The Latest news from Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce -

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


Scottish Chambers network applauds NMIS announcement

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce has welcomed today’s announcement of a new National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland to be based at Inchinnan, Renfrewshire.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:

“Scottish Chambers of Commerce welcomes this bold new £65m investment in Scotland’s future as a manufacturing powerhouse, led by the Scottish Government in partnership with Strathclyde University, Renfrewshire Council and the Glasgow City Region Deal.”

“Building on the success of the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre, NMIS will further strength Scotland’s reputation as a hotbed of cutting-edge manufacturing knowledge. It will further strengthen the research base and help hone the manufacturing skills and ambition that have made Scotland a world-leading manufacturing and engineering nation.”

Bob Grant, Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, said: “It is fantastic that Renfrewshire has been chosen as the home for the National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland and it is recognition of Renfrewshire and Scotland’s growing position within the international manufacturing sector.

“After last week’s disappointment of Paisley not becoming the 2021 UK City of Culture, today’s investment reminds us of the amount and variety of investment that has been secured for the benefit of jobs and opportunity for Renfrewshire.

“Through NMIS, thousands of highly-skilled jobs are set to be created across the next 20 years in a boost to employment across the area, while also providing an opportunity to inspire young people into an exciting and rewarding career within the industry.”


The Crichton Trust has announced that Gwilym Gibbons will take over as the Chief Executive of The Crichton Trust in Dumfries from April 2018. 

Gwilym joins The Crichton Trust following three years as the Chief Executive of Horsecross Arts, the creative organisation behind the redevelopment and reopening of Perth Theatre and the expansion and revitalisation of the Perth Concert Hall programme.

Talking about his new challenge as Chief Executive of The Crichton Trust Gwilym said: "I am really looking forward to joining The Crichton Trust next April and to building on the achievements and work done to date by staff, board members and partners. I believe The Crichton campus is unique in its combination of arts, academic, heritage, recreation and enterprise. Above all, I am looking forward to working with, listening to and being challenged by all the communities and individuals who are interested in The Crichton and its future, so that we can shape and bring those ideas to fruition." 

Gwilym will take over the reins at The Crichton Trust from Alex Haswell, who has fulfilled his role as Chief Executive since February 2016.  Alex will remain in post until the end of April to assist Gwilym with his transition into the role.

Ian Macmillan, chairman of The Crichton Trust Board said: “I am truly delighted to announce Gwilym’s appointment as the new chief executive from April 2018, and I look forward to welcoming him to the Trust in April and, of course, supporting him to deliver our Vision for The Crichton Estate and its partners. At the same time, I wish to acknowledge the extensive contribution Alex has made during his time in the role.  We are very fortunate to have had Alex on board to help stabilise the Trust since early 2016. Over the last two years, Alex and his team have strengthened the organisation and Gwilym joins the Trust at an exciting time as we seek to deliver our ambitious plans for the Crichton Estate.”

Alex Haswell said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed working for The Crichton Trust. It has been a pleasure to work with The Crichton Trust Board and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them, the management team and colleagues for their hard work and support during my time here. The Crichton Estate is a fantastic location and has so much potential. I wish Gwilym every success in taking the organisation and the Estate forward from here.”  

Book Town unveils Big Bang 2018

From Frankenstein’s monster to the future of AI and from outer space to the inside of the brain – The Big Bang Weekend explores the mechanics of life.

The arts, literature and science event, in Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town, from 2-4 February 2018, will be an inspiring and entertaining mix of talks by leading scientists and authors, plus comedy, music, film, cabaret, food and drink.

With lots to do for adults and children The Big Bang Weekend is all about the search for life – wherever it may be and whatever shape it takes.

Synthetic biology and robotics experts from the University of Edinburgh will leave their labs to play a leading role in the event – talking to the public about their world-leading work in everything from cloning to artificial intelligence.

Jessica Fox, Festival Director, said: “The Big Bang Weekend celebrates the point where science and the arts collide. There’s a whole series of lectures and fringe events in the idyllic setting of Scotland's National Book Town.  

“With the new discoveries being made in space exploration, artificial intelligence and genome engineering, we explore the intriguing question of when is something alive?

“We are particularly pleased that there will be such a big input by scientists from the University of Edinburgh’s synth lab and robotics lab which are doing such incredible work – pushing back the boundaries in so many fields.

