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The Latest news from Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce -

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

 

SCC Comment on UK Labour Market Statistics

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

“The record level employment rate is a strong indicator of the resilience of the UK and Scottish labour market. With the unemployment rate at its lowest rate on record, these are positive statistics for Scotland.

“Against this backdrop, we are mindful that job vacancies are also rising, with many businesses reporting difficulties in finding and hiring the skills and talent they need. Yesterday’s announcement by the Prime Minister to scrap the proposed fee for EU nationals to register on the Settled Status Scheme will be welcomed by businesses across Scotland who are worried about the prospect of losing valuable workers from the European Union in a post-Brexit environment. This will provide some certainty to businesses and to individuals who are contributing to our economy and local communities.

“The UK Government must deliver a future immigration system that helps, rather than hinders the ability for businesses to invest, grow and support the economy.”

 

LOCAL MSP STEPS UP CALL FOR FUNDING FOR BORDERLANDS GROWTH DEAL

South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has stepped up calls on the Scottish and UK Government to announce funding for a Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal.

The local MSP used a debate in the Scottish Parliament on growth deals on Tuesday 22 January 2019 to call on the Scottish Government to set up a clear timetable for the deal to be agreed by the Scottish and UK Governments and for them to announce funding.

Speaking during the debate South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Connectivity and Transport Colin Smyth told Parliament, “I had the privilege of being part of the establishment of the Borderlands Initiative when I was a Councillor and Chaired Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy Committee”.

“It wasn’t an easy process. The Borderlands not only stretches the width of Scotland from the Borders to Dumfries and Galloway but across the border taking in Cumbria and Northumberland”.

“The five local councils represent 10% of the UK’s land mass and over a million people. They are determined to use our united strength to fight to ensure we are no longer the forgotten regions of the UK”.

“The borderlands partners were told by the Secretary of State for Scotland that if their proposals for a growth deal were submitted by September last year, it would enable an announcement on funding to be made in the UK Government’s December budget. The local councils delivered on their side of the bargain. But the UK and Scottish Government have not. So far only the local councils have invested in the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal with no funding announcement yet from Government.

“I hope that when summing up the Minister will give Parliament an exact timetable when we can expect to see these deals agreed by the Scottish and UK Governments and when funding announced”.

Speaking after the debate Colin Smyth said, “The Borderlands Growth Deal has been years in development. We are now being told agreement on the deal will be reached in March. But so far not a penny of funding has been allocated by either the Scottish or UK Government. That needs to change. It’s time for both Governments to put their money where their mouths are and announce the funding needed to make the Borderlands Growth Deal a reality”.

The Borderlands Initiative brings together the five cross-border local authorities of Carlisle City Council, Cumbria Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council to promote the economic growth and competitiveness of the area, which straddles the Scotland-England border.

The local councils have worked together to develop a set of formal proposals for projects they are seeking Government funding for- known as the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal. The deal covers areas such as broadband, transport links and support for key business sectors such as tourism, energy and the rural enterprises.

 

NEARLY 2,300 PEOPLE IN DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY LOOKING FOR WORK OVER CHRISTMAS, REVEALS MSP

South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has revealed that nearly 2,300 people in Dumfries and Galloway spent Christmas looking for work.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics on 22 January - show that in December 2018 2,280 people in the region were claiming out of work benefits. This was an increase of 117 people compared to the previous month.

The figures mean there was an increase of 685 people looking for work this Christmas compared to the previous year- the highest claimant count since July 2014.

Colin Smyth said, “This significant increase in people looking for work is terrible news for the families affected and our region. Normally you see a fall in unemployment during December due to seasonal work. But with the loss of employers such as Pinneys those types of opportunities are now few and far between and our region is in a dangerous upward spiral when it comes to unemployment. It is a tragedy that 2,280 people spent Christmas in Dumfries and Galloway looking for a job.

