The Latest news from Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce -

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


An Opportunity to Support the Development of a Regional Skills Investment Plan (RSIP) for the South of Scotland

A new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency (SOSEA) is due to be established in April 2020 and will be charged with delivering economic growth across the region.  While this is still under development the Scottish Government has established a South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SOSEP) to prepare the ground for the establishment of the new Agency.  This Partnership has recognised the strategic case for developing a Regional Skills Investment Plan (RSIP) for the South of Scotland as one of its key early actions.  The availability of an appropriate number, type and level of skills will be a key factor in determining the longer term success of the new Agency and its goal of driving economic and productivity growth.  

The SOSEP Education and Skills theme group has appointed EKOS Economic and Social Research to assist them in developing the RSIP and as part of this process, EKOS is seeking to engage with a wide range of stakeholders, including local employers.  This is a real opportunity to input to, and influence the development of, the RSIP. 

EKOS is seeking to engage with employers over the next few months, through one-to-one engagement, online survey, and focus groups.  Some high level issues for discussion and consideration include but are not restricted to:

  • Skills Challenges. What are the main skills-related challenges for businesses e.g. skills shortages or gaps; recruitment issues; workforce development.
  • Indirect Skills Issues. Are there any indirect skills issues which have an impact on the ability to source and retain talent (e.g. transport, connectivity, availability of housing, etc).
  • Education/Skills Infrastructure. How effective is current education and skills infrastructure (school, Apprenticeship Family, Further and Higher Education) - any obvious gaps or quality and quantity issues or location.
  • Talent Attraction. To what extent will SoS need to attract new talent (particularly working age people) to locate into the region to meet future skills needs.
  • Key Future Interventions/Priorities.  What are the key skills issues/needs which the SIP must address for a successful future and what are specific priorities.

In line with GDPR, I write to ask if you would like to opt-in or opt-out to engagement.  Please click on the link below to confirm your position.

South of Scotland Regional SIP

Your participation would be greatly valued.  Your views will be treated in the strictest confidence and neither you nor your company will be identifiable.  EKOS will report in aggregate form only.

If you wish to discuss this further feel free to contact either Nicola Graham – details below or Phil Ford


Nicola Graham

Senior Consultant from EKOS

Direct line: 0141 353 8328

Switchboard: 0141 353 1994

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Phil Ford Skills Planning Lead - South East Scotland

Tel: 0141 013 3954

Mobile: 07917210888

Skills Development Scotland Leasachadh Sgilean na h-Alba

79 Shandwick Place, Edinburgh, EH2 4SD


Upper Nithsdale Tourism Action Group Launched

Business owners and community representatives from the towns and villages of Upper Nithsdale and North Lowther have formed a Tourism Action Group with the goal of raising awareness of the tourism potential of the area. 

One of the first objectives of the group is to map out in full the current tourism offer.  An audit of tourism accommodation has been undertaken by students at Strathclyde University, and they are due to report findings shortly.  The community group has also launched a ‘Call for Ideas’ via an on-line survey.  The survey invites local people and local business owners to share their views about the main tourism attractions, and also to comment upon the tourism potential of the area. 

The group is Chaired by Jon Evans of Wanlockhead’s Museum of Lead Mining, he said:

“This group has emerged from a series of Community Conversations which identified tourism as a real opportunity for our area.  This action group comprises of people who want to make a difference, and there is an open invitation for more people to get involved. 

“Our first step as a group is to identify what our current tourism offer is and to explore ways to communicate that to a wider audience.  The Call for Ideas survey will help us ensure we have a strong understanding of what’s currently available for visitors to see, do and experience in and around our communities, so I would encourage as many local people as possible to take part in the survey.  We’d particularly like people to try to surprise us and tell about hidden gems and best kept tourism secrets in the area.”

Vice Chair of the group, Rose Murdoch of Kirkconnel and Kelloholm Community Development Trust, commented:

 “This is an opportunity for our communities to come together and work collaboratively to unlock the potential of our area. The Tourism Action Group includes the communities of Sanquhar, Kirkconnel, Kelloholm, Crawick, Crawfordjohn, Wanlockhead and Leadhills.  These are communities that are at the very north of Dumfries and Galloway and the very south of South Lanarkshire, but while we cross over local authority boundary lines, these communities cluster naturally as a destination.  I would hope the Tourism Action Group becomes a catalyst for change in our area, working positively to identify opportunities and undertaking community led activities for the benefit of our own area.”

Meetings are held on a monthly basis in A’ the Airts in Sanquhar.  Centre Manager Yvonne Barber said:

“I’m delighted to host these meetings in A’ the Airts as it’s great to see our local communities coming together in this way.  There are lots of opportunities for people to get involved in the work of this group.  We are right at the very start of deciding what our programme of activities will be, and in the longer term the focus of the group will be determined by the opportunities we identify through the Call for Ideas survey.  I hope as many people as possible, particularly young people, step forward and become involved in this group.  This is an opportunity to determine for ourselves our own vision for our local area.”

The Tourism Action Group is a wholly community led organisation that emerged from a series of Community Conversations which highlighted tourism as a common theme across all communities in the area.  Following the conversation events Buccleuch provided funding to get the Tourism Action Group established. 

The Tourism Action Group survey can be found at:

All members of the community are invited to participate.



South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has reiterated his call for the Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell to block plans for further closures of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) branches in the area.


