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'Time For Action on Unemployment' says MSP

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has said that its time for action on local unemployment from both the UK and Scottish Governments.

The call comes as the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released today (13 November) show another increase in unemployment in Dumfries and Galloway. The figures show that in October this year there were 2,060 people claiming out of work benefits, and increase of 100 from September.

The last time the number of unemployed people in the region was above 2,000 was August 2014.

The figures show that since the beginning of the year there are now another 415 unemployed people in the whole region.

Colin Smyth MSP said, “In the last three months we have seen of over 300 people become unemployed. The time has come for urgent action from the Scottish and UK Government’s to support the local economy and create jobs in Dumfries and Galloway.

It is essential that we see the creation of an Enterprise Agency that is rooted in the South of Scotland and fully funded Borderlands Growth Deal so see investment in infrastructure and our local economy. People and businesses in Dumfries and Galloway don’t have years to wait we need to see an Enterprise Agency and Growth Deal as quickly as possible so we can reverse the trend of increasing unemployment in Dumfries and Galloway.”

Rural Scotland convenes in Stranraer

400 people from across Scotland will arrive in Stranraer this week to take part in the Scottish Rural Parliament; what is thought to be Scotland’s largest participatory democratic event. 
The Scottish Rural Parliament takes place every two years.  It brings people working, volunteering and representing rural communities together directly with policy makers and influencers to explore solutions to a range of rural challenges and to look at opportunities for community led solutions.  Topics of discussion include health service provision, future rural policy, rural gender pay gap and supporting refugees in rural areas; as well as more typical rural concerns such as land based industries, connectivity and rural housing.     
The twin themes of the 2018 Scottish Rural Parliament are Brexit and empowering communities to ‘Take Action’.  Delegates will represent most of rural Scotland, from host region Dumfries and Galloway in the south to Orkney in the north.  Learning and expertise will also be shared from international representatives attending from Ireland, Finland and England.  A number of young community representatives and youth organisations will also take part, reflecting 2018 being Scotland’s Year of Young People.
Emma Cooper, Chief Exec of Scottish Rural Action who organise the Rural Parliament, said the Scottish Rural Parliament is rural Scotland’s opportunity to engage with and influence policy makers.  She commented:
“There has never been a more important time for rural Scotland to come together to speak with one, powerful voice.  Every community in Scotland will be affected by Brexit, with rural areas particularly exposed, so it’s important that Scotland’s rural communities organise and take action to prepare for the changes ahead. 
“The Rural Parliament programme has been designed to empower delegates to take action in their own communities and to harness rural Scotland’s knowledge and expertise to inform post-Brexit policy decisions by inviting rural representatives to engage with and influence policy makers during this period of change.  With the ongoing uncertainty over the Irish border arrangements it is fitting that we are meeting in Stranraer, a town that may yet be facing an EU border on its doorstep.”
The 2018 Scottish Rural Parliament has been supported by a number of regional and national organisations including South of Scotland Economic Partnership, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Dumfries and Galloway LEADER and Dumfries and Galloway College. 
The Scottish Government sponsors Scottish Rural Action to build a rural movement and to organise a Rural Parliament event every two years.  Mairi Gougeon MSP, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, will open the Rural Parliament on Wednesday 14th November, and the event will close with the presentation of a post-Brexit policy statement to Michael Russell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations, on Friday 16th November.  
Ms Gougeon said:
“I am delighted to support Scotland’s Rural Parliament – the only one in the UK – that provides an opportunity for rural communities to gather, share knowledge, and engage directly with policy makers on the areas that matter the most to them.
“I am particularly keen that young people contribute to that discussion, it is vital that they have a voice and that we work together for the benefit of our rural communities.”
The Scottish Rural Parliament is inclusive of a wide range of representation from young people at the event, including the Highland Youth Convener and representatives from Police Scotland’s Youth Volunteers.  Organisers have also involved young people throughout the planning, delivery and the hosting of the Rural Parliament.  Working closely with Dumfries and Galloway College the event is supporting the skills development of hospitality students who will be collaborating with local businesses to provide catering at the event.
Fiona Herron, Campus Manager for the College’s Stranraer campus said:
“The College is excited about playing a part in this year’s Scottish Rural Parliament. It provides us with an opportunity to showcase the Stranraer campus, in particular with the forthcoming investment through the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, but also very much the enthusiasm of our students and staff. The College is a key player in providing training, education and support for the communities and businesses in this very rural corner of Scotland with an approach to learning that very much reflects its locality.
“We are looking forward to welcoming the Scottish Rural Parliament to Stranraer this week, letting people see what we do, and also learning from others, allowing us to make south west Scotland an even better place to live, work and study.”
Cllr Elaine Murray, Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council said:
“Given the rural nature of our region, Dumfries and Galloway is delighted to host this year’s Scottish Rural Parliament. Our rural landscape often poses some unique challenges for our area and this is added to by the uncertainties of Brexit. Our rural economy is often heavily dependent on EU funding, particularly the Common Agricultural Policy, and the impact on our communities could be great if this funding is not replaced. In 2016 it was estimated that over 6,700 people were employed in agriculture in Dumfries and Galloway, this equates to 10% of the overall Scottish agriculture workforce and 11.8% of all jobs in our region.
“In addition, our own, Council specific, EU funded programmes will also be affected, for example our Business Growth Accelerator programme is directly affected by the European Regional Development Fund.  Obviously further work is needed, which will prove challenging given the current vagueness and insecurities surrounding Brexit, but by coming together at the Scottish Rural Parliament we can share our common ground and face the future together.”
Russel Griggs, Chair of the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, said:
“I am delighted that the Scottish Rural Parliament is being held in Stranraer. The South of Scotland Economic Partnership is charged with laying the foundations for the Government’s new Enterprise Agency in the south of Scotland. We are striving to ensure that the area benefits from a new approach to economic development from this new public body. This is a once in a generation opportunity to think about our part of Scotland in a different way and be ambitious in how we develop and support every aspect of our economy. I am sure the Rural Parliament will make a valuable contribution to ensuring the challenges we face are better understood, that the opportunities to secure a fairer and more inclusive economy for those in the south are secured and that our work in shaping the new Agency is accelerated by the contributions of all those travelling Stranraer. I hope every delegate finds the Parliament stimulating, enjoyable and educational; most importantly I hope they return to every part of rural Scotland committed to taking action in whatever way they can to build our economy.”
Peter Ross, Chair of Dumfries and Galloway’s Leader Action Group who are co-hosting the event said:
“We are very much looking forward to welcoming the Scottish Rural Parliament to Stranraer.  When we bid to host this event we knew that Brexit and its impact on rural Scotland would be a major theme, but we could never have anticipated that such uncertainty would remain at this late stage.  For communities like Stranraer, that uncertainty is deeply concerning.  Rural Scotland must begin planning in earnest for a post-Brexit world, and the concerns of rural communities and organisations must be communicated to those with influence to shape post-Brexit policy.  That is what this Rural Parliament is about and it’s why this event is so critically important.”
The Scottish Rural Parliament takes place from 14-16 November in Stranraer in south west Scotland.  For more information and details of the programme visit


