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



South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has revealed that the budget deal struck by the SNP and Scottish Greens in the Scottish Parliament will still mean Dumfries and Galloway Council will face a funding gap of nearly £10m for 2017/18 which they will need to fill through cuts and council tax rises.

For the second year running Green Party MSPs have backed a Nationalist budget which will leave local lifeline services across Dumfries and Galloway under threat, and will lead to hundreds more council job losses in the region.

The backroom stitch-up by the Greens and Finance Secretary Derek Mackay also means the Scottish Government’s budget fails to fund a proper pay rise for council staff or tackle child poverty.

Despite COSLA stating that local government budgets needed £545m to stand still, the “deal” struck today only delivers £159m more for councils than the draft budget. That means instead of providing the over £14m needed by Dumfries and Galloway Council to avoid cuts, the region received just over £4.7m but were also hit by additional costs for pay rises.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth voted against the budget as it passed on Tory austerity to Dumfries and Galloway Council, failed to bring in radical tax changes that would have which redistributed wealth to tackle poverty, and didn’t provide any extra funding for the NHS beyond the amount already pledged.

In contrast, Labour’s radical alternative tax plan would have raised nearly £1bn extra this year to increase Child Benefit by £5 a week, give £545m to councils to stop the cuts – including wiping out the £14m of cuts planned by Dumfries and Galloway Council- rewarded public sector staff with a proper funded pay rise, and sent an extra £100m to the NHS- which could have meant an extra £3m more for NHS Dumfries and Galloway.

Speaking after the Stage 1 debate on the budget in Parliament,South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said “The shoddy deal by the Greens to shore up the minority SNP government, is bad news for Dumfries and Galloway.

“The money they claim to have wrangled from the SNP is a drop in the ocean when we know that Dumfries and Galloway Council needed an extra £14m councils just to protect existing services, when 42% of children are living in poverty in the region and when public service workers need a proper pay rise”.

“I could not support a budget which allows poverty to deepen and inequalities to widen in Dumfries and Galloway and will put leave lifeline local council services at risk”.

“The radical alternative put forward by Labour would have redistributed power and wealth, saved lifeline local services in our region, helped tackle child poverty and allowed for an additional injection of cash of around £3m in our local NHS. 

“A budget that tinkers around the edges from the SNP and Greens fails the people of Dumfries and Galloway”.

Scottish business confidence low but ‘modest’ job creation on horizon, according to new Business Barometer report

Bank of Scotland’s Business Barometer for January 2018 shows:

  • Overall      confidence for firms in Scotland is at 18 per cent
  • Firms’      confidence in their own business prospects is 22 per cent
  • Some job      creation on the horizon, with a net balance of four per cent of businesses      looking to employ more staff in 2018

Business confidence in Scotland stands at 18 per cent in January, according to the latest Business Barometer from Bank of Scotland.

A net balance of 22 per cent of firms report being confident in their business’ prospects for 2018 while 13 per cent of firms are optimistic about the outlook for the economy as a whole.

Companies’ hiring intentions show that a net balance of four per cent expect to hire more staff over the course of the year ahead, while firms expect a median annual increase in average pay in the region of one to two per cent during 2018. This is likely to be paid for by rising prices, with a net balance of 45 per cent of firms saying they expect to charge more for their goods or services throughout 2018.

The Business Barometer has provided early signals about UK economic trends since January 2002, but this is the first time that the survey has been carried out on a Scottish as well as a UK-wide basis.

Across the UK, confidence rose by seven points to a nine-month high of 35 per cent in January.

Jane Clark-Hutchison, regional director at Bank of Scotland, said: “This latest reading of business confidence mirrors the findings of our most recent Business in Britain report for Scotland, where optimism levels were also low. The current climate of uncertainty looks to be weighing heavily on firms’ outlook for 2018.

“Having said that, we’re now starting to see a positive shift towards more job creation, with a modest number of businesses planning to boost their headcount over the course of the next 12 months. I hope to see this increase as we progress through the year.”

Across Scotland, a net balance of 13 per cent of businesses said they felt that the UK’s exit from the European Union was having a negative impact on their expectations for business activity, with firms’ main concern being foreign exchange volatility, cited by almost one in five (19 per cent).

Council prepares for Universal Credit

An update on some of the steps being taken by the council to help those that will be impacted by Universal Credit will be presented to councillors next week. At the Communities meeting on 6 February, councillors will be told that three dedicated Welfare and Housing Support Officers will start in the forthcoming weeks to provide support to vulnerable customers once Universal Credit is introduced.


Job Centres within the Dumfries and Galloway Council area (Annan, Dumfries and Stranraer) will now implement Full Service Universal Credit in May 2018. From this point Working Age customers will no longer (minimal exceptions) be able to make a new claim for any of the six legacy benefits (Job Seekers Allowance (income based), Employment Support Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credits and Housing Benefit). These customers will claim
Universal Credit.


