The Latest news from Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce -

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


Statement in response to BBC Scotland’s ‘The Dark Side of Dairy’

Comment by David Finlay of The Ethical Dairy who features on the BBC Scotland clip and in the Disclosure ‘The Dark Side of Dairy’ which was broadcast on BBC Scotland at 8.30pm on Tuesday September 11th 2018.  

David Finlay said:

“The industrialisation of dairy farming has been of increasing concern to us for over a decade.  This is why we have invested close to £1m in developing a new model of dairy farming that directly addresses all of these issues. 

“Traditional dairy farmers are between a rock and a hard place, trapped between high supply costs and low wholesale prices that are pushing them to breaking point.  It is the system that is the problem, not the farmers. We know many farmers are deeply uncomfortable with the consequences of industrial farming.

“This issue shouldn’t be polarised between the business interests of industrial mega-dairies and the vegan movement. 

“This issue is so much bigger than that.  It’s about our nation’s food security, the social impact, the quality of our soil and sustainability of our environment as well as the welfare of animals and the cost of milk. 

“Scotland produces outstanding dairy produce and there is an opportunity to take the lead in pioneering sustainable, high welfare dairy systems that are replicable and of global importance. Let us start valuing the male calves and recognising them as an important part of an integrated, sustainable food system.

“All forms of food production involve compromise.  Rather than polarise the debate between pro and anti dairy factions; we urge policy makers, the industry and consumers to look for solutions that address waste and deliver nutritious food alongside public benefits and high welfare for farm animals.”

The Ethical Dairy brand was launched in March and is the culmination of 10 years of development and planning by the Finlays to create a sustainable food production system based on ecological farming principles. 

The business is now crowdfunding to support cashflow during the 3 year cow with calf pilot to help prove the concept.  The crowdfunder was launched to coincide with Organic September and participation in organic festivals and events in London by the business.  It is set to run into the autumn calving period when The Ethical Dairy will be undertaking some awareness raising activities.  The crowdfunder can be accessed at

More information about The Ethical Dairy and its products can be found at on Twitter on @theethicaldairy and on Facebook @EthicalDairy

Scottish Chambers of Commerce comment on MAC Report on International Student Migration & Labour Market Figure

The Migration Advisory Committee released this week the first of two reports on the UK’s migration system.  This initial report focuses on International Student Migration, one of the drivers of Scotland’s world leading higher education sector.

Commenting on the report, Liz Cameron, Director and Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:

“Although there are some positive recommendations in the MAC report, many in the sector will have expected stronger, more decisive policy proposals on the UK’s future approach to international student migration. Chambers of Commerce across Scotland and the UK have consistently called for the removal of international students from the headline migration statistics, and members will be disheartened to see that the MAC have not advocated for this. 

“While it is positive to see some recommendations for post-study work, such as streamlining the existing doctoral extension scheme for PhD students, those across business and higher education will have expected more substantive policy proposals, particularly when considering the current labour market conditions across the UK.

“Businesses and higher education institutions continue to call for a separate post-study work visa, and it’s clear from the labour market statistics, and our own business surveys, that vacancies and recruitment difficulties continue to hamstring UK productivity.  A future immigration system should recognise that there are many routes to graduate employment, some of which take time, and that failure to retain these skilled individuals in our businesses and communities is a wasted opportunity, which prevents the economy from benefitting from the experience and skills of individuals who have acquired a world-class education from these institutions. 

“We continue to urge the UK Government to consider the MAC’s recommendations, but also to go further, recognising that the landscape of the jobs market is evolving and job searchers are navigating various pathways to secure employment.”

Labour Market Statistics

Labour market figures for the three months ending July 2018 have once again illustrated the continued resilience of the UK labour market, with the unemployment rate at its lowest level since February 1975. However, businesses continue to signal a real need for skilled workers, with the vacancy rate at its highest level since 2001.

As a matter of concern, Scotland’s employment rate has fallen over the quarter, by 0.1 percentage points, alongside an increase in the inactivity rate of 0.3 percentage points.  Over the year, Scotland’s employment rate has dropped from 75.8% to 75.1%, the third largest decrease across the UK regions.