South Scotland MSP is urging people across Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders to have their say on plans for a new enterprise agency dedicated to the south of Scotland.

The comments come as the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee issued a call for views on the bill to create the new agency as the committee begins the formal scrutiny of the legislation.

Colin Smyth is the only MSP from South Scotland who sits on the REC Committee and believes that it is vital that the legislation is shaped by the views of people living in South Scotland.

Colin Smyth said, “ As the only South Scotland MSP who sits on the Parliamentary committee who will scrutinise and ultimately amend the legislation that will set up the new Agency,  I cannot stress enough how important it is for local people to take part in this consultation to ensure we have an agency rooted in the South of Scotland. We will only get one chance to get this legislation right and that means making clear in the consultation that we need our new agency to have the local membership, budget and powers needed to deliver the real change for our economy based on local priorities not what Government Ministers in Edinburgh think is best for our area. I would urge local people to complete the committees survey or come along to the committee events we will be holding in the region over the next two months “.

The Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee consultation starts today and will run until 7 January 

The consultation questions that will form part of the inquiry are:

Do you agree that a south of Scotland enterprise agency should be created?

Do you agree with the proposals for the body's constitution, purposes, powers and duties?

If you do not agree with the proposals, what would you like to change?

Is there anything else that should be included or excluded from the bill?

As part of this call for views, the committee will hold a number of events in Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders, including a formal committee meeting in the south of Scotland.


