty.

The region was the 4th worst regions in the country for child poverty, with 42.3% of children living in material deprivation.

It has been widely rumoured that Finance Minister, Derek MacKay will implement further cuts in this year’s budget, with councils yet again being the ones to take the hardest hit.

Over the past 5 years Dumfries and Galloway Council have had to close a funding gap of nearly £60m through savings and an increase in council tax last year of 3%, due to Government funding cuts. However, a report before the full council this week (12 December) warns that a further £49m gap will have to be filled if the UK and Scottish Government continue their policy of austerity.

Colin Smyth MSP said, “The upcoming Scottish budget is significant for Dumfries and Galloway. Years of cuts to council budgets by the Government has taken its toll on funding for many of our local services. This new report shows the challenges we face locally, with nearly half of children in Dumfries and Galloway living in material deprivation. This is completely unacceptable but the ability of the local council to try to protect local families against the impact of central government austerity is limited every time their budget is cut. It does not have to be this way. In the budget, we need the Scottish Government to be bold and to say no to austerity by using the Scottish Parliament’s new tax and benefit powers to properly fund council services and protect the most vulnerable. The Government could use the budget to lift thousands of children in our region out of poverty by increasing child poverty benefits or bringing in a new Scottish Child Tax Credit and it could also stop the cuts to council services. I’ll be joining protestors from Dumfries and Galloway at the Scottish Parliament on 14th December to send a clear message to the Scottish Government- no ifs, no buts, no more cuts”.