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

 

£200 Million Development for Dumfries & Galloway

The Crichton Trust today announced an unprecedented £200 million inward investment initiative that will give the Scottish economy a significant boost and transform the Dumfries and Galloway region.

The £200million investment package is being made by Jansons Property, a respected investor and developer which works in partnership with the William Pears Group.

The investment, in conjunction with the Crichton Trust www.crichton.co.uk, will be used to deliver a range of projects within the Region with the aim of providing enduring public and community benefit. These will include:-

  • a purpose-built campus for the University of the West of Scotland

  • a research and innovation centre for Dumfries.

  • a museum to display artefacts from the Hunterian Museum, the Crichton Archives and the Dumfries and Galloway collection.

  • 250 purpose-built student residences.

  • a home for the National Centre for Resilience which will drive research into climatic, environmental events and emergency responses.

  • the Let’s Get Sporty facility on the Crichton Estate which aims to develop young people by providing mentoring and employability skills while delivering localised community sporting activity

  • two new grandstands and a business park at Queen of the South’s Palmerston Park.

Andy Jansons, Managing Director of Jansons Property, said: “We are pleased to be working with the Crichton Trust in taking forward this exciting development, and we will bring together the funding and expertise to deliver appropriate projects for the Crichton and the community of Dumfries and Galloway.”

Rob Shaw, Chief Executive Officer of the Crichton Trust, said: “We are delighted and proud to announce the most compelling and tangible investment opportunity that Dumfries and Galloway region has had in living memory.

“We will deliver truly transformational investment and development in conjunction with Jansons Property and the William Pears Group and know we will be working with a partner who has a long-standing ethos of committing to projects that deliver public benefit. It is a very exciting day for Scotland and the Dumfries and Galloway region which will provide substantial benefit to the local community and creative sustainable well paid jobs at all levels.”

Jansons Property is committed to its initial investment and has signalled that further funds will be available to should further opportunities emerge.

Development of these plans has seen the Crichton Trust emerge as an entrepreneurial organisation capable of effecting real change for the benefit of the region and Scotland, well beyond the conventional Crichton Estate.

Graham U’ren, chairman of the Crichton Trust Board, said “Since its restructuring and the forging of new partnerships with the Council and key stakeholders, the Trust has come a long way in the last 18 months towards re-establishing the momentum of 20 years ago in the regeneration of the estate and in fulfilling ambitious developments which will benefit the people of Dumfries and the whole of the region.  

We are proud that our executive team have been able to work with others to create an unprecedented opportunity for further significant developments at the Crichton and look forward to working with the investor/developer and stakeholders to realise these exciting ambitions over the coming years.”

John McGee, of The Crichton Trust, commented: “A major challenge for all rural or perceived remote regions is being able to attract mainstream investors and developers. We are thrilled that we have been able to attract an outstanding investor and this will be to the wider benefit of the Region and Scotland.”

The Crichton site was bought by Dumfries and Galloway Council in 1995.  Councillor Colin Smyth, Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Crichton Sub-Committee said, “Following the Council acquiring the Crichton, it has developed into a successful home for business and education.  The Council continues to invest significantly in the Crichton and the challenge now is take it to the next level so it really can become an engine room for the economy of Dumfries and Galloway.  There are a lot of major projects we want to see come to fruition to ensure the Crichton fulfils its massive potential but in a way that preserves this historical site which is close to the hearts of the people of Dumfries and beyond.  That will require significant investment of the scale being proposed and really could help deliver on our number one priority to build the local economy and create jobs and opportunities for local people”

Scotland’s business sector meet to debate bolstering cyber resilience

A new strategy providing a framework to help build a cyber-resilient Scotland has been launched by Deputy First Minister John Swinney at the National Economic Forum in Edinburgh today.

Digital technology brings huge benefits to the country, but they can also be used by criminals to defraud people and businesses, steal intellectual property, bully vulnerable people, or damage critical infrastructure.

Safe, Secure and Prosperous: A Cyber Resilience Strategy for Scotland – a Programme for Government commitment – maps out how individuals and businesses can increase their online resilience and enable Scotland to become a world leader in cyber resilience.

Following a public consultation earlier this year, the strategy aims to ensure that by 2020 Scotland can claim to have achieved desired outcomes, including:

  • Our people are informed and prepared to make the most of digital technologies safely
  • Our businesses and organisations recognise the risks in the digital world and are well prepared to manage them
  • We have a global reputation for being a secure place to live and learn, and to set up and invest in business

Focusing on four strategic themes of: leadership and partnership working; awareness raising and communication; education, skills and professional development; and research and innovation, the strategy sets out a series of high level priorities for key partners to develop and implement across Scotland.

For everyone, including businesses, there are some simple steps to become safer online. These include:

  • creating strong passwords
  • keeping software updated as these contain important security upgrades
  • installing anti-virus software
  • protecting mobile technology by using screen locks and passwords
  • securing wi-fi networks and thinking carefully before sharing private details on public wi-fi
  • ensuring firewall settings are turned on

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:

“The growth of the internet and other digital networks has brought speed, agility, efficiency and access to technologies that have transformed the way we do business, socialise and provide key services.

