The Latest news from Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce -

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


Public urged to have say in RBS closure review

BANK customers are being urged to have their say in a review into the future of Annandale and Eskdale's only surviving RBS branch at Gretna.


The call comes from David Mundell, MP for Dumfriesshire Clydesdale and Tweeddale together with Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell, who have both opposed closures across the district.


Gretna was among ten branches nationally given an, at least, temporary reprieve following a controversial nationwide closure programme announced last winter.


Chartered accountants and business advisers Johnston Carmichael were commissioned by RBS to carry out the independent survey and are seeking customer and wider community views.


A team from the firm will be at the Gretna branch on August 2.


David Mundell said: "RBS say they will implement the recommendation from Johnston Carmichael so it is vital as many people as possible express their views to the team about the impact the loss of the branch will have.


"Many constituents have expressed concern and, if the closure moves ahead, it is clear that there would be genuine hardship and inconvenience."


Meanwhile, Oliver Mundell pointed out that, in addition to the other RBS branches in Annandale and Eskdale which had closed, the two in near-by Carlisle were also earmarked to shut.


He said: "Gretna is a busy centre for tourism, weddings and has a large retail sector and the bank provides a valuable service.


"I believe some customers from near-by branches, which have already closed, are now using it as an alternative and hopefully that might strengthen the branch's case."


However, Mr Mundell cautioned: "The only hope will be that the review shows the bank can be viable in the future through customer demand. That's why I would urge as many potential users as possible to make their views known."


Factors taken into consideration will include past and present transaction and customer numbers, alternative banking facilities, recent trends and local feedback.


Further details of the review and how to submit comments by the August 14 deadline can be found online at


South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has urged the Scottish and UK Governments to turn their “warm words” about the Borderlands into “hard cash” and use their forthcoming budgets to fund a Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal.

The call was made by the local MSP following today’s (18 June) Borderlands Conference hosted by Dumfries and Galloway Council. Speakers at the event included the Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council Elaine Murray and Scottish Government Economy Secretary Keith Brown MSP, although Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell MP pulled out of the event at the last minute.

South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth said, “Having been involved in the Borderlands Initiative since it was established, I know how much effort it has been over the years to firstly bring all five councils from across the border together with a shared vision and list of key themes and possible projects and secondly to get both Government’s round the table to listen. It’s vital that the final list of projects are shaped locally by the community, businesses and councils, not in any way imposed by central Government. Whilst it stills seems a problem getting Ministers from both Governments in the room at the same time, once the final proposals are agreed, the Scottish and UK Governments must show real backing and match their warm words about the Borderlands with hard cash in their next budgets. It’s also important not to raise expectations. Any deal could mean investment of a few million pounds a year in the South of Scotland but spread out over a ten-year period not starting until 2020, but if the right projects are selected then it can help make a real difference to the local economy”

The Borderlands Initiative brings together the five cross-border local authorities in South Scotland and the North of England to promote economic growth and competitiveness of the area that straddles the Scotland-England border. The initiative was established following a report in 2013 entitled, ‘Borderlands: can the North East and Cumbria benefit from greater Scottish Autonomy?’ The Councils are developing a series of projects as part of a Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal for consideration by the Scottish and UK Governments and held a conference today (18 June) to discuss a draft list of possible projects and themes with local stakeholders including local businesses, further and higher education establishments, the third sector and local councillors and MSPs.

Hundreds have their say on proposals to transform the Borderlands’ economy

Hundreds of stakeholders had their say on proposals to transform the Borderlands economy at a special conference in Dumfries on Monday 18th June.

Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Elaine Murray, welcomed more than 370 business representatives, public sector organisations and individuals to the first Borderlands conference. She said: “I am delighted that so many people attended on the day, this shows what an important project the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal is. One attendee described the conference as an ‘Illuminating and fantastic event’, which reflected the enthusiasm I perceived on the day, that this is a once in a generation opportunity which must be seized.”

Five local authorities from north and south of the border are working in partnership to put together a proposal that should have huge implications for those who live, work and visit the area.

It was the first opportunity for interested parties to hear about the themes that are being developed to underpin the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal – and to give their views on the major projects they believe would kickstart transformation.

The conference was held at a key time for the partnership, made up of Carlisle City, Cumbria County, Dumfries and Galloway, Northumberland County and Scottish Borders Councils.

Responses from the conference will help the partnership to build a case to present to both the UK and Scottish Governments later this year. Views were sought on the Borderlands’ key themes: Digital; Energy; Destination Borderlands; Rural Productivity; Business Growth; Transport; Innovation and Skills and Quality of Place.

The conference had backing from both governments who have pledged support for a deal.

Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, said: “The Scottish Government has made clear our support for a proposed Borderlands deal in our budget statements. And we look forward to negotiating the detail of that deal when the partners are ready with their proposals. This is a key part of our commitment to 100% coverage of deals across Scotland.

