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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.

 

Rural Housing Survey Launched

People who have faced challenges in accessing housing in rural Scotland in the last three years are being asked to share their experiences via a survey launched this week by Scottish Rural Action.  People who have direct personal experience, who have supported a friend or family member with a housing issue, and rural employers are invited to complete the survey before the end of January, https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/housingrural .
 
The survey has been developed as part of a joint project between Scottish Rural Action and Rural Housing Scotland, looking for real life experiences from across rural Scotland.  The testimonials will then be analysed alongside data on rural housing and used to inform policy recommendations and campaigns.
 
Emma Cooper, Chief Executive of Scottish Rural Action, said:
“Data suggests that housing challenges in urban and rural areas look very different.  For example, we know that rural areas are particularly affected by properties being bought as second homes, and feedback suggests rural communities are noticing an impact from the rise of Air B&B.  We also know that social housing is more accessible in towns and cities compared to rural areas, but data can only give us part of the picture.
 
“Gathering individual experiences can help illustrate some of the barriers to suitable housing in rural Scotland. Perhaps more importantly, we are inviting people whose housing situations have been resolved to share what helped make this happen. Understanding what works well in rural areas will help us campaign for housing policy that better meets the needs of rural communities.”
 
The online survey will run till the end of January 2019 and can be found at: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/housingrural

LLOYDS BANKING GROUP SUPPORTS SCOTTISH BUSINESSES IN 2019 WITH UP TO £1.6BILLION OF LENDING

As part of Lloyds Banking Group’s national pledge to lend £18billion to UK businesses*, the Group expects to support firms in Scotland with up to £1.6billion** of lending during 2019.

As part of the Group’s continued commitment to help British businesses prosper, today’s announcement underlines to existing and new businesses across Scotland that the Group is committed to supporting businesses through 2019 and beyond.

The £1.6billion is available to firms across Scotland and will support entrepreneurs looking to start-up a new business, micro-businesses seeking to scale up and small businesses considering trading internationally for the first time. It will also support established mid-sized businesses and large, multinational corporations seeking further growth.

Last year, Lloyds Banking Group supported Aberdeenshire housebuilder, Castle Homes, secure a six-figure funding package to build a new housing development specifically for first-time buyers.

Philip Grant, Lloyds Banking Group’s Ambassador for Scotland, said: “Lending up to £1.6billion will go some way in helping businesses across Scotland unlock their ambitions for the year ahead. The next twelve months will be of particular interest to Scottish businesses as they seek more clarity over the UK’s future international trading relationship. That’s why as part of our plan to help Scotland prosper, we’ll be by the side of business offering advice and practical support on how to capitalise on opportunities.”

Throughout 2018, the Group demonstrated its ongoing commitment to supporting British businesses, launching initiatives such as the creation of the £500million growth fund to help firms invest in equipment which improves their productivity, backing the Lloyds Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre with an additional £5million to help train 3,500 manufacturing apprenticeships, and also the swift creation of a £50million fund to support small businesses within the Carillion supply chain.

In addition, the Group reinforced its support to the UK housing sector by launching a £500million fund for housing associations last year, supporting the Government’s pledge to deliver 300,000 houses each year by the middle of the next decade. It also committed £750million in 2018 for social housing projects, contributing to the Group’s commitment to enable more people in Britain to get a home.

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* up to £18billion of gross lending in 2019

** Calculation – methodology being agreed with the CB business ahead of release

 

SCC responds to the Meaningful Vote defeat

Responding to the Parliamentary defeat of the Meaningful Vote on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, Liz Cameron OBE, Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:

"With just over 70 days to go until the UK exits the EU, business communities will be left even more frustrated at the relentless saga of Westminster politics. 

"There are real issues facing businesses right now, with many questions still unanswered. As a result of tonight's vote, companies find themselves facing the unwelcome prospect of a messy and disorderly exit from the EU on 29th of March.

"Business and industry have been navigating an economic and political landscape that is no more clearer now than it was at the time of the referendum result. Therefore, the priority for the UK Government and the Parliament must be to avoid the clear risks a 'no deal' exit would pose to businesses. We expect the Government to urgently set out in clear terms what it plans to do to avoid the damage a disorderly exit would cause to businesses, local communities, the Scottish and UK economy."

Council Leader makes call for a transformative South of Scotland Enterprise Agency

Dumfries and Galloway Council Leader Elaine Murray has called for a transformative South of Scotland Enterprise Agency that is built in the South at a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

The Scottish Parliament’s Committee held an evidence session at the Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries yesterday (14 January), hearing from Dumfries and Galloway Council, businesses, community groups and local residents.

In her opening remarks Leader Elaine Murray said: “We believe that the establishment of the new Agency can transform the efforts of current partners to drive forward the economy of the South by connecting efforts around a regional agenda and providing structure, focus, alignment and momentum.

The Agency must be ‘built in, and for’ the South of Scotland, giving us collectively the power to address the social and economic challenges which bedevil our large and distinctive rural region and to maximise the potential of our considerable assets.

We aren’t here to ask for handouts; we are ambitious to transform the South of Scotland into one of the most vibrant rural economies in Europe, making a significant contribution to both the Scottish and UK economies.”

Speaking after the Committee meeting Councillor Elaine Murray said: “I am grateful for being able to give evidence on the current proposals in athe South of Scotland Enterprise Bill at the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. Our Council has campaigned for an Enterprise Agency for some time and we are pleased to see the foundations being laid.

While we support the Bill, we would like to see local accountability drastically improved. The Agency that is set up must be accountable to the people who live here in Dumfries and Galloway not just Ministers and the Scottish Parliament. Our Council already scrutinises the local performance of Police Scotland, Fire and Rescue Services, NHS and the Integrated Joint Board: so, there is a precedent. Also, given the role our Council already plays locally in supporting the local economy and skills, it is important we have a close working relationship with the new Enterprise Agency and hold it to account.”

 

NEW ENTERPRISE AGENCY MUST BE “LOCALLY ACCOUNTABLE”

The need for the proposed new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency to be accountable to the South of Scotland  was the clear message that came from the visit to Dumfries by the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy Committee, according to South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.

Local Councils, businesses, communities and local residents made the case for local accountability at a workshop and formal meeting of the Committee at the Easterbrook Hall yesterday (Monday 14th).

Colin Smyth MSP, who is the only South of Scotland MSP who sits on the Committee, welcomed the Rural Economy Committee coming to Dumfries to hear from local businesses and communities first hand. He has pledged to put forward a series of amendments to the Government’s bill establishing the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency to ensure a legal requirement for the new agency to consult the local community and mechanism to be established to for the new Agency to be held to account by local stakeholders.

Speaking after the Committee meeting in Dumfries, Colin Smyth MSP said, “During the workshop and formal meeting of the Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee there was overwhelming support for a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency. Local residents, community groups, businesses and local authorities want to see an Agency which has the powers and budget to transform the local economy and provide new opportunities in a way which hasn’t been done before.

However, the clear message from the local community was that the new Enterprise Agency should be accountable to the people living here in Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders not politicians in Edinburgh. The Bill that is currently before Parliament has no mechanism and no requirement for the Agency to consult or be held to accountable by local people and that is wrong. Under the current plans the Board of the new Agency will be fully appointed by Government Ministers in Edinburgh and they will only report to the Government who will have the power to tell the Agency what to do without any consultation. That needs to change.  I intend to submit amendments to the Bill to improve local accountability and ensure we have an Agency that is rooted here in the South of Scotland and can be held to account by the people who actually live here”

The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee will hold a further workshop on the Bill to gather views and opinions from businesses and communities in Galashiels on Wednesday 23rd of January.