“We’ll also take time to celebrate Galloway’s very own scientific giant, James Clerk Maxwell. His work in the 19th century on the electromagnetic spectrum may be the key to understanding life as we know it and is a great reminder of Scotland's great contribution to the world of science.”

This will be the second Big Bang Weekend – the one in 2017 was dedicated to the role of women in science. The event is run by Wigtown Festival Company, organisers of the annual Wigtown Book Festival, as part of its year round initiative. It is part-financed by the Scottish Government and the European Union – LEADER 2014-2020 programme, to promote cultural tourism.

One of its great joys, according to Jessica, will be the chance to hear lectures or attend events, then search the shelves of the town’s bookshops to find out more. Jessica, who was previously employed as NASA’s storyteller, is also artist in residence at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology.

She said: “So much of knowledge has become regimented and specialised – events like Big Bang are rare opportunities to celebrate true liberal arts again and offer access to wonderful lectures and learning opportunities for any age.

“Bookshops are a great reminder of how ideas often relate to each other, how we should never stop learning and that thoughts, like the rambling shelves in the bookstores, are all interconnected.”

In addition to speakers from the Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology and the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics there will be a Frankenstein scholar, a Comedy Central comedian and Dr Jane Greaves, this year's Hoyle Prize winner for her work on exoplanet habitability.

Jono Zalay, a Los Angeles-based comedian who swapped the neuroscience lab (where he gave cocaine to rats) for a career in stand up, will be among the star attractions at Big Bang.

He said: “I was always fascinated by comedy and by science as well as by the workings on the human brain and why we act the way we do. For example, we are the only species that’s aware of whether we are doing right or wrong – but we often do what’s wrong anyway.”

There will also be fringe events such as film screenings, planetarium shows and the infamous pub science quiz. Talks include:

  •          Why do robots need common sense? Dr Subramanian Ramaoorthy, University of Edinburgh School of Informatics, to explore the future of intelligent machines.
  •          Life and death in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Sharon Ruston, Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University, reveals the science behind the novel and the anxiety it spawned.
  •          Life in the cosmos: Cardiff University astronomer Dr Jane Greaves looks at other worlds and which ones are home to aliens.
  •          Being alive at very small scales: The University of Edinburgh’s Dr Erika Szymanski delves into the world of microscopic life forms – and how Scotland’s world-beating studies in synthetic biology can solve our biggest health challenges.
  •          Comedy from Dr Jono Zalay, a neuroscientist who swapped life in the lab for a career in stand up
  •          The spectacular thinkScience Planetarium Show
  •          The Big Bang Pub Quiz
  •          DNA and Danish pastries – special guests, chat and music from the Bookshop Band
  •          Children’s activities sponsored by the science festival
    •          Science cabaret and film – the Silent Signal animations.

Stuart Kelly, the author, critic and Wigtown Book Festival favourite will also be discussing the life of Dumfries and Galloway’s James Clerk Maxwell, one of the world’s greatest scientists.

Other Big Bang weekend events and activities include:

Paula Ward, VisitScotland Regional Director, said: “The Big Bang Weekend is an exciting addition to the events calendar in Dumfries & Galloway and is sure to attract more visitors to the region, further raising the profile and reputation of the region as one of Scotland's strongest regions for festivals and events.

“Events like this provide a boost to the local visitor economy by enhancing our region's tourism offering and showcasing the very best of what the region has to offer all year round. I hope as many local people and visitors from further afield will be able to come along to enjoy the great programme on offer.”


South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has welcomed a commitment by the Scottish Government to investigate concerns he has raised over ‘rip-off rail fares’ facing passengers in Dumfries and Galloway.

The commitment was made by Transport Minister Humza Yousaf in response to being questioned on the issue by Colin Smyth in the Scottish Parliament.

During the exchange Colin Smyth highlighted the latest research he had carried out which revealed that passengers from Dumfries and Galloway pay more per mile on services on the Nith Valley line than other passengers joining trains on the route in the central belt.

In the Scottish Parliament Colin Smyth asked:

“Is the Minister aware of the extent to which passengers in Dumfries and Galloway are being ripped off when it comes to rail fares?”