In the light of recent economic shocks we need to see urgent action from both the Scottish and UK Governments to invest in our local economy and infrastructure. While a new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency is the right way forward that is two years away. We need to see immediate action to support existing business create high skilled, high paid jobs. Both Governments also need to stop dragging their heals and commit funding to the Borderlands Growth Deal so that investment can be allocated to projects across the region. We are seeing levels of joblessness that we haven’t seen since 2014 in Dumfries and Galloway and our region is bucking the national trend of falling unemployment”.

NEW REPORT SHOWS “DIGITAL DIVIDE” LEAVES DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY BEHIND

Dumfries and Galloway is being left behind when it comes to internet speeds according to South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.

A new report by consumer watchdog Which? shows that broadband speeds in Dumfries and Galloway are around a third of the speed of those in the fastest areas.

According to the report internet connection speeds in the region average 11.8 Mbps compared to the fastest area in Scotland, West Dunbartonshire with an average of 29.6 Mpbs. 

South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Connectivity and Transport Colin Smyth said,

“Scotland faces a digital divide with rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway unable to access decent broadband. 

As this report exposes, the SNP’s roll out of fibre broadband has failed to deliver, with many people in our region receiving super-slow broadband rather than super-fast. 

Poor broadband speeds have a massive impact on local businesses who are being put at a competitive disadvantage and it is hugely frustrating for households who often can’t access services online because speeds are too slow and unpredictable.

It’s time we had a clear strategy from both the UK and Scottish Government to properly connect every household in Dumfries and Galloway to superfast broadband or we will continue to be left behind by the failure of both Governments”.

LOCAL MSP TELLS PARLIAMENT THAT PINNEY’S WORKERS HAVE BEEN “FORGOTTEN”

Local Labour MSP Colin Smyth has told the Scottish Parliament that Pinney’s workers “feel forgotten”.

The claim was made during a debate in the Scottish Parliament on Scotland’s Future Economy which was proposed by Scottish Labour and highlighted recent factory closures including the closure of Pinneys of Annan with the loss of 450 permanent jobs and hundreds more agency and seasonal posts.

In his speech Colin Smyth focussed on the impact the closure of Pinney’s has had on the town of Annan and the wider region but argued that despite promises of support from the Scottish and UK Governments, so far only £250,000 had been invested by the Scottish Government to support the workforce and that came from the existing budget of the South of Scotland Economic Partnership.

Colin Smyth used the debate to reiterate his call for £10million of investment from the Scottish Government in the development of an Economic Action plan for Annan and the wider DG12 area to support existing business to grow and attract new companies to the area.

In his speech, Colin Smyth MSP told the Scottish Parliament;

“The response from the Scottish Government was a so-called Taskforce. The community were told – no stone would be left unturned to convince Young’s Seafood to change its mind.

They were then promised everything would be done to find a buyer for the factory. Then told support would be given to help those losing their jobs find alternative employment.

In truth, since the closure announcement was made, just £250,000 has been invested by the Scottish Government directly to support the Pinney’s workforce – and that came from the existing budget of the South of Scotland Economic Partnership. We need an investment of £10million in a proper Economic Action Plan for Annan, Not just £250,000.”

Speaking after the debate Colin Smyth said, “While the buck for the closure of Pinneys rests with owners Young’s Seafood, the tragedy is the fact there are simply not the alternative employment opportunities in the community for people turn to. For too long the local economy has been neglected. The scale of job losses that was experienced in Annan at a result of Pinney’s closure would have been comparable to loosing 12,000 jobs in Dundee. When 850 jobs were lost at the Michelin factory in Dundee the Scottish Government were quick to force the company to do all it can to help attract and facilitate a new employer. Six months after the last employee left Pinney’s the factory is still standing and the factory boarded up. With a neighbouring council site that is currently for sale it won’t surprise anyone if the public sector ends up footing the bill to demolish the Pinney’s site – with Young’s doing nothing to support workers and a community that were loyal to the site for four decades and to their company for a decade.

We must see urgent investment into Annan to help grow the economy and support the local community. £250,000 from a Scottish Government budget that was already allocated isn’t anywhere near enough to grow our local economy. The SNP Scottish Government must allocate £10million that can be invested into Annan and the wider DG12 area through a proper Economic Action Plan.