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Local MSP Joins Shadow Cabinet

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has been appointed as Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity in Scottish Labour Leader Richard Leonard’s recent reshuffle.

The move means the local Labour MSP has had infrastructure- which includes growth deals such as the Borderlands and Ayrshire Growth Deals as well as Town Centre regeneration- added to his existing Labour Spokesperson responsibilities for Transport and Connectivity.

He will continue to be Labour’s spokesperson on issues relating to the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency. Legislation for the new agency is due to be published in the next few weeks and will then go before the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy Committee- where Colin is the only member representing the South of Scotland.

Colin Smyth said, “I am delighted to have infrastructure added to my existing spokesperson responsibilities for Transport and Connectivity. This means leading for Labour on all issues relating to growth deals, which is massively important for this area and continuing to be a spokesperson for the party in Parliament on plans for the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency. Whether it is the need to fight for more investment in road, rail, buses and active travel, better broadband and mobile connectivity and support for the local economy, the issues in my role are the issues constituents locally raise on a daily basis, so I fully intend to use my new post to fight for the South of Scotland”.

 

Huge support for Scottish Government’s vision for South of Scotland

The Scottish Government and South of Scotland Economic Partnership have published reports on their consultation and stakeholder events that were undertaken earlier this year.

Investment in innovation, good employment opportunities, the creation of a skilled workforce, and more opportunities for young people, were some of the issues identified by respondents to the Scottish Government consultation, as being key to the future success of the new enterprise agency for the South of Scotland.
 
Many of the 268 respondents to the consultation also suggested that South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) should focus on improving infrastructure and  creating a more diverse local economy, whilst ensuring those sectors that are traditionally important to the area, continue to be valued.
 
Commenting on the consultation report, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said:
 
“We recognise the need for a new approach in the South of Scotland, which addresses key challenges facing the area, which is why we moved to create a new enterprise agency. That agency will be crucial in transforming the fortunes of this important economic region, by working with local partners to create a clear vision, and putting in place the foundations for sustainable and inclusive growth. Some work is already underway to achieve that, with £7.7 million being awarded to projects across Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders by SOSE’s interim partnership in July, to provide careers opportunities and build community resilience.
 
“We’ve had a very strong response to the consultation, and it was encouraging to see that the majority of respondents agreeing with the Scottish Government’s proposals. I was also interested to read of concerns regarding potential loss of funding post-Brexit, a lack of education and skills opportunities, and restrictions to business growth caused by burdensome bureaucracy.
 
“I’m very grateful to all those who took the time to respond. We will now take the time to carefully consider all the views and ideas submitted.”

Russel Griggs Chair of South of Scotland Economic Partnership said: 

“The development of a new and thriving economy for the south of Scotland has to be something all communities in the area sign up to and endorse so that we can bring the best possible opportunities and economic growth to the area.  The consultation meetings were well attended with a wealth of ideas  and views which will be at the heart of this new enterprise agency for the south of Scotland.    From more opportunities for young people to improving our infrastructure, it’s an exciting time for the area and I look forward to seeing these ideas being brought to fruition.”

NEW AGENCY MUST HAVE THE POWERS AND BUDGET TO DELIVER REAL CHANGE FOR SOUTH SCOTLAND, SAYS LABOUR

Scottish Labour has called for the proposed South of Scotland Enterprise Agency to have the powers and budget needed to deliver real change for the region’s economy.

The comments come after the Scottish Government published the results of its consultation on plans for the new agency, which lays bare the economic challenges facing the area including low pay and high levels of rural poverty.

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

“Having campaigned for a South of Scotland Agency for over a decade, these consultation results show why legislation to establish that Agency can’t come soon enough. A decade since the Scottish Government abolished Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders Enterprise Companies, this consultation lays bare the huge economic challenges facing the two regions which have been forgotten about by the Scottish Government for far too long. But it is vital that the new Agency has the powers and the budget needed to deliver real economic change for the region. The Agency has to be rooted in the South of Scotland which a membership accountable to the area, not handpicked by Government Ministers in Edinburgh. It must also be underpinned by investment in a Borderlands Growth Deal from the UK and Scottish Government with funding this year.”

Store site floated as Lockerbie parking solution

A PRIME site expected to come on the market soon offers an opportunity to breathe new life into Lockerbie town centre.

Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell believes The Original Factory Shop former premises at the south end of the High Street have potential as a public car park.

