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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.

 

Dismay Over Bank Closures

SNP MP for Dumfries & Galloway Richard Arkless and South of Scotland MSP Aileen McLeod have reacted with dismay to the announcement that the Royal Bank of Scotland is to close two further branches in the region, Kirkcudbright and Whitesands, Dumfries. The move follows the closure of the Dalbeattie, Glenluce and Whithorn branches last September.

Richard Arkless said:

“As far as I’m concerned, this is not good news, particularly since the closure of the Kirkcudbright branch will leave Castle Douglas as the only RBS branch left in the Stewartry. Online banking does not yet cover all customers’ requirements and a mobile service will never replace the convenience of a branch.

“While the closure of the Whitesands branch still leaves a high street service in Dumfries, I am concerned about the future of a large, prominent building right in the middle of the Whitesands. The last thing Dumfries needs is another prominent empty property. The marketing and disposal of that building will need to be handled properly and I’ll be pressing for RBS operations continue there until a buyer is found.”

Aileen McLeod commented:

“I am very disappointed indeed with this news, not least since it follows on from the closure of the branch in Dalbeattie last year, meaning that the only remaining branch in the whole of the Stewartry will be in Castle Douglas. I also know that the mobile service has encountered problems in Dalbeattie and in Whithorn and is certainly not an ideal replacement for a branch. Based on last year’s experience I fear that nothing will change their minds on this issue but I will be writing to the bank to protest against this latest closure.”

Aileen added:

“The news this week that the Bank of Scotland is to reduce its opening hours in Dalbeattie is no less worrying, not least since people will have switched to them on the basis that they still had a branch presence in the town so I will also be contacting the Bank of Scotland to seek assurances over the future of their Dalbeattie branch.”

£50m Stranraer Waterfront Plan Announced

A preferred bidder has been selected to take forward a potential £50m Stranraer waterfront investment plan.

Dumfries and Galloway Council and Stena Line have entered into a partnership with the McKinney Group.

It has agreed to bring forward detailed proposals for the regeneration of the East Pier - owned by Stena Line - for new retail, leisure and housing.

Councillor Colin Smyth said the announcement was "another positive step forward" for the town.

"The council has already invested around £4m to develop Agnew Park, the West Pier and sailing facilities as part of the overall vision for the waterfront," he said.

    

"The redevelopment of the East Pier through private sector investment is the crucial next step for Stranraer.

"We will also continue discussions with the Scottish government to seek support to enable the plans to become a reality."

Speaking on behalf of Stena Line Ports Ltd, Les Stracey said the company was delighted to have reached a "significant milestone".

Billy McKinney, of the McKinney Group, added: "We are delighted to have entered into an agreement with the partners.

"From the outset we recognised the potential for this project to be transformational for Stranraer and the south west of Scotland.

"We aim to work with Stena Line and the council to bring forward proposals that will match the aspirations of the local community and create new growth opportunities for Stranraer."

Rural Affairs Secretary poses big questions about the future of Scottish farming.

It is time to take a ‘long, hard look’ at Scottish farming, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has said.

Mr Lochhead made the comments as he kicked off a national discussion about the future of Scottish agriculture.

At a panel event hosted by NFU Scotland at the Turriff Show, the Cabinet Secretary set out his vision for farming and outlined some of the big questions industry will need to answer to achieve that vision.

He said:

“This is a pivotal time for Scottish agriculture, which has achieved many successes over the past few years – not least the phenomenal growth of our food and drink sector.

“But there is more we can all do to exploit our strengths if Scottish farming is to be more productive, innovative, profitable and green in future – as I believe it can be.

“To achieve this vision, we need to take a long, hard look at Scottish farming so we can identify new opportunities for success – and the discussion document I recently launched on the Future of Scottish Agriculture aims to do just this.

“Today’s discussion at the Turriff Show covered some of the really big questions we are facing such as what do we want farming in this country to look like? And what do we need to do to achieve this? What more can farmers do for themselves and where should the Government focus support?

“This was a great way to start the debate, and I look forward to hearing more as the national discussion continues over the coming weeks and months.”