“Individuals and businesses increasingly rely on online connectivity, and thanks to widening trade partners, more innovation and greater competition, this is helping to grow our economy.

“Cyber-attacks can happen to any individual or organisation no matter of size or geography. It has been estimated that as much as 80% of cyber-crime can be prevented by getting the cyber basics right such as updating software, good passwords and regular system backups.

“We have a responsibility to ensure people in Scotland are educated and empowered to exploit digital opportunities for their personal and professional development whilst having the skills to protect themselves from harm and exploitation online. This strategy is the first step in achieving that goal.”

Mandy Haeburn-Little, Director at the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, said:

"Today is a really important day for Scotland in that this is the first time when we can really look together towards a more digitally secure Scotland . Scotland has such a proud and renowned name for innovation and digital opportunities in our businesses and homes are all about embracing this and making it happen in a way that is right for Scotland.

“The consultation across Scotland that formed this strategy clearly shows we want to embrace opportunity and make Scotland more resilient, effective and more accessible. We want to make Scotland an even better place to live, work and invest. Looking after every element of our community is a big part of the strategy, ensuring that children, the elderly and the more vulnerable in our society also have support and access to digital opportunity is key.

“I am really delighted to see this strategy launched - it is ambitious, inclusive and far reaching and that is exactly what we need".

Scotland remains a leader for female employment

Scotland’s Women’s Employment Minister is in Brussels to look at how other European countries are addressing female employment issues as Scotland is revealed to have retained the second highest rate in the EU.

Latest figures released by Eurostat, covering the period April to June 2015, show that Scotland’s female employment rate is second only to Sweden, with less than four percentage points separating the countries.

During a visit to Brussels, Minister for Youth and Women’s Employment Annabelle Ewing will join representatives from other European countries to discuss how they are tackling gender inequality in the workplace.

Scotland’s female employment rate for April to June 2015 stood at 70.6 per cent while Sweden’s was 74.0 per cent. The UK rate is ranked in eighth place at 67.4 per cent.

Scotland also recorded the second lowest female unemployment rate among the 28 EU countries at 4.9 per cent. Only Germany recorded better with 4.2 per cent.

Ms Ewing said: “Once again the Eurostat figures show that Scotland is really among the best in Europe for women’s employment. This is something we can be proud of, but it also means we must look at countries like Sweden and Germany to see what further improvements we can make.

“I am very pleased to have the opportunity to hear about the approach taken elsewhere in Europe to attract and retain women in work. We’ve seen success through the promotion of more flexible working programmes alongside projects dealing directly with employers to ensure family or caring responsibilities are not an insurmountable barrier to work.

“We’ve recognised how effective visible role models are in encouraging more women to believe in themselves and support a range of training through different models and with different partners because we know that this isn’t a situation where one size fits all. We’re constantly reviewing what partnerships are effective in reaching those who face barriers to finding and staying in work and making sure that we are able to share that experience as far as possible.”

During the visit Ms Ewing is also chairing a meeting looking specifically at how encouraging more women to start their own businesses would boost economies. She will outline how the Scotland CAN DO approach has brought together the public, private and third sectors to shape a support network to nurture women-led enterprises.

Council Agree On Whitesands Flood Protection

Councillors at the meeting of Environment, Economy and Infrastructure committee today (10 November 2015) agreed a flood protection and regeneration scheme for the Whitesands.

Councillors unanimously approved the Raised Walkway design which was presented to the committee as the optimal design.

Feedback from the recent consultation were presented to the committee. Councillors were also informed that the survey showed a strong consensus in favour of a scheme that incorporates both flood protection and regeneration.

The Council has been consulting on the project since 2012 and a further round of public consultation took place during October. This included meetings with interest groups, an open public event in the former Baker’s Oven shop in Dumfries High Street, a presentation to Nithsdale Area Committee, information available online, and a survey. Speaking at the committee, Chair Cllr Colin Smyth, highlighted to councillors that since the original proposals there has been significant refinement which has taken into account what the public wanted. The Raised Walkway design Protects the Whitesands, regenerates the area, maintains river views and provides useable public space.

Chairman of the Environment, Economy and Infrastructure committee, Councillor Colin Smyth, said, “It is unacceptable that Dumfries is the largest town in Scotland that doesn’t have a proper flood protection scheme. Councillors have rightly said enough is enough- that needs to change. The unanimous support from Councillors for the Raised Walkway design reflects the growing consensus that this is by far the strongest option which not only protects the Whitesands from flooding but also regenerates the area. However, crucially it achieves this in a way that improves the views of the river and increases the overall level of car parking in and around the Whitesands. Councilors recognised that as a result of the public consultation the proposals have changed significantly and the option of a large embankment has been dropped. I would urge the public to now take a look at what has actually been agreed”.