Long-stay parked vehicles linked to greater use of the railway station means that spaces are currently at a premium.

As a result retailers and other businesses say there is a negative impact on trade.

Mr Mundell, whose constituency office is in the town, suggests Dumfries and Galloway Council, South of Scotland Economic Partnership and other regeneration organisations consider jointly acquiring the property.

He said: "The location at the entrance to the High Street, well away from the station, would be absolutely ideal for a car park and draw more people into using the businesses there.

"Increased use of the railway station is welcome for the region as a whole but to compensate for the town centre impact I believe acquiring this site for parking is an opportunity which should be seized."

Mr Mundell proposes that the building be demolished creating additional spaces to those already existing on the site.

The Lockerbie branch of The Original Factory Shop was one of 32 across the UK to be closed earlier this year.

It is understood the leased site was subsequently sold at auction by the then landlord but the current owner plans to put it on the market again shortly.

Openreach welcomes 31,000 employees

More than 3,100 Openreach employees across Scotland were part of the largest one-off people transfer[1] in UK corporate history as Openreach Limited today (Monday 1 October) moves from BT Group to become a legally separate business.

The move means that Openreach, the UK’s largest telephone and broadband network, now has an independent UK workforce of 31,000 people as well as the largest team of fibre broadband engineers in the country.

Openreach is not only responsible for upgrading and maintaining home telephone and broadband services on behalf of hundreds of service providers, but also provides infrastructure for large and small businesses, as well as places like hospitals, schools and stadiums. More than 27 million premises use Openreach’s fibre network.

Across the UK, in a typical week, Openreach carries out around 95,000 installations and 85,000 jobs upgrading, protecting and repairing the network. That’s more than 9 million a year, or well over 37,000 every working day.

Brendan Dick, chair of the new Openreach Board in Scotland, said: “This is an important day for Openreach as we’re fulfilling the commitments to Ofcom under the Digital Communications Review.

“Openreach now has its own Board in the UK, and here in Scotland, greater strategic and operational independence, a separate brand and an independent workforce – and we’re ambitious for the future.

“We’ve set out a clear plan to invest in new, more reliable, future-proof broadband technology, and we’re right in the middle of our largest ever recruitment drive for 3,500 engineers –  400 of them in Scotland – so it’s an exciting time to be part of Openreach Limited.

“We’re determined to continue improving customer service, collaborating closely with our customers, and spearheading the national rollout of next generation broadband networks.”

Across Scotland, Openreach already makes a significant contribution:

  •   More than 3,100 people employed, most of them engineers
  •   Around 900,000 engineering jobs – installing, upgrading, protecting and repairing the network - across Scotland in a typical year
  •   Fibre First already announced in Edinburgh – as Openreach strives to reach three million premises by 2020 with Fibre to the Premise technology
  •   2.5 million premises able to order a fibre broadband service today
  •   Multi-million pound investments in recent years, working with a range of key stakeholders including the UK and Scottish Governments, local authorities and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Over the coming months, Openreach will also be embarking on its first national brand campaign – involving digital, outdoor and print advertising – to raise awareness of its new independent identity, and promoting its work and investment in the UK, including across Scotland.

BT Group and Openreach have been working closely with partner unions to ensure a smooth transition of people, including conducting a formal consultation on the transfer with unions and employees since July.

In June, the industry regulator Ofcom, reported that Openreach has been making positive progress towards implementing the commitments made under its review, with the people transfer the significant remaining milestone to overcome.

Openreach has committed to invest in faster, better broadband networks, through its new ‘Fibre First’ strategy and is planning to roll-out full-fibre broadband to 3 million households by the end of 2020 with an ambition to reach 10 million by the middle of the next decade.

Openreach also announced in July a series of wholesale discounts to incentivise its 600 Communications Providers to upgrade their customers onto the better broadband networks it has already built. This, in turn, will see Openreach delivering more money back to publicly subsidised broadband projects[i].

For more information please visit www.openreach.co.uk


[1] Openreach, the UK’s largest telephone and broadband network, completed the transfer under TUPE Regulations*.

 


[i] Under the terms of the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, we have committed to repay or re-invest grant funding depending on factors including when customer adoption of the new services we’ve built passes beyond the 20% mark in related areas. This funding can be reinvested to further improve coverage and speeds via future contracts. As of March 2018, BT has made provision for £528m to be returned over the lifetime of the contracts and £80m of this has already been committed – earlier than required - to improve speeds and coverage in certain areas.