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SOUTH OF SCOTLAND INTERIM ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP HAS GOVERNMENT’S OBSESSION WITH CENTRAL CONTROL WRITTEN ALL OVER IT, WARNS MSP

South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has warned that the arrangements for a new South of Scotland Interim Economic Partnership has the Scottish Government’s “obsession with central control written all over them” after local stakeholders were denied any say over the appointment of the partnership’s Chairperson. 

The interim partnership is being established as a result of the two-year delay by the Scottish Government in establishing a proper South of Scotland Enterprise Agency. However, with no budget, no powers, no funding and no local say over the appointment of members, there are fears that the interim partnership will simply be a talking shop, controlled by the Scottish Government. 

The new Chair of the South of Scotland Interim partnership will represent the South of Scotland on a new Strategic Board being set up by the Scottish Government to co-ordinate the activities of Scotland's skills and enterprise agencies, despite local stakeholders having no say over the appointment. In response to a Parliamentary questions in September from Colin Smyth, the Government made clear the Government will determine the membership of the partnership, rather than local stakeholders, with the Chair appointed today (14 November).  

Next week Dumfries and Galloway Council’s, Economy, Environmental and Infrastructure Committee will also be presented with a report simply asking them to note the new arrangements- but members of the Committee have no say on those arrangements.

Colin Smyth said, “The delay of two years by the Scottish Government before they establish a proper South of Scotland Enterprise Agency is bad enough, but it is deeply disappointing that the interim arrangements have the Government’s obsession with central control written all over them.  There has been no local say in the appointment of the Chair of the partnership who will have a powerful role as a member of the national Strategic Board. Their job will be to represent the South of Scotland not the Government, yet the Government have not only imposed that Chair but also made clear they intend to impose the whole membership of the new partnership. How can local businesses and other stakeholders be confident that the partnership will fight for the South of Scotland, if they are simply handpicked by Government Ministers who frankly have the power to boot anyone out if they ask the Government any tough questions?  It should be local stakeholders in the South of Scotland who decide the membership and Chair not central Government. The new interim partnership also has no powers and not a penny from the Government to spend on supporting businesses. This is certainly not what those of us who have fought for a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency campaigned for and there is in real danger that it simply becomes a talking shop run by the Government instead of being locally run and locally accountable.”  

McAlpine raises region’s roads in Parliament

MSP Joan McAlpine today raised the region’s roads in Parliament in an exchange with the Transport Minister.

The South Scotland MSP asked Humza Yousaf when he will know which road improvements are to be included in the Strategic Transport Projects review (STPR) – a document that will outline the government’s transport priorities over the next 20 years.

Ms McAlpine has called for it to include improvements to the A75, A76 and better links between Dumfries and the M74.

Mr Yousaf outlined that the review is progressing on schedule, and that the government has been looking closely at the A75 and the A77 in the region.  The Minister also said he would be keen to meet with Ms McAlpine in order to hear her views.

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“I welcome the fact that the SNP government last year committed to improve the A75, A76 as well as links between Dumfries and the A74, having advocated for these improvements in my submission to the National Transport Strategy.

“I was pleased that the Minister mentioned the importance of the A75 corridor in the south west, as well as recognising the importance of rail links in the region – and I am particularly pleased he has agreed to meet with me.”

Joan has been working closely with local groups – such as the A75 action group – to push for improvements to the region’s roads.

Following last year’s Transport Summit in Dumfries, the MSP has continued to push the case for improvements to local transport, including raising the issue in Parliament, and submitting to the Scottish Government’s National Transport Strategy review. 

The NTS will help inform which projects will be included in the STPR.

McAlpine welcomes new initiative to increase exports from Dumfries and Galloway

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the launch of an initiative aimed at boosting exports from the region.

The Scottish Government and Chambers of Commerce are launching a joint initiative to help businesses in Dumfries and Galloway increase their exports, supported by Scottish Government investment.

The Local Export Partnerships (LEPs) will be launched in five pilot areas: the Cairngorms; Inverness/Highlands and Islands; Dumfries and Galloway/Scottish Borders; Edinburgh/Lothian and Glasgow/Lanarkshire.

These will bring together Scottish Development International, local authorities and a range of local support organisations to offer support and expertise to companies, particularly SMEs, with little or no previous exporting experience and help them enter international markets.

The Scottish Government is providing up to £400,000 to the Scottish Chambers of Commerce to develop the pilot programme.

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“The new Local Export Partnerships – a pilot initiative between the Scottish Government and the Chambers of Commerce – will be really important in helping to boost international trade and exports from the region.

“Our European neighbours are logically the first port of call for most exporters in Scotland, and yet the Tory plans for a hard Brexit will put barriers in the way of vital EU trade and a ‘no deal’ Brexit could impose prohibitive WTO tariffs on trade.