“A lot has been said in recent months about the so-called rising barrier alternative but understandably it received no support from any councillor. Such a proposal would have meant brick walls on both sides of the river ranging from 1 to 3 metres high and around every 10 metres you would have 3m high poles sticking up. If we were to build such a scheme you would have had to close the car park alongside the river for two years during construction with no alternative car parking proposed . That would devastate businesses in the area. Proper estimates also showed that a rising barrier option would be significantly more expensive costing between £18m and £26m.”

Vice Chairman of the committee, Councillor Craig Peacock said “The flooding issues at the Whitesands have plagued our regional capital for far too long. We need to make the Whitesands an area that will attract people to the area for a variety of reasons, such as recreation, spending time and enjoying the facilities, and what the shops have to offer. Our Council has invested heavily in the Dock Park in recent years. It has won a number of awards. We want to extend this vision right along the Whitesands, making the whole area somewhere that people can come and enjoy. It’s now time to get on with the job, develop the detailed plans and put forward our bid for Scottish Government funding so we have a regeneration project that will help transform the Whitesands and Dumfries”.

Leader Welcomes Learning Town Update

Members of the Council’s Policy and Resources committee will receive a report at their next meeting on 17 November updating them on the ambition, proposed increased scope and extended remit for the Dumfries Learning Town project.

The project is unique, both in terms of the scale and potential impact across Dumfries and the region. This ground-breaking project will see the creation of integrated schooling across Dumfries from the ages of 3 to 18 and the development of the unique Learning Hub. It will transform the learning experience not only for young people but for those who want to revisit or extend their education and is founded on the belief that the greater involvement of communities in schools will support regeneration.

Phase 1 of the project have been shaped by the extensive engagement with learners, teachers, the public and a wide range of other stakeholders and reflects the scale and aspiration of the local community. The report which will be presented to Councillors at the meeting highlights what Dumfries Learning Town will deliver on the ground:

• A new community campus will be created in North West Dumfries to provide facilities for the learners from Lochside and St Ninians Primary Schools, Maxwelltown High School and Langlands School for children with complex needs including a community library and sports hub;
• A redevelopment of St Joseph’s College;
• A new Learning Hub including provision currently provided at Elmbank;
• A Central Campus to provide facilities for learners from Loreburn Primary School and Dumfries Academy;
• A campus in North East Dumfries to provide facilities for learners from Noblehill Primary School and Dumfries High School and
• A new build Laurieknowe Primary School.

In response to community engagement the report proposes that the scope of the first phase be increased to include a number of changes:

St Joseph’s College
Progress the preferred design option for St Joseph’s College that came from consultation as well as decanting students using rented modular buildings onsite rather than moving them to other buildings in town. Construction on St Joseph’s College is due to start in June 2016 with completion in January 2018.

North West Campus
Bring forward a replacement for Langlands school and additional special needs provision to the first phase of the project, increase the floor spacing to provide a larger learning centre at the proposed North West campus and provide for an international Rugby Board compliant synthetic rugby pitch at the campus. The opportunity will also be taken to deal with historical remediation work on the proposed site. Construction on the North West Campus is due to start in June 2016 with completion in March 2018.

The Hub
Replace the plan to move the Elmbank Centre into the proposed new Hub and instead delivery the service within the existing secondary schools, resulting in a capital saving. Construction is due to start in June 2016 with completion in March 2018.

Council Leader and Chair of the Policy and Resources committee, Ronnie Nicholson, said “The Dumfries Learning Town project is now entering a new and exciting phase. We have emerging designs for the new and refurbished schools and are working towards work starting on the ground next year. It is clear from the widespread engagement that local people are ambitious about the project not only to benefit current learners but for generations to come. Following consultation, there is a clear view that we should bring forward aspects from phase two to phase one such as the new Langlands. The sheer scale of what we now want to achieve requires more investment but it is still modest given that in phase one alone we are replacing three schools and transforming another. In the long term, the number of school sites will be reduced as primary schools move onto shared campuses. This will provide significant savings. More importantly we will see schools fit for the 21st century in Dumfries and beyond. We’ve seen new schools appear across our region over the last 20 years, but the secondary schools in Dumfries haven’t enjoyed the same level of funding. The Dumfries Learning Town plans will re-dress that and deliver significant investment.“

Chair of the Education committee, Cllr Jeff Leaver, said “It is a priority of our Council to provide the best start in life for all our young people. The Dumfries Learning Town project is proving to be the catalyst to changes in thinking and in practice that will transform the learning experience not only for young people but also for those who may want to revisit and extend their education. We have listened to feedback and have amended the original plans, bringing forward aspects from Phase 2 into Phase 1. Our plans are ambitious but we are totally committed to investing in Dumfries Learning Town project, demonstrating the high value placed on learning of all kinds. It is widely recognised that we have an opportunity to change lives, take a new direction and create stronger, more inspiring prospects for learners of all ages.