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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.

 

MSP CALLS FOR ACTION TO HALT BANK CLOSURES

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has called for action to halt bank closures- before local bank branches disappear for good out with only the region’s largest towns and cities.

The local MSP was speaking during a debate in the Scottish Parliament yesterday (18th September) on the impact of bank closures in which he supported calls for the Scottish Government to host a summit involving high street banks to investigate the setting up of shared bank hubs in communities, called for the UK Government to introduce mandatory consultations on bank branch closures and urged for the Scottish Government to provide more support for the development of credit unions and for the regeneration of town centres, hit by bank and shop closures.

Speaking during the debate Colin Smyth highlighted bank closures in Dumfries and Galloway and said “The town of Dalbeattie has a population of over 4,000. A decade ago the town was served by three banks. The first to be axed was the Clydesdale Bank in 2007. This was followed by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2014. Last year the Bank of Scotland closed its doors for the last time in the town leaving Dalbeattie with no bank and it’s not alone. From Whithorn in the west of the region to Lochmaben in the east, the local bank branch has become a distant memory. We’re told by the banks that alternatives are in place- such as mobile banking. But in the case of Dalbeattie which I have highlighted, that consists of one bank, a couple of hours per week.  We are also told that the Post Office is an alternative and certainly for simple bank transactions that can be true. But for many towns and villages that option no longer exists- with Post Office closures continuing in many communities. So online banking can often be the only alternative for communities but as Age Scotland highlight- 67% of people over the age of 75 in Scotland do not use the internet”.

The local MSP added, “We need mandatory consultation on bank branch closures before, not after they close. If banks won’t do that properly, then we need legislation from the UK to ensure they do- and that’s what a future Labour Government will deliver.

The Scottish Government can also do more, for example redoubling efforts to grow credit unions in our communities to make them a viable alternative and delivering far more support for regenerating our increasingly neglected town centres to increase footfall.

Unless action is taken, it is only a matter of time before local bank branches disappear for good out with only our very largest towns and cities-  and that cannot allowed to happen”.

Borderlands Proposal takes shape

An ambitious multi-million-pound proposal supporting a wide range of innovative projects that could provide significant investment to the Borderlands is set to be submitted to UK and Scottish Governments later this month.

The proposals will be submitted by the Borderlands Partnership, a unique collaboration that brings together the five cross-border local authorities - Carlisle City Council, Cumbria County Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council - to promote the economic growth and competitiveness of the area that straddles the Scotland-England border.

Since being referenced in the UK Government’s budget statement (November 2017), it has gained significant momentum. The outcomes of a Borderlands conference have informed the development of the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal proposal. The Strategic Outline Business Cases - the first stage in developing the Borderlands Inclusive Deal - will be submitted to the UK and Scottish governments by the end of September 2018.

A Borderlands Partnership spokesperson said:

“Since the Borderlands Conference in June 2018 we have been working with partners to refine the ideas and proposals, taking on board partners’ comments and using evidence to help shape our business cases. We have worked with civil servants from both UK and Scottish Governments and other partners to co-develop our business cases and the overall Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal proposal.

“Each of the local authority partners is considering the proposal over the coming weeks and we are on target to submit our Deal proposal to the UK and Scottish Governments by the end of September.”

The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal proposal comprises four place-based projects and six programmes, that will deliver benefit across the wider Borderlands geography as well as highlighting areas where the Borderlands partners are seeking to work jointly with the UK and Scottish Governments linked to strategic transport schemes and land and marine management.

To secure the support of both governments the proposals must be strategic in their approach and transformational in their economic impact.  

Key programmes that will deliver benefit across the wider Borderlands are: Borderlands Energy Investment Company, Digital Borderlands, Quality of Place, Destination Borderlands, Business Infrastructure Programme and Knowledge Exchange Network and feasibility for The Borders Railway; as well as four specific place-based projects: Carlisle Station Gateway, Chapelcross Energy Park, Berwick Theatre and Conference Centre and the Mountain Bike (MTB) Innovation Centre in the Scottish Borders.

The final amount included within the Deal is not yet known and will be subject to further negotiation. Assuming a successful negotiation, it is expected there will be a funding announcement in the Budget in November 2018.

Elaine Murray, Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council said: “Building the local economy is one of this Council’s top priority and I am delighted that we have made such good progress to date. The results of all our hard work is about to come to fruition and our work on these projects has shown that we are more than capable of cross-border working and that we can unite behind shared goals.

Depute of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Rob Davidson went on to say: “Some projects will be exclusive to individual authorities, but some will be cross cutting. The Borderlands Deal is on track to truly transform the economy of the area.”