 

New Funding Announced for 2016

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has recognised the success and positive impact which the CX Project Grant has made to those businesses that have accessed funding to date. Taking on board the suggestions made by local businesses, some improvements have been made to offer greater flexibility and provide more opportunities for businesses with the potential to grow. These changes include raising the maximum limit to £25,000 (up to 50% of project costs). Grants are available to Annandale and Eskdale businesses that are able to demonstrate their development plans would increase business turnover and create new jobs.
Since its launch in 2011, the CX Project has helped to boost local business turnover by almost £2 million, creating 41.5 new full time equivalent (FTE) jobs. This is one new FTE job for every £2,725 of grant funding invested. John Grierson, Site Director for Magnox at Chapelcross said, “Grants will be available to businesses that have a proven track record of operating a successful business. The main objectives are
• to support business growth • to unlock the potential to find new markets • to develop new products or procedures • innovation • developing and retaining a skilled workforce
“Flexibility in relation to the objectives is the main element of the improved scheme and this reflects the feedback from businesses in the area with real growth potential. This flexibility includes increasing the grant ceiling to £25,000 where the project looks exciting enough. It is a competitive, discretionary grant with the decision made by the CX Project Grants Panel. We have made sure that the process is streamlined and businesses will receive support in developing their application, providing it meets the new, wider criteria.”
Colin Smyth, Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee, said, “I would encourage any business in the DG10 to DG16 area to share their growth or innovation ideas with us to see if it fulfils the criteria for a grant. The increased flexibility makes the funding attractive to those with larger projects in mind and a CX Project grant may be the final spark that sets the project alight.”
Tony Buckley of Mapleco Motorsport Ltd received a grant from the CX Project in 2014 to develop his specialist wiring loom business. He said, “Without the CX Project, I would have been doing this as odd jobs from home. With their help I put together a good business plan and now work from an industrial unit. In less than 6 months, the CX Project helped me turn what was an idea into a real business.”
James Ewart Racing from Langholm also received a CX Project grant. James and Briony Ewart converted part of the family cattle and sheep farm into a racehorse training business in 2004 and the expansion of the business since that time has been impressive.
Briony said, “When we needed a horse box and mobile stables, the CX Project’s help was really important. The grant provided enabled us to house 4 additional horses which required 2 extra members of staff. We are keenly aware of the value of our business to the local economy and it is very satisfying to be able to take on more staff. ”

The CX Project was set up in September 2011 after funding was secured from Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Socio-Economic Fund and Dumfries and Galloway Council to provide area specific and intensified business support in Annandale and Eskdale. Our purpose is to help boost the local economy which will be affected by the de-commissioning of Chapelcross Nuclear Power Station. We have a wealth of knowledge and expertise in advising and supporting small businesses to start up and grow.
The CX Project team has an excellent network of key contacts and can also help signpost you to others who may be able to provide specialist help and support. Local businesses can register to recent updates of business opportunities in Annandale and Eskdale.
For more information, contact the project on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Telephone 01387 273996
Website www.cxproject.co.uk
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/cxproject

Cost for Carrier Bags Drives Down Useage

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead has today welcomed the news that carrier bag usage was reduced by 147 million last year, despite the charge on single use carrier bags only being in place for the last 11 weeks of the year.

The figures, published by WRAP today (Friday), cover the 2014 calendar year for the UK from seven major grocery retailers. In Scotland, bag usage dropped from 193.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 64.6 million during the same period in 2014, suggesting that Scotland is well on track to achieve a reduction of more than 80 per cent in the use of single-use carrier bags.

Mr Lochhead said:

“These astounding figures – a reduction of 147 million – are yet another indication that the single use carrier bag charge has been a tremendous success, driving behaviour change to reduce litter across our beautiful country and also the amount of resources we, as a nation, consume.

“Litter is a blight on our environment and I’m delighted with the reports we’ve received from these retailers. I’m pleased that so many consumers are now in the habit of reusing bags and the level of support from the Scottish public is extremely heartening.

“Previously statistics showed that people in Scotland used more than 800 million new single-use carrier bags every year – more per head of population than anywhere else in the UK. Scotland is serious about tackling litter, reducing waste and creating a cleaner, greener environment for everyone to enjoy.

“I hope the public will continue to embrace re-using their bags and that even more retailers will sign up to donate money to good causes, when it has been necessary for people to take a bag. These figures also demonstrate how small changes can make a big difference and as Scotland moves towards a more circular economy, I hope that it inspires people to think about what other actions they can take to reduce the amount of resources that they throw away.”

These figures are consistent with feedback received from retailers that they have noted a reduction in use of more than 80 per cent since the charge was introduced on 20 October 2014. Wales and Northern Ireland both introduced similar charges and experienced reductions of more than 80 per cent in the first full year of their charge.

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said:

“In the months since the Carrier Bag Charge was introduced, we’ve seen a tremendous change in Scots shoppers’ habits, with many more people now bringing re-useable bags. I congratulate people for the drop in single-use bags in circulation, as these single-use items usually quickly end up either as litter or landfill. Retailers have also embraced the charge and I would encourage those who’ve not yet done so to sign up to our Carrier Bag commitment, to enable clear reporting and donation to good causes.”

More than 60 retailers have also signed up to Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment, a voluntary agreement operated by Zero Waste Scotland, to donate the net proceeds of the charge to good causes. This includes representatives from a range of retail sectors and has already raised more than £2 million for good causes throughout Scotland.