Planning has been taking place between the Council and other strategic partners as well as other local authorities and Registered Social landlords (RSL’s) about the impact that Universal Credit will have. The introduction of Universal Credit will present a number of significant challenges for the claimants (our residents) and landlords/support agencies. To manage the impact, the Council have undertaken a number of actions to help mitigate the introduction of
Universal Credit and what it will mean including training to support customers when making claims, reviewing processing for calculating entitlements and amending working practices for particular customer groups.


In addition to this, three new Welfare and Housing Support Officers will provide support for our most vulnerable customers to help them to navigate the changes. The new officers will start at the end of March.


Chair of the Communities committee, Andy Ferguson, said “Protecting our most vulnerable people and being inclusive are key priorities for our Council. I've said before about how concerned I am about the impact that Universal Credit will have on some or our most vulnerable people. Failure to provide a co-ordinated intervention at the earliest opportunity could lead to customers being evicted and increased applications for Crisis grants. We need to stop that from happening so that we help our vulnerable customers to manage the changes.”


Councillor John Martin, vice chair, said: “It is vital that our Council can offer enhanced support to people who are already under severe financial pressure. Universal Credit will present a major challenge for us and the people we represent. It will be essential for us to be able to deliver robust support to those affected. Whilst we will continue to lobby the Government about its introduction, we need to make sure we can support those who are affected.”

Council to agreed funding for Major Events

At Communities committee next week (6 February) Councillors will be asked to approve the funding of £267 from the Council’s Major Events Strategic Fund for 2018/19. A report will be presented to Councillors that will detail the funding bids of the seven signature events that are identified in the new Major Festival and Events Strategy along with the recommendations of the Events Partnership for funding from the Major Events Strategic Fund. The Events Partnership are tasked with helping the Council to fund the best festivals and events and comprised representatives from the best of the tourist, business and voluntary sector in Dumfries and Galloway.

The Strategic Events will enjoy a pot of £183,000 for 2018/19 and £186,000 for 2019/20. The two year funding will provide a safeguard of a two year grant and will allow longer term planning and sustainability for organisers. The seven Signature Events have been identified due to their strategic importance to the industry and to the region due to their impressive cultural and sporting programmes and associated impacts. Councillors will be asked to approve the following events for the two years funding Big Burns Supper, D&G Arts Festival, Scottish Rally, Spring Fling, Wigtown Book Festival with World Championship Ice Hockey and the Tour of Britain receiving funding for one year as these are expected to be held in the region once over the next two years.

The Major Events Strategic Funding is being recommended to support eight additional festivals and events that will help to grow the sector and help with the overall Strategy objective of creating a “standout sector”. These events will deliver successful events and also provide significant economic and tourism benefits for the local economy. The eight events recommended for funding are; Electric Fields Festival, Galloway Hills Rally, Kirkcudbright International Festival, Muckle Toon Adventure Festival, Newton Stewart and Minnigaff Traditional Music Festival, Stranraer Oyster Festival, Trophy D’Ecosse with provisional funding granted for the Eden Festival.

Dumfries and Galloway Council adopted the Major Festivals and Events Strategy 2018/2021 in October 2017. The Strategy is expected to bring a boost of approximately £30million to the local economy.

Chair of the Communities committee, Councillor Andy Ferguson, said “Building the local economy is a priority for our council. Major events generate millions in additional economic value to the region each year and add greatly to our quality of life. That’s why our Council is to continue to invest in a range of events projects next year, through a mixture of confirmed funding to a range of our most significant ‘signature’ events and on a competitive basis via our Strategic Fund.”

Vice Chair, John Martin, said ““I’ve had the pleasure of attending a large number of the events in our region over the past 8 months. The fantastic atmosphere, wonderful crowds and speaking to people from all over the country who have travelled to our region to experience the unique events that we have on our doorstep demonstrated to me how important it is that we continue to support events locally.”

Dumfries and Galloway Council Events Champion, Councillor Adam Wilson, said “Our Council’s second Major Festival and Events Strategy is aimed at growing our economy which is in line with our Council’s priorities. The funding recommended at Communities Committee will be a huge boost to a number of events and festivals that take place in our region. These events and festivals are also embedded in our communities and show off the very best of our region.

This is the first year of our new Strategy and the events and festivals recommended for funding prove the ambition of our council to grow both the events and tourism sector of Dumfries and Galloway,”


South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Rural Economy Spokesperson Colin Smyth has welcomed the Isle of Man Government's decision to reverse the rules requiring boats to report all king scallop catches from Manx waters to an Isle of Man port.

Colin Smyth said , “I very much welcome this u-turn by the Isle of Man Government. The requirement to go into the Isle of Man port to record the catch would have compromised the freshness of the catch, increased the cost for local fishermen as a result of the totally unnecessary travel and fuel required to go to the Isle of Man and ultimately would have put over 300 local jobs at risk.

The scallop industry is worth around £3million to the Scottish economy and in Dumfries and Galloway it supports hundreds of local jobs.

The Council highlighted local concerns to the the Isle of Man Government and if the Scottish Government had also acted quickly then perhaps these 2 week of uncertainly would not have happened.

Nevertheless I welcome the move by the Isle of Man and hope we can continue to work together to ensure the success of the industry for both our lands."