“I will give the Minister two quick examples. A passenger who travels the 50-mile trip to Glasgow from Kirkconnel on the Nith valley line will pay £13.50 for a single ticket, which is 27p per mile. However, if they drive a few miles north outwith Dumfries and Galloway and catch the train at New Cumnock, they will pay £8.40, which is just 19p per mile for the 43-mile trip. Passengers on 28 commuter routes across Scotland benefit from ScotRail’s flexipass ticket, which allows discounts for regular users, but those discounts are not available anywhere in Dumfries and Galloway, including on the region’s busiest commuter routes from Lockerbie station to Edinburgh and Glasgow”.

“How can the Government say that it is committed to tackling the economic challenges that are faced by Dumfries and Galloway, which is among the lowest-waged regions in Scotland, when those anomalies make it more expensive for passengers from the region to use our railways to get to work?”

In response Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said, 

“I will, of course, have a look at the specific anomaly that Colin Smyth suggests exists. As I said, there is a mechanism in the franchise agreement for ScotRail to rectify that. I absolutely agree that passengers and commuters need fair and affordable access to rail, which is why the Scottish Government has taken action on fare rises. They are capped in Scotland and are therefore lower than fares in the rest of the United Kingdom. We will continue to take that action and to drive up performance. To be constructive and helpful, I will take away the information on the fares anomaly that Colin Smyth suggests exists and see whether ScotRail can rectify it."

Meanwhile rail passengers in the region have been hit by a double whammy after it was announced yesterday (5 December) that both the UK and Scottish Government were increasing rail fares. The UK Government plan to slap an extra 3.6% on fares in January, which cover those services running from Lockerbie station by Virgin rail and Transpennine Express. This will mean passengers travelling from Lockerbie to Edinburgh will see an anytime return fare rise from £35.60 to £36.90.   

Meanwhile the Scottish Government plan an average 3.2% rise in January, which covers Scotrail services such as those on the Nith Valley line. A current single from Kirkconnel to Glasgow will rise from £13.50 to £14.

Colin Smyth MSP said:

“I am pleased that the Minister has agreed to look into the concerns I have raised about rip-off fares on behalf of local passengers but we need to see firm action and fairer fares for Dumfries and Galloway’s passengers. As if these price anomalies aren’t bad enough, we now know that rail passengers face a double whammy with prices seek to be hiked by between 3 and 4 percent next month, at a time few people are seeing their wages rise. We should be encouraging people to use public transport and fare rises won’t do that. These are the biggest  fare hikes for five years for passengers already paying some of the highest fares of any passengers in Western Europe, yet the service they receive from the rail companies are simply not good enough. Frankly, we need to bring the railways into public ownership, creating a rail network that puts passengers first and delivers more affordable rail travel for hard-pressed commuters, with an end to rip-off fares.”

Lobbying the Scottish Government for Trunk Road Investment

The Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Elaine Murray, recently wrote to Humza Yousaf MSP, Minister for transport and the Islands, to invite him to visit Dumfries and Galloway Council to discuss our request for greater investment from the Scottish Government in our trunk roads. We believe that this investment would promote economic growth, not only within our own region, but to the wider Scottish economy.

A number of public and community organisations are partnering to lobby the Scottish Government on this issue and our Council regarded this as an appropriate time to become fully involved.

The letter stated that Dumfries and Galloway Council supports the A77 Action Group and also South Ayrshire Council’s request for investment in the A77. The A77 is the main trunk route connecting Glasgow and Edinburgh to Ireland via our busy ferry port at Cairnryan. In addition to improving transport links for local residents, visitors and businesses, we believe that investment in this road would aid road safety between our regions and also attract financial investment in local industry and tourism.

The invite to Mr Yousaf requested a discussion regarding investment in major upgrades for the A75, A76 and A7 trunk roads, in addition to the need for an improved link between Dumfries and the A74M.

Dr Murray commented on the invite: “I believe that the improvement of these roads is vital, not only to our local economy but to meet the volume of traffic in this day and age and improve safety on these busy routes. But, in order to make these much needed improvements we need the Scottish Government to agree to this investment.

Safe, modern, fit for purpose transportation routes are vital to our rural region and by inviting the Minister to come and see for himself, and by lobbying the Scottish Government further, we hope to ensure adequate, sustainable  road networks for years to come."