 “We want to see an ambitious deal that focuses on driving inclusive growth and the priorities that will make a difference and help the economy thrive.  We want a deal that helps address the area’s connectivity challenges, supports growth in sectors particularly important in the Borderlands, and creates more opportunities for all to attract people to the area.

 “We are working to tackle the economic challenges in the South of Scotland, having already committed to establishing a South of Scotland enterprise agency, and we want to ensure that priorities align to maximise impact and success.”

Speaking ahead of the conference the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell said:

"The Borderlands Growth Deal represents a unique opportunity to provide a real shot in the arm to the economy of our region, a region that faces similar challenges wherever you live or work within it.

“Working with the proposals that have been prepared by local authorities, businesses and individuals, we will spend the summer shaping these in to a coherent deal that will support the economy of the region by encouraging people to invest in new opportunities, by building on our strengths and improving the lives of those who live here.

“In that way, we will bring to the Borderlands the benefits that are now being seen across the UK as investment in City and Growth Deals progresses.

Dumfries and Galloway Council Chief Executive Gavin Stevenson said: “Crucially we now sit between the emerging powerhouses of the central belt of Scotland and the Northern Powerhouse in England. Unless we act they will continue to suck up our young talent and skills.

“We need to re-position ourselves, we need to stabilise and to stop our productivity falling and then we also need to reinvent. This feels like a once in a generation opportunity.

“We know our potential, our children will not forgive us if there are no jobs in the future. I think we are at that point where we either put up or shut up. We get out there, we shout, we demand and we create the business opportunities.”

Those attending quizzed a panel, chaired by the UK Government’s Borderlands champion John Stevenson MP, on how the deal could support inclusivity, tourism projects and benefit small rural communities.

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

Challenging the Economic Climate in D&G

At Dumfries and Galloway’s Full Council meeting tomorrow (26th June), Members will hear about work being carried out to overcome the challenging economic climate currently facing Dumfries and Galloway.

This Council recognises that our region has recently been hit with a string of economic difficulties; particularly in Annan, Langholm, Lockerbie and Stewartry. This has demonstrated, not only how fragile some areas of our region’s economy are, but also that some businesses, both large and small, are unaware of public sector support which could be accessed prior to difficulties materialising.

Although the loss of jobs is tragic, there is some good news: Browns Food Group have announced expansion plans; they currently have a turnover of £80 million and 600 staff and, with a new facility, this will rise to over £100m and up to 800 staff.  Additionally, the Economic Development Service is pursuing the opportunity to create a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) project ‘spoke’ in Kelloholm on a site purchased by Browns and in collaboration with the College. This links with Skills priorities within the South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SoSEP) Work Plan and has the potential to be a Food and Drink innovation centre to enhance skills and learning.

In Annan, despite the challenges, there is the opportunity to attract a new investor to the Pinney’s site and the Stapleton Road Depot site is being cleared so that a local company can build a new unit and create more jobs. An application has also been submitted to the (SoSEP) for funding amounting to £250k to support Annan and the greater DG12 area to put in place a local solutions team who will advance projects and bring expertise to accelerate business opportunities, inward investment and bankable business case. Approval is awaited from the Cabinet Secretary on this.

In Lockerbie, James Jones has an expansion project underway which will see Curries Transport move their operation to this area part of this strategic project.

Significant Regeneration projects are being undertaken in Stranraer Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme as well as the Council’s Economic Development Capital Programme and the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, local Community organisations and businesses are also investing.  This is in addition to significant forthcoming investment in Stranraer’s Waterfront area.

Employability and Skills facilitates Dumfries and Galloway’s Local Employability Partnership, which works to align skills resources and investment across the region. This service supports inclusive growth through tackling inequalities and supports young people, communities and businesses with the aim of increased wages and productivity for the region.

Modern apprenticeships are a key driver in building our local economy – for every £1 spent on apprenticeships the local economy gains £26: a high investment return. There are over 100 different types of apprenticeship frameworks available and local employers, who recruit a modern apprentice, can receive financial assistance to support the training element of the apprenticeship.

Depute Leader, Rob Davidson commented: “Members are being asked to agree to lobby for Dumfries and Galloway businesses to have greater opportunity to access more substantial government funding, particularly in the food and drink sector, but also other other key sectors across our region. It is vital that this Council can support small, medium sized businesses (SMEs) and micro businesses and it would be beneficial for us to be able to provide that support through a Small Business Grants Scheme. Providing Members agree on Tuesday, to make a difference the Scheme should ideally be of the value of £500k with grants to the value of £5k to £20k. This Council will then be in a position to work with SoSEP and the Scottish Government to develop such a Scheme.”