Barber, cupcake baker, soy latte maker

Despite recent high street closures, number of independent retailers set to remain stable in coming years as changing consumer demands reshape British high streets

  • Modern consumers are prompting a reshaping of the high street as outlets open to fill gaps left by online shopping
  • Research released ahead of Small Business Saturday finds the independent retail sector is set to remain stable over the period 2017-2023
  • Analysis has predicted growth will be driven by sectors including entertainment services (17%), hair and beauty (16%) and health and fitness (15%)²
A study of 2.250 consumers released today ahead of Small Business Saturday (Saturday 1st December) has found that the number of independent retailers in Great Britain is set to experience net growth of 0.3% over the period 2017-2023. Set against the backdrop of current challenges faced by the high street and a series of high profile closures, even such modest growth is encouraging news for independent retailers.
Top five regions based on net percentage growth of independent retail 2017-2023:
  1. Scotland (5.1%)
  2. North West (4.2%)
  3. Yorkshire and the Humber (4.0%)
  4. North East (4.0%)
  5. West Midlands (1.5%)
Top five cities based on net percentage growth of independent retail 2017-2020:
  1. Birmingham (33.7%)
  2. Glasgow (32.2%)
  3. Liverpool (26.5%)
  4. Newcastle upon Tyne (12.0%)
  5. Nottingham (10.1%) 
Noticeably, sectors showing growth are those that are being established to serve the needs of consumers who are increasingly concerned about their wellness, provide opportunities to socialise as well as shop, and offer experiences that can't be replicated online, the research found.
The research revealed growth is predominantly being driven across three key sectors. Independents offering entertainment services like cinemas and escape rooms are set to grow by 17% in the period to 2023, while hair and beauty overall is predicted to see an increase of 16%, and the health and fitness sector follows not far behind (15%).
The study, conducted by GlobalData and commissioned by American Express, also identified ten key categories that are expected to show significant growth. Escape rooms are anticipated to experience net growth of 81%, representing an experience-based category which burst onto the leisure scene in recent years and is set to increase in popularity. The overall growth of hair and beauty means the sector boasts four of the fastest growing categories, with barbers (22%), beauty salons (24%), hairdressers (13%) and tattooing and piercing (20%) all set for a boost.
Ten of the fastest-growing high street categories among independent businesses
Forecast growth in retail unit openings to 2023
Escape rooms
Toys and games retailers
Beauty/nail salons
Tattooing and piercing
Chemists/cosmetics retailers
Gyms and fitness facilities
Electricals retailers
Hairdressers/hair salons
Coffee and tea shops
This relearch has been conducted ahead of Small Business Saturday, which takes place on 1 December this year.
The day, founded by American Express and of which it is principal supporter, is a grassroots, campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to support their local independents. American Express is incentivising its Cardmembers to shop small this festive season with a £5 statement credit when they spend £10 or more at participating small businesses between 1st - 16th December 2018.


South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth will tell the Scottish Parliament that “the people of South West Scotland are not asking for favours. We are asking for fairness,” when it comes to investment in the region’s road infrastructure.

The local MSP is speaking during a members debate in the Scottish Parliament later today (6 November) on roads investment in South West Scotland.

In his speech Colin Smyth will highlight the fact that there is currently just one proposed road upgrade planned on all the trunk roads in South West Scotland- the Maybole by-pass on the A77 - and this amounted to just 1% of the value the Government plan to invest in the £3billion dualling of the A9 between Perth and Inverness . He will argue that there is a “unique” economic case for improvements to the A75 and A77 given the strategic importance of the ferry ports at Cairnryan and will tell Parliament that part of the reason for the economic weaknesses in the south-west is the lack of investment in infrastructure.

Colin Smyth MSP said, “The debate in Parliament reminds us again of how much the South West of Scotland is the forgotten region by this SNP Government. While the Scottish Government have pledged £3billion to dual the A9 between Perth and Inverness the whole of the South West is receiving only 1% of planned trunk road investment. This is despite former First Minister Alex Salmond promising investment in roads, rail and regeneration to support the ferry terminals at Cairnryan. The people of Dumfries and Galloway and Ayrshire and are fed up of being treated as second class citizens and are simply asking for fairness when it comes to investing in our roads infrastructure”.

The Dual the A75 and A77 Action Group have done a fantastic job in raising the case for investment in the South West of Scotland. If the Government listened to both action groups and invested in the A75 and A77 it would unlock economic growth for both Dumfries and Galloway and Ayrshire and start to tackle the low wage economy experienced by too many workers.

Unfortunately, the Scottish Government were keen to trumpet the yet to start Maybole by-pass and I fear that it will take a long time to see any further improvements to the A75 and A77.”