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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.

 

SRUC announces first phase of university transformation plan

Proposals include new £35m facility in Dumfries & Galloway
 
 
Scotland’s Rural College (“SRUC”), a leader in the advancement, communication and translation of knowledge throughout the rural sector, has today announced the first phase in its transformation into Scotland’s new rural university by 2022. The new rural university will be a magnet for delivering educational excellence, a global leader in research and innovation, a fully integrated partner with industry and driving the growth strategy for Scotland’s rural economy. 
 
The first stage in the transformation will see SRUC move to a faculty-based model, with three new vibrant faculties located across Scotland: North, (the Faculty of Agri-Food & Business), Central (the Faculty of Rural Science & Policy) and South & West (the Faculty of Pasture-based Agriculture, Forestry and Biorefining). Following a thorough and extensive review, which began in early 2017, this model was identified as the best structure to deliver tangible benefits at a local and national level.
 
The most notable development is the potential £35m investment into SRUC’s Barony campus in Dumfries & Galloway, which is the site for the new South & West Faculty. The creation of this new state-of-the-art facility has received business-case approval from the Scottish Funding Council. 
 
The investment strategy also includes a phased withdrawal over four years from SRUC campuses at Riverside in Ayr and Crichton in Dumfries & Galloway. SRUC currently maintains a small presence at these campuses and is in full consultation with unions and other stakeholders.
 Commenting, Professor Wayne Powell, Chief Executive and Principal of Scotland’s Rural College, said: “This investment is the first major step in our transformational growth to Scotland’s new rural university. It is exciting and full of opportunity for teaching, applied research, the rural economy and Scotland as a whole. The decisions that we have made, and will implement over the next few years, are all the result of significant research and analysis. They will best serve our commitment to educational excellence, which in turn will develop the skills required for a vibrant rural economy in 21st century Scotland. 
 
“The three faculties will enable us to bring skills and sectors together, and to strategically deliver an integrated, sustainable model for growth. The transformation programme will be delivered in close consultation with our people, partners and other stakeholders. Importantly, as we are implementing these plans over several years, our current students will be unaffected. I am looking forward to working with communities across Scotland to deliver a new rural university of which everyone can be proud.”

McAlpine Welcomes Scotland’s Economic Growth

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has praised new figures showing that Scotland’s economy has outperformed the rest of the UK in the second quarter of this year.

According to official figures, announced by Scotland’s Chief Statistician, the economy in Scotland grew by 0.5% in the second quarter of 2018 while growth in the UK was at 0.4%.

In the first half of this year, Scottish GDP grew by 0.8% - ahead of the UK at 0.6% over the same period, and already higher than the 0.7% growth forecast by the Scottish Fiscal Committee for 2018 as a whole.

The last year has seen the Scottish economy grow by a total of 1.7%, whilst the UK’s growth stands at 1.3%.

However, this growth in Scotland comes in tandem with a growth in disquiet over the handling of Brexit negotiations.  Leaving the EU is set to cost the Scottish economy up to £12.7 billion a year - the equivalent of £2,300 for every person in the country.

Ms. McAlpine commented:

“It is extremely encouraging to see that economic growth in Scotland is exceeding expectations – and this is sure to benefit people in Dumfries and Galloway.

“These latest figures show the success of the Scottish Government’s approach:  focused on building a strong economy, investing in business and enterprise and supporting the industries of the future.

“Of course, we should temper our celebrations.  The growth is naturally welcome but the uncertainty surrounding Brexit persists and it continues to pose a real threat to Scottish jobs and household incomes.

“The EU single market represents a market that is eight times larger than that of the UK.  Cutting ties with this bloc can only be damaging to the Scottish economy and the Dumfries and Galloway area by extension. 

“The Tories must abandon their petty internal disputes and do what is right for Scotland by committing to stay in the single market.  After all, in the political crossfire, those at Westminster seem to find it easy to forget that that is what Scotland voted for.”

Scottish Chambers of Commerce comment on Migration Advisory Committee Report on EEA Migration

Today, the Migration Advisory Committee released its report on EEA Migration and its effect on the UK Labour Market.