Although average weekly earnings remain below the pre-downturn peak, pay has outpaced inflation across the year, with total pay (including bonuses), increasing by 0.2% across the annual period ending July 2018.

Liz Cameron, Director and Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:

“Today’s labour market statistics emphasise exactly why Scottish firms, and firms across the UK, were seeking transformative recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee on the post-study working arrangements for international students.  With vacancies at a record high, an obvious route to improve labour market availability in the UK is to provide skilled graduates with a flexible path to employment via a post-study work visa, providing a sensible solution to the reality of the current UK labour market.”

D&G food and drink industry welcomes launch of new national Food Tourism Action Plan

Dumfries & Galloway’s food and drink industry has welcomed the publication of Scotland’s first Food Tourism Action Plan, with local businesses highlighting the opportunity that food tourism presents for our region. 

The action plan was launched by Scotland’s First Minister earlier this week with the aim of delivering an additional £1 billion to Scotland’s economy by 2030.  The plan sets out a range of actions to maximise the economic potential of food and drink and tourism through activities such as increased marketing, developing local supply chains, industry events and collaboration. 

The prioritisation of food tourism aligns closely with findings of the recent Dumfries & Galloway Food and Drink Business Survey where local businesses identified Food Tourism Development and Collaborative Opportunities as their top areas of interest.

Lorna Young of DG Food and Drink, who carried out the survey to inform the new regional food and drink strategy, said:

“Food and drink tourism is something that Dumfries & Galloway naturally excels at with high profile food and drink based visitor attractions, a vibrant network of food festivals and markets and exciting growth in our region’s hospitality sector.  The results of our D&G business survey shows very clearly that despite our already strong performance in this area, there remains huge potential to make more of food tourism opportunities. 

“Food and drink is the engine of our region’s economy and now more than ever we need to make sure the foundations of our industry are strong and that the potential of our industry is realised. We will incorporate the feedback from local businesses and the recommendations of the national action plan into our new regional food and drink strategy, due to be published later this year.”

Romano Petrucci, Chair of Stranraer Development Trust who organises Stranraer Oyster Festival which takes place from 14th September said:

“When we were exploring how to create a tourism focal point for Stranraer we immediately recognised that it was our local produce, in particular our native oysters, that had the potential to transform the way people think about our town. 

“Food tourism is one of the fastest growing tourism sectors in the world and Stranraer’s heritage means the town is perfectly placed to capitalise on that growing interest in themed food festivals.  Through the festival we can showcase the stunning beauty of Loch Ryan, our amazing local seafood and the hospitality of the people of Stranraer.  Our food and drink is an obvious way to show our region off to the world.”

Food tourism is also the focus of the new Heart of Galloway Visitor Centre, the community enterprise which took over the former Castle Douglas Visitor Information Centre.  Sarah-Jane Allsop who manages the centre commented:

“As the region’s Food Town we immediately saw the potential in combining visitor information with local food and drink, and it’s been enormously successful so far.  Visitors to our town and our region want local food and drink; they actively seek it out and food tourism is absolutely something we should be capitalising on.”

Deborah Firth of Hillcrest House in Wigtown has used local food and drink to promote her guesthouse for many years, winning numerous awards by doing so.  She welcomed the new action plan and said:

“I make a point of seeking out local food and it’s amazing and surprising what is grown and produced here. For example, last night’s menu included locally grown peaches for dessert, beetroot freshly dug from my neighbour’s garden and stunning local saltmarsh lamb. 

“For visitors to our region the stories we tell about our food and drink, its provenance and the people behind it, helps to create an experience that is unique to our region.  So it’s not just what we serve our guests, it’s about sharing our passion for the flavours of our local area and our unique local larder.”

Linny Oliphant, Visitor Experience Manager of Annandale Distillery said that providing quality distillery tourism experiences was an essential part of the business, she commented:

“Distillery tourism is booming throughout Scotland and creating and delivering consistently excellent tourism experiences has always been at the heart of the rebirth of Annandale Distillery.  This year’s visitor numbers to the distillery has again evidenced the clear demand from international and UK visitors who want depth and authenticity in their experience.  We are keen to be involved with any regional food tourism initiatives as we see huge potential.”