Elaine Murray, Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council said: “This Council, in December 2017 and in the 2018-19 Budget, recognised the need to resource the Borderlands and put in place financial resources to deliver and support joint working. At the same time the region has seen new opportunities with the announcement of a new Economic Agency for the South of Scotland, with interim arrangements through SoSEP, along with the Borderlands’ Inclusive Growth Deal. We are determined to capitalise on all opportunities and want to reassure the public that, despite these difficult times, we are doing everything we can to address the situation and support those affected as much as possible.”

DGBusiness Awards 2018 Winners Announced

A record-breaking 375 people celebrated the success of businesses from across the region in the 2018 Dumfries & Galloway Business Awards on Friday night.

At the glittering ceremony, hosted by DGChamber Business Development Manager and broadcaster Lee Medd at Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries, the winners of the 11 keenly contested categories were announced.

Dumfries based Paul Williamson, Managing Director the Croma Vigilant was named Outstanding Business Person of the Year. Paul founded the company in 1997 and has built the company over the past 20 years. It now has a £27m-plus turnover. Paul’s leadership has ensured that the business has always remained ahead of the curve. Its phenomenal growth within the last 12 months is attributed to Paul’s entrepreneurial spirit and bold decision-making. Croma Vigilant also won the award for Outstanding Large Business Award on the night.

Callum Winspear of United Bricks was named Outstanding Young Business Person. He founded United Bricks when he was 15 with the vision of inspiring the children of tomorrow to learn history through the use of LEGO. He makes custom Lego figures and has created a sustainable enterprise which brings international business and recognition to Scotland. Aged 18, Callum employs two additional full-time staff and has distributors around the world. His company has a reputation for quality and excellent service. Around three-quarters of total sales are abroad and United Bricks prints and provides all items at its office in Dumfries& Galloway.

Well-known family business Thomsons Foodservice won the title of Outstanding Small Business (with 25 employees or under) in a category; Grange Quarry, which has its head office in Lockerbie, was recognised for its Excellence in Customer Service, impressing the judges with the way it provides a service which surpasses its customers’ expectations, and the Family Business Award went to Sanquhar-based Brown Brothers.

The Outstanding Rural Business Award went to The Cocoabean Company, which offers unique and interactive children’s chocolate workshops, extensive indoor and outdoor play areas, a factory shop with over 120 chocolate varieties, and The Cocoabean Café.

The Third Sector was represented in the Outstanding Social Enterprise category, which judges said was keenly fought, with exceptional entries. They named Stewartry Care, which provides care at home to the elderly, disabled and vulnerable people as the winner. Its service ensures that people are able to remain at home, living independently in their own communities among friends and family. It also provides activity days and trips for service users, to help combat social isolation.

Robert Beattie from Brown Brothers was named Champion in Developing the Young Workforce. He was keen to get involved in the work the company does with local schools to ensure that the workforce of tomorrow is able to engage with the food industry at an early age. Jas P Wilson of Dalbeattie was named Champion Business in Developing the Young Workforce for the work it has done with local schools and groups to educate, inform and develop its own workforce thorough apprenticeships and work education.

The Most Promising New Business category was open to businesses set up within the last three years.  With a wide range of entries in this category, judges faced some of their greatest challenges of the competition. They named Lockerbie-based Concrete Wall Products, a business which is unique, has a specialist marketplace and is doing business on a national scale, as the winner.

Tom Armstrong, President of DGChamber, which organised the awards said: “We were delighted both with the quality and quantity of businesses which came forward for this amazing event.  The judges had a tough time deciding the winners of each category, so to be shortlisted was a true achievement.”

Dumfries & Galloway Developing the Young Workforce was the principal sponsor of the awards. Project Director Tricia Hunter said: “The talent, business skills, courage and commitment which the entrants have shown in their applications highlights that the region has a bright future and by DYW working with all the businesses across the region, the future for the next generation of workforce is a promising one.”

Full List of Winners:

Outstanding Customer Service Award sponsored by The Crichton Trust

Grange Quarry


Outstanding Business with Over 25 Employees sponsored by Gates Power Transmission

Croma Vigilant


Outstanding Business with Under 25 Employees sponsored by Gates Power Transmission

Thomsons Foodservice                                                                                                                         


Most Promising New Business Sponsored by Scottish Power Energy Networks

Concrete Wall Products                                                                                                                            


Outstanding Social Enterprise sponsored by Third Sector Dumfries & Galloway

Stewartry Care  


Family Business Award sponsored by Armstrong Watson

Brown Brothers


Rural Business Award sponsored by SRUC

Cocoa Bean Company    


Champion Business or Organisation in Developing the Young Workforce Sponsored by DYWDG

Jas P Wilson


Individual Champion in Developing the Young Workforce Sponsored by DYWDG

Robert Beattie – Brown Brothers

Business Person of the Year Sponsored by DGChamber

Paul Williamson – Croma Vigilant


Young Business Person of the Year Sponsored by DGHP

Callum Winspear – United Bricks