Commenting on the report, Liz Cameron, Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:

 

“The recommendation to scrap the cap on tier 2 visas will be welcome for employers across the UK.   This tier 2 cap has been hit for several months in a row, leading to declined applications from employers in an environment where skills shortages continue to constrain business growth.

“Businesses are less likely to welcome the accompanying suggestion to broaden the immigration skills charge to include EEA workers.  It seems counter-intuitive to create further barriers to skilled migration, especially in the light of the evidence produced in the MAC report which suggests that immigrants increase productivity and innovation, and do not negatively affect access to training opportunities for UK-born workers.

“Businesses across Scotland and the UK will expect the Home Office, and the UK Government, to put forth a workable future migration regime for the UK which puts access to skilled talent at its centre.  Any future scheme must provide a streamlined experience for both migrants and firms, while relentlessly seeking to remove bureaucracy and red tape.”

LOCAL PEOPLE WANT ACTION ON TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE, SAYS LOCAL MSP

Local Labour MSP Colin Smyth has said that local people in Dumfries and Galloway want to see action on improvements to Transport Infrastructure and not surveys and studies.

The local MSP questioned Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson MSP, in the Scottish Parliament.

Colin Smyth raised the chronic lack of investment in trunk roads in Dumfries and Galloway and said that a far bigger share of investment was required given the strategic importance of the A7, A75, A76 and A77 are to the region and wider Scotland.

The comments come as Transport Scotland launched their long awaited “South West Scotland Transport Study”.  However, Colin Smyth  believes local people want to see action, not surveys and talking shops that simply kick the urgent improvements needed now into the long grass.

Colin Smyth MSP said, “Our trunk roads are crying out for investment to be made. The  A76, A75, A77 and A7 have been left largely untouched in recent years. Local people have already made the case for improvements on our trunk roads and better bus and rail services. Ultimately, these are political decisions. What is needed is for the SNP Government to commit the funds to deliver, not kick the issue into the long grass with a survey, which will then feed into a report which will take months if not years to produce.”

 

Scottish Chambers of Commerce comment on Scotland’s GDP Figures and Inflation

The latest GDP estimate for Scotland has seen Scotland outpace UK growth in the second quarter of 2018, with GDP growing by 0.5%, in contrast to 0.4% growth for the UK as a whole.

Commenting on the figures, Liz Cameron, Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:

 

“It’s fantastic to see Scotland’s economy growing despite some of the uncertainty surrounding the broader trading environment.  Over the year, we’ve seen Scotland outpace the UK, with GDP increasing by 1.7%, compared to the UK’s 1.3%.

“Growth was driven by a range of industries, including distribution, hotels and catering, manufacturing, and business services and finance.

“It’s also excellent to see our construction sector, which was particularly challenged by the adverse weather in the first quarter of the year, return to growth rapidly.  These recent statistics suggest growth of 1.8% this quarter, higher than the 0.9% observed across the UK as a whole.

“It’s testament to the resilience and innovation of our businesses that Scotland has outpaced the UK this quarter, however, this is certainly no time to be complacent.  Scottish Chambers of Commerce, and our business members, look to the UK’s respective governments to continue to reform policy to ensure that business has the best chance to capitalise on this recent growth and further strengthen our economy.”

 

Inflation

The latest UK inflation figures show that consumer price inflation (CPI) has increased from 2.5% in July to 2.7% in August 2018.    This is the second consecutive rise in inflation, and the highest level since February 2018.

Inflation was driven by a range of factors, with transport costs in particular acting to push up the rate.  Transport prices have risen by 6% across the year, propelled upwards by the price of motor fuels.  Recreation and culture prices have also experienced the joint highest 12-month rate since January 2010.

Commenting on the figures, Liz Cameron, Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:

“Although the inflation increase for July had been widely expected by economists, this subsequent rise in August had not been predicted, and many economists were expecting the CPI rate to drop to around 2.4%.

“This unexpected rise means that wage growth has once again remained relatively flat, impacting on the spending power of UK consumers.  

“These figures highlight the importance of the UK Government negotiating a pragmatic deal urgently for the UK’s future relationship with the European Union.  The increase in the value of the pound will have helped to insulate consumers and manufacturers from the cost of imported goods and materials, but bad news from Brussels could act to push sterling downwards, and ramp up pressure on businesses to raise prices.”