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

 

Scottish GDP Figures Released

The Scottish economy grew by 0.2% during the third quarter of 2018, according to updated statistics announced today by Scotland’s Chief Statistician. The quarterly growth rate has been revised down from the first estimate of 0.3% published on 19 December. Compared to the same time last year, the Scottish economy is now estimated to have grown by 1.3%.

The GDP Quarterly National Accounts publication includes a second estimate of growth for 2018 Quarter 3 (July to September) using data which has been released since the first estimate was published. The Quarterly National Accounts also includes a range of other statistics which are used for economic analysis, forecasting and modelling.

During the third quarter of 2018, the latest data shows output in the Services sector grew by 0.2%, output in Production fell by 0.9% and output in the Construction sector grew by 2.9%. The largest factor leading to the downward revision to growth was from updated electricity data being lower than originally estimated in December.

Change in gross domestic product (GDP) is the main indicator of economic growth in Scotland. Two estimates of Scotland’s GDP growth are now published each quarter on a faster timetable than previously available. The first estimate for 2018 Quarter 4 will be published on 20 March.

Scottish Exports Grow

Scotland’s international exports increased in 2017, up 6.2 per cent to £32.4 billion. Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK also increased, up 4.6 per cent.

Scotland’s Chief Statistician today released Export Statistics Scotland 2017, which provides estimates of the cash value of Scotland’s exports of goods and services, by industry and destination in 2017. These show that Scotland’s international exports (excluding oil and gas) increased by £1.9 billion (6.2 per cent) to £32.4 billion in 2017. This is the highest annual growth rate since 2011.

The latest statistics show strong performance for the manufacturing sector, driven by growth in exports of refined petroleum and chemical products, up £915 million (35.6 per cent) and exports of computer, electronic and optical products, up £550 million (41.1 per cent). The food and beverages sector also contributed to the overall increase, with exports up £455 million (8.4 per cent) to £5.9 billion in 2017, underpinned by strong whisky exports (£4.4 billion in 2017).

EU exports provided the majority of the growth in the value of international exports, increasing by £1.7 billion (13.3 per cent) to £14.9 billion in 2017. Scotland’s exports to non-EU countries grew at a slower rate, increasing by £145 million (0.8 per cent) to £17.6 billion.

Scottish exports to the rest of the UK (excluding oil and gas) increased in 2017, up £2.2 billion (4.6 per cent) to £48.9 billion. This was driven by increased exports from the service sector, and in particular, exports of financial and insurance activities which increased by £1.2 billion (15.0 per cent) to £9.1 billion.

Total international and rest of the UK exports in 2017 (excluding oil and gas) were estimated at £81.4 billion, up £4.1 billion (5.2 per cent) from the previous year. Exports to the rest of the UK accounted for 60 per cent of this overall total, EU exports accounted for 18 per cent and non-EU exports accounted for 22 per cent.

The USA continues to be Scotland’s top international export destination country with an estimated £5.5 billion of exports of goods and services from Scotland in 2017. Within the EU, the Netherlands (£2.5 billion) continues to be the largest market, followed by France (£2.4 billion) and Germany (£2.3 billion) in 2017.

The figures released today were produced in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

COUNCILLORS CALL FOR FAIR FUNDING SETTLEMENT

Council Leader Elaine Murray has written to the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work Derek MacKay calling for a fair funding settlement for Dumfries and Galloway Council.

The call for a fair funding settlement comes as Councillors on Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Policy and Resources Committee unanimously agreed the Council’s position on the Local Government Settlement announced by the Scottish Government in December 2018.

The motion stated,

“that cuts of this magnitude, in the 10th year of austerity, will not be achieved through efficiencies alone, and will result in the reduction or removal of services;

 

That the Leader should write to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work and the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government to express our Council’s deep concern over the implications of this funding settlement; in particular that it will make it extremely difficult to achieve the objectives in our Council Plan, or respond to any economic or social emergency, that it will reduce our ability to meet our Council’s four priorities and deliver the Scottish Government’s policy objectives,”

The SNP Scottish Government’s draft budget announced last December provided Dumfries and Galloway Council with a revenue grant of £285.8million. However, the Government also gave the local authority new responsibilities and ring fenced over £11million for health and social care, increasing the number of hours for four years olds in nursery and providing free sanitary products in public places – without additional funding. When the new responsibilities, ring fenced allocations and inflation and other cost rises are considered the Council faces a £18.5million funding gap for the next financial year.