“With the Tories determined to drag us out of Europe against our will, our trading businesses in Dumfries and Galloway will need as much support as possible to increase their exports, and indeed businesses that are yet to start trading overseas need encouragement to start doing so.

“The LEPs will test new approaches to support businesses to export, opening a whole new world to companies and employers throughout Scotland.”

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT MUST “STUMP UP” ON £6M PLEDGE FOR STRANRAER WATERFRONT, SAYS MSP

The Scottish Government must “stump up” on their pledge to invest £6m in Stranraer Waterfront, according to South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.

The local MSPs comments come as a report to go before Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee today (21 November) highlights the challenges facing the Waterfront project due to a range of factors including market failure.

Colin Smyth revealed in June that so far the Scottish Government had failed to allocate a single penny of a £6m “pledge” of funding to support the regeneration of Stranraer Waterfront - and the funding won’t even be confirmed until the Government has carried out a spending review at the end of this year.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said, “The challenge of market failure is nothing new when it comes to the Waterfront. However, the current economic woes across Scotland and the UK, exasperated by brexit really does mean business confidence is at rock bottom and companies aren’t queuing up to invest in busy city centre developments, never mind projects such the Waterfront were the returns will be a lot smaller. The investment from the public sector is therefore more crucial than ever before to help fill that market failure gap.  That’s why it is so disappointment that 18 months since the Scottish Government pledged to invest £6m just before an election, not a penny has even been handed over by the Scottish Government. In fact, it hasn’t even been included in the Government’s budget to date, so they have no idea where the funding will come from”.

“It’s more than 5 years since the council approved the design brief for the East Pier and Port Rodie frontage and so far Dumfries and Galloway Council have spent £5.8m on a range of projects such as the West Pier and regeneration of Agnew Park.  However, given the appalling state of the economy, we know it is going to take millions more public money to fill the gap that simply won’t be filled by private sector development and the Scottish Government need to step up to the mark.”

“Local people will rightly be frustrated that the momentum created by the Council’s investment in the Waterfront in recent years hasn’t been built on and both the preferred developer and Scottish Government do need to up their game. We need to keep the pressure on the Scottish Government to make sure when they announce their draft budget in a few weeks they don’t ditch the £6m pledge for Stranraer and they stump up the money to Dumfries and Galloway as a matter of urgency.  That would help boost confidence in the private sector and hopefully generate more interest.”

LEP's encourage businesses to grown beyond borders

More Scottish businesses will have the opportunity and support to trade abroad, thanks to a new initiative.

Five pilot Local Export Partnerships (LEPs) are being launched by the Scottish Government and Chambers of Commerce to increase the number of firms exporting their products and services.

The partnerships – in Cairngorms; Inverness/Highlands and Islands; Dumfries and Galloway/Scottish Borders; Edinburgh/Lothian and Glasgow/Lanarkshire – will bring together Scottish Development International, local authorities and a range of local support organisations. They will offer support and expertise to companies, particularly SMEs, with little or no previous exporting experience and help them enter international markets.  

The Scottish Government is providing up to £400,000 to the Scottish Chambers of Commerce to develop the pilot programme.

Economy Secretary Keith Brown said:

“With Brexit looming, international trade and export has never been so vital to the Scottish economy, but it can seem daunting to businesses who haven’t yet ventured into the field.

“It is crucial that we maximise the help and support available to those firms – particularly the SMEs which are the lifeblood of our economy.

“These pilots will test new approaches to support businesses to export, opening a whole new world to companies and employers throughout Scotland.”

As outlined in the Scottish Government’s Trade and Investment Strategy, the partnership will use a collaborative, One Scotland approach. It will bring together individuals, businesses and agencies to promote an international business awareness and mindset, collaboration around shared trade objectives and mutual learning and support.”

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

“On behalf of the Scottish Chambers Network, we are delighted to have the opportunity to work closely with The Scottish Government and its agencies in this exciting new Local Enterprise Partnership initiative.

“These new LEPs will build on the strong partnerships we have recently forged with government in the field of international trade, which has already resulted in promising new routes to accessing important markets for Scottish goods and services, notably China.

“The combination of the Chambers’ network at grass roots and the experience and in-market expertise within government and its agencies is a powerful one. This LEP initiative allows us to show what can be achieved for exporters with a Team Scotland approach.”

Tom Armstrong, President DGChamber, said:

"This is an exciting new project for DGChamber, we know that there are businesses here in Dumfries & Galloway that are looking to export. With this initiative we aim to bring the expertise from our currently exporting members together with Scottish Enterprise, SDI and Dumfries & Galloway Council to raise the profile of the great businesses that we have in this region. This programme will allow us to help upskill the business people of the region who want to do more and get their business offerings to a wider market. Working with our partners in Scottish Borders Chamber we look to forward to shining the light on the great range of businesses in the South of Scotland and truly putting the area on the international business map."