The region’s farmers’ market network is widely recognised as a way to make local food and drink more visible, while also providing an accessible route to market for new producers.  Chair of the region’s farmers’ market association, Sarah Burchell, said:

“There are a number of farmers’ markets in Dumfries & Galloway that have obvious appeal for day trippers from central Scotland and the north of England, in fact many of our regular customers at local farmers’ markets are anything but local to our region! So we have known for a long time that creating enjoyable local food experiences at markets has the potential to encourage visitors into our towns.  In Dumfries, Moffat and Kirkcudbright in particular the markets are going from strength to strength and we are keen to work more collaboratively to unlock their full potential.” 

The plethora of local produce on offer and the popularity of Kirkcudbright Farmers’ Market was one of the reasons for entrepreneur Nick Morris basing his new cookery school in the town, after a search that took him the length and breadth of the UK. Nick welcomed the new national focus on food tourism:

“As a new business and investor in the Dumfries and Galloway food tourism sector I realise its massive potential for this region in terms of supporting existing local food suppliers and producers.  By focussing on food tourism we can grow two of our most important industries in tandem.

“I’m fairly new to this region but since we first arrived here it’s been obvious to me that for too long Dumfries & Galloway has underestimated the quality of its outstanding food and drink.  From passionate artisan producers and local meat, dairy and seafood that is second to none, food tourism is THE big opportunity for our region and its time we worked together to make more of it.” 

The Dumfries and Galloway food and drink strategy is being developed by Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Business and Enterprise team and DG Food and Drink with the target of doubling the value of region’s industry to £2.5 billion by 2030.  The regional growth ambition aligns with the national food and drink strategy, ‘Ambition 2030’ which aims to double the value of Scotland’s industry over the next twelve years. 

Autumn food festivals in Dumfries and Galloway include:

  •          Stranraer Oyster Festival 14-16 September 2018
  •          Kirkcudbright Food Festival 27-28 October 2018


Three years of success in which 4 million passengers have used the Borders Rail Line highlights the case to extend the line to Carlisle, according to South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Connectivity and Transport Colin Smyth.

However, the local MSP has said that any future extension of the Borders Railway should stop at Langholm.

The call comes as figures released by Scot Rail on the third anniversary on the re-opening of part of the Borders Railway showed that 1.5 million passenger journeys in the last 12 months alone. This was an increase of 200,000 passenger journeys per year for the first 12 months after the opening of the line.

Since the re-opening of the line in 2015 campaigners have been keen to see the line extended to Carlisle. This is an idea that has been raised in discussions around the Borderlands Growth Deal, in particular, which is likely to include funding for a feasibility study to be carried out.

Colin Smyth MSP said, “The previous Scottish Labour Government set the wheels in motion for the re-opening of the Borders Railway Line and thirteen years later it’s been proven that it was the right decision to be made. The passenger numbers in the first three years show the success and help make the case for extending the line to Carlisle.

I was however disappointed that Tory MP, John Lamont said the line should not run through Langholm at Prime Minister’s Questions. There is a very strong case to have a railway station at Langholm – increasing access to both Carlisle and Edinburgh while opening up economic development opportunities. While the original Borders rail line didn’t pass through Langholm directly and went via Newcastleton. Times have moved on and it would be foolish not to ensure that the largest towns were served by any extension. However, the comments of John Lamont in preferring the original route show that there is work to be done to make sure there is cross party backing for Langholm and we are all united in making the case”.



Mundell comments on FM speech

Commenting on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's programme for government speech today (Tuesday), Dumfriesshire Constituency MSP Oliver Mundell said:


“The South of Scotland has been short-changed again. Nicola Sturgeon has demonstrated how little priority her government puts on our region by confirming we will once again get significantly less enterprise funding than other regions. 


"Our new South of Scotland Enterprise Partnership is being asked to perform miracles on a Cinderella budget. 


"With a string of damaging job losses locally we really do deserve our fair share this year at the very least. There is also nothing for Dumfriesshire’s roads with the A9 Dualling and other projects further north being given priority.” 

The South of Scotland Enterprise Partnership will get just £10 million while Highlands and Islands Enterprise receives over £70 million.