After the council’s response to the Local Government settlement was unanimously agreed by all Councillors, Council Leader Elaine Murray wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work, Derek Mackay, to express the views of all Councillors.

Writing to Derek Mackay, Councillor Elaine Murray said,

“The Council’s finance officers have advised therefore that our council faces a revenue funding gap of £18.467m in 2019/20, increasing to £34.498m in 2020/21 and £51.152m in 2021/22. Since the start of austerity, this council has already had to accommodate a funding shortfall of almost £100m, and we believe that the further cuts proposed to our budget will result in the reduction or removal of valued local services. It is with great regret that Councillors are being forced to consider cuts such as school closures, closure or transfer of leisure facilities and public toilets and measures which will increase pupil:staff ratios,”

Councillor Elaine Murray said, “The unanimous decision taken by Councillors from all groups on the proposed Local Government settlement sends a very clear signal to the Government . The harsh reality is that the cuts that are being imposed onto councils by the Scottish Government will result in the reduction or removal of vital local services. If the Scottish Government do not drastically improve the local government settlement for Dumfries and Galloway Council the future of leisure centres and some schools could be at risk.

 

Given the challenges that our region faces such as the recent economic shocks with Pinney’s and the looming fall out of Brexit, the Local Government settlement will make it much more difficult for Dumfries and Galloway Council to protect the interests of local people. Various council services were involved, and continue to play a key role in the aftermath of the closure of Pinneys. But with extreme cuts from the Scottish Government it will be extremely difficult for our Council to tackle unemployment and any short or long term impacts of Brexit.

MSPs who represent our region in the Scottish Parliament must listen to this cross party call from Dumfries and Galloway Council and fight for our Council to be properly funded and a fair funding settlement so that we can protect vital local services and deliver for communities across Dumfries and Galloway.”

Public Finances Minister Kate Forbes

Almost £300,000 will be invested in the south of Scotland economy as part of a drive to support economic growth across the region.

On a visit to Dumfries, Public Finances Minister Kate Forbes announced £156,600 to improve access to rural skills and entrepreneurship programmes in the south of Scotland, while £120,000 will support feasibility work for local economic development projects across the region.

 

Ms Forbes is in Dumfries to visit three companies who are leading the way in manufacturing and digital innovation across the south of Scotland.

Ms Forbes said:

“The Scottish Government is committed to driving inclusive growth across the south of Scotland.

“These projects will improve access to skills and training, support entrepreneurship and help us evaluate the potential of a range of local projects to make a strong contribution to the regional economy.  

“We established the South of Scotland Economic Partnership to ensure the area can benefit from a fresh approach to economic development as early as possible while we establish South of Scotland Enterprise. A further £13.3 million has been allocated in the 2019-20 Scottish Budget to continue this important work, alongside the development of South of Scotland Enterprise.”

Professor Russel Griggs OBE, chair of the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, said:

“These two projects continue two of the key themes that SOSEP has been following - namely to encourage people to stay in the area through job and training opportunities as well as allowing us to be flexible and speedy to situations as they arise.  

“The more we can support  projects to bring new growth to the area the better, so I’m pleased to see more good proposals coming through to us for funding all the time.”

CENTRAL CONTROL OF SOSEP DECISIONS HIGHLIGHTS NEEDS FOR NEW AGENCY TO BE LOCALLY RUN

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has warned that the central control by Government Ministers of decisions being made by the South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SoSEP) highlghts the need for the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency to be locally run and locally accountable.

 

The comments come following the announcement by the Scottish Government of the release of around £300,000 of SoSEPs budget to two projects - £156,000 on improving rural skills and entrepreneurship in the South of Scotland and £120,000 to support six projects that who are applying for funding from the Partnership.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said, “The South of Scotland Economic Partnership came about as a result of years of campaigning locally by those us frustrated at the utter failure of national agencies such as Scottish Enterprise to properly support the economy of the South of Scotland. Whilst any funding for local projects is welcome, this isn’t new money and comes from the existing South of Scotland Economic Partnership budget. SoSEP agreed this funding some time ago and it’s a real weakness that they can't spend its budget without the agreement of Government Ministers who are now running around taking credit for SoSEPs decisions. There is no doubt that as a result of this central control SoSEP don’t consider spending that may meet the needs of the South of Scotland if they think Ministers in Edinburgh will veto it. It highlights the need for the forthcoming South of Scotland Enterprise Agency to be locally run and locally accountable rather than be controlled by the Government. If that isn’t achieved, then the new Agency will fail in the same way that centrally run Scottish Enterprise has”.