For more information visit the partnership website www.Borderlandsgrowth.com or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

UK Government Agriculture Bill - Scotland myth-buster

The UK Government’s Agriculture Bill was introduced on 12 September 2018. Agriculture is devolved to the Scottish Government and will remain devolved. This Bill does not change that. Claims of ‘power grab’ are completely false and misleading.

The UK Government is not seeking consent from the Scottish Parliament on this Bill as we are not legislating in areas of devolved competence in Scotland.

No powers that could constrain devolved policy choices in Scotland are being introduced.

For example, there is nothing in the Agriculture Bill which will stop existing Scottish Government policies – including the Voluntary Coupled Support and Less Favoured Area Support Scheme. They will still be possible under both retained EU law and the Agriculture Bill.

Contrary to claims, Scottish farmers will continue to receive the same level of funding as they currently do until the end of this Parliament in 2022

As we leave the EU, it is our intention that each administration can independently design policies that support their farming sectors and enhance their environment.

While these policies are still under development, the Agriculture Bill demonstrates a continued commitment by the UK Government to World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations on domestic support.

The Scottish Government has claimed powers enabling us to comply with our WTO obligations should be exercised jointly; however, the Scottish Parliament does not have the legal competence to act in this area.

While this is a reserved matter, the UK Government will work closely with the devolved administrations on this given their interest. Just as we did ahead of the Agriculture Bill’s introduction.

We have offered to extend powers in the Agriculture Bill to the devolved administrationswhich would enable them to create their own farming support systems to replace the CAP.

Wales and Northern Ireland have accepted the offer.

The Scottish Government has chosen not to take any powers in this Bill. Agriculture is devolved and that is their choice. But our offer remains on the table.

We remain in discussions with the Welsh and Scottish Governments regarding red meat levy funds and legislative options.

We will continue to work with all parts of the UK to put in place a wider common framework relating to agriculture once we leave the EU.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said:

The UK Government has already agreed to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support for Scotland until the end of this Parliament.

This Bill ensures that new systems of farming support can be put in place after 2020 in England and Wales.

Farmers in Scotland need the same reassurance - and time is running out for the Scottish Government to act.

It is simply not acceptable for Scottish farmers to be kept in the dark about the future of agricultural policy in Scotland.

 

 

Constitutional Relations Secretary warns of no-deal ‘chaos’.

Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell today set out the actions the Scottish Government is taking to protect Scotland, as much as possible, from the ‘threats’ of Brexit.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Mr Russell said existing financial and staff resources, backed by £27 million of additional preparation funding, are being aligned towards areas with specific EU exit-related demands to ensure an effective response.

Mr Russell warned that an unprecedented number of pieces of legislation known as statutory instruments, required to prepare Scottish laws for Brexit, will place a heavy burden on the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government.

He reiterated that the best option for Scotland’s economy, society and people is to have continued membership of the European Single Market and Customs Union.

Addressing MSPs on the Scottish Government’s preparations for EU exit, Mr Russell said:

“However carefully we prepare for a no deal scenario, it will still result in chaos. Even the UK Government’s own no deal plans will require a plethora of agreements with the EU in order to work effectively. In a situation where negotiations have broken down, we have to ask how plausible this is.

“A no deal is not inevitable, but the Chequers Agreement is not deliverable, and a blind Brexit is not acceptable. So, not leaving would be best and the only alternative thereafter is continued membership of the Single Market and Customs Union which is essential for our economy, our society and the people of Scotland.

“The Scottish Government will continue to make that case whilst fulfilling our duty of protecting Scotland as best we can from the threats of a Brexit – any Brexit - that we do not want, and that we did not vote for.”

 

DGChamber are holding a series of Brexit events addressing the key areas that businesses must address ahead of March 2019.

This series of workshops will be hosted by key experts in various fields including finance, tax and employment law to support businesses in preparing for Brexit.

The first session in our workshop series will be addressing the potential changes in tax and VAT ahead of Brexit and tips on how best to prepare your business. Hosted by Armstrong Watson's VAT Director Alex Nicholson, businesses can expect to receive a detailed insight into the key taxation considerations businesses must make ahead of Brexit.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS BREAKFAST BREIT EVENT BY CLICKING HERE

Rubbish Service Comes Back In-House

After an intense period of negotiations, Dumfries and Galloway Council has reached an agreement with Shanks Dumfries and Galloway Ltd and Renewi UK Services Ltd which has resulted in the early termination of the Waste PFI contract. The result of this is that this Council will now work to bring these waste services back in-house within the next two months.

We would like to assure members of the public that this will not affect the operation of the household waste recycling centres and kerbside collections will carry on as normal.

Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Archie Dryburgh said: “This opportunity to bring waste management services back in-house will help the Council to better plan and control the delivery of these services as well as increasing the opportunity for recycling which many members of the public want to see.”