In December last year RBS revealed that they planned to axe 62 branches across Scotland, including a number of branches that serve south Scotland - Annan, Gretna, Langholm and Lockerbie in Dumfries and Galloway; Biggar, Carnwath and Douglas in South Lanarkshire; Dunbar and North Berwick in East Lothian; Duns, Eyemouth, Hawick, Jedburgh, Melrose and Selkirk in the Scottish Borders and Penicuik in Midlothian.


In February the company announced that ten branches would receive a “stay of execution” and wouldn’t face immediate closure but instead be reviewed at the end of the year including the Biggar, Douglas, Melrose and Gretna branches which serve South Scotland.


Chartered accountants and business advisers Johnston Carmichael have been commissioned by RBS to carry out the review of the branches and are seeking customer and community views, including visiting Gretna branch on 2 August.


However, Colin Smyth while urging customers and staff to put forward views in the consultation, he is urging the UK Government to intervene as RBSs largest shareholder and block any further closures.


Colin Smyth said, “Whilst I would urge all customers and the community to make their views heard through the RBS consultation on the remaining branches facing a stay of execution, the reality is the UK Government has the power to end the uncertainty and block any further closures right now. It really is time that the Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell stood up for customers and staff and put a stop to these closures. People are sick and tired of his crocodile tears over bank closures when he knows full well that the UK Government, as the largest shareholder in RBS, have the power to block these closures. If David Mundell fails to act then these closures, the jobs losses and the inconvenience for customers will not only have happened on his watch, he will have been culpable through his failure to act when he knows he could have”.

From village halls to a phone box … family political duo are going on tour

THEY represent two of the larger constituencies in Scotland -- and they are heading your way.


That's father and son political partnership David and Oliver Mundell, who will be launching their marathon summer surgery tour at Waterbeck first thing on Friday morning.


David, MP for Dumfriesshire Clydesdale and Tweeddale, and Oliver, constituency MSP for Dumfriesshire, pride themselves on visiting even the smallest communities in the sprawling largely rural constituencies.


David said: "The surgery tour is a big logistical challenge but I've found it very worthwhile since being initially elected as an MSP and later to Westminster.


"It's always been a special part of my summer which I look forward to. 


"I think it is extremely important to maintain regular contact with even the furthest flung parts of the constituency."


Despite his demanding Cabinet role as Scottish Secretary, David insists in supplementing his regular surgeries with the summer tour.


When Oliver was elected to the Scottish Parliament, he decided to introduce the concept too and they now hold joint-surgeries where their constituencies overlap.


He said: "The surgery tour has become the alternative to our summer family holiday -- we travel many miles and it is a good chance to catch up with each other as well as with constituents the length and breadth of Dumfriesshire. 


"It works well too as there are issues which involve both the Scottish and UK Parliaments and we can both help."


No appointments are necessary and the details are promoted in communities in advance and online.


From village halls to community centres and hotels to a social club, the venues are varied.


And on one occasion, when keys to a hall could not be found, a very successful surgery was held at a phone box!



South Scotland Labour MSP and Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Colin Smyth, has written to Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy to request an early meeting to urge the Scottish Government to re-think their response to the closure of Pinneys of Annan.


The request for the meeting follows the recent Scottish Government Cabinet re-shuffle in which Mr Ewing took over responsibility for the Government’s response to the closure of Pinneys from former Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse.


Mr Ewing has also taken on responsibility for overseeing the South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SOSEP) as well as the establishment of the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency, which were previously in the hands of Keith Brown, the now former Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jobs and fair Work. That post has now been merged with Finance with both now overseen by Derek Mackay.


In response to the proposed closure of Pinneys in April, an Action Group was established with membership including the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway Council and industry representative Seafood Scotland focused on trying to maintain production at the site. 


However, although reports suggest there remains two interested parties in the site, no buyer has been found and Young’s intend to end production at Pinneys at the end of September.


Colin Smyth believes it’s time for a re-think in the Government’s response including widening out the Action Group to a full Jobs Taskforce looking at the wider economic challenges facing the area. He is also urging Fergus Ewing to confirm the release of £250,000 from the South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SOSEP) when he visits a planned Jobs Fair in Annan on 19 July. The funding request came from Dumfries and Galloway Council who want to see a dedicated team in place in Annan to look at ways in which new jobs can be created, either by expanding existing businesses or bringing new ones to the area.


Colin Smyth said, “With redundancies already taking place at Pinneys, it’s clear that even if a buyer can be found for the site, the number of jobs that will be created will be significantly less than those currently employed by Young’s. The Action Group has been focused on finding a new owner for Pinneys and that work needs to continue. But the big challenge remains the fact that there just aren’t sufficient alternative jobs in the local economy for those who face redundancy at Pinneys. The Government needs to focus not just on finding a buyer for Pinneys but also tackling the wider economic weaknesses in the area and looking at ways in which new jobs can be created across the local economy, either by supporting the expansion of existing businesses and bringing new ones to the area. That isn’t the main remit of the current Action Group, so we need to move on from that group. The membership includes for example Seafood Scotland but frankly seafood production will stop at Pinneys in a matter of weeks, so the focus of Government support needs to reflect that”.


“The Scottish Government also need to stop dithering over the release of the £250,000 requested by Dumfries and Galloway Council to ensure a dedicated team is put in place in a base on Annan High Street where they can support the workforce and get to work on projects to boost employment in the area. At present workers are given support by the PACE team who are based at Pinneys but there soon won’t be any workers on site and that’s why a new base in town is needed. I have asked Fergus Ewing to confirm the funding when he visits later this month and the first down payment in what I hope will be far more investment in the area.”