News

The Latest news from Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce -

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

 

MP and MSP step up Wi-Fi battle

PRESSURE is growing to bring the region's only West Coast main line train stop fully into the internet age.

 

MINDELL - LOCKERBIE STATION

Dumfriesshire MP David Mundell and constituency MSP Oliver Mundell are both campaigning to have Wi-Fi installed at Lockerbie Station.

The local parliamentarians are lobbying rail chiefs and train operators on behalf of constituents who cannot connect online whilst waiting for trains.

 

 

David Mundell said: "After all the train and timetable issues experienced at Lockerbie since last year, the least that should be done is for all the organisations involved with the station to get together and plug this glaring gap.

"Passenger numbers have been growing at Lockerbie for years and yet it remains one of only a few main line stations without what is a facility expected by most passengers in 2020."

 

Mr Mundell has raised the issue during a video meeting with ScotRail, which manages the station, but they admitted they had no current plans to install Wi-Fi at Lockerbie.

 

In a written response, the company's Paul McKay, said: "Existing locations where there is customer Wi-Fi were decided jointly with Transport Scotland based on factors including footfall and occurrence of major events."

He also pointed out that Scotrail did not operate any direct train services to and from Lockerbie.

The MP has now written to Transport Scotland, the Scottish Government transport agency, asking them to help facilitate Wi-Fi at the station, which is owned by the infrastructure body Network Rail.

 

Meanwhile, the issue is set to be raised as a Parliamentary Question at Holyrood by MSP Oliver Mundell.

He said: "Lockerbie is being accessed by passengers from much of the region to join faster city and other services.

"Stations such as Dumfries have Wi-Fi but, it seems, like with other improvements, Lockerbie Station users have to campaign long and hard to secure them."

PRESSURE is growing to bring the region's only West Coast main line train stop fully into the internet age.

 

Dumfriesshire MP David Mundell and constituency MSP Oliver Mundell are both campaigning to have Wi-Fi installed at Lockerbie Station.

 

The local parliamentarians are lobbying rail chiefs and train operators on behalf of constituents who cannot connect online whilst waiting for trains.

 

David Mundell said: "After all the train and timetable issues experienced at Lockerbie since last year, the least that should be done is for all the organisations involved with the station to get together and plug this glaring gap.

 

"Passenger numbers have been growing at Lockerbie for years and yet it remains one of only a few main line stations without what is a facility expected by most passengers in 2020."

 

Mr Mundell has raised the issue during a video meeting with ScotRail, which manages the station, but they admitted they had no current plans to install Wi-Fi at Lockerbie.

 

In a written response, the company's Paul McKay, said: "Existing locations where there is customer Wi-Fi were decided jointly with Transport Scotland based on factors including footfall and occurrence of major events."

 

He also pointed out that Scotrail did not operate any direct train services to and from Lockerbie.

 

The MP has now written to Transport Scotland, the Scottish Government transport agency, asking them to help facilitate Wi-Fi at the station, which is owned by the infrastructure body Network Rail.

 

Meanwhile, the issue is set to be raised as a Parliamentary Question at Holyrood by MSP Oliver Mundell.

 

He said: "Lockerbie is being accessed by passengers from much of the region to join faster city and other services.

 

"Stations such as Dumfries have Wi-Fi but, it seems, like with other improvements, Lockerbie Station users have to campaign long and hard to secure them."

Report published exploring ‘experiential tourism’ opportunities in Galloway

The buzzword in tourism circles in recent years has been the search for authentic ‘experiential’ tourism opportunities. ‘Experiential tourism’, also known as ‘immersion travel’, allows people to focus on a place by meaningfully engaging with its heritage, people or other special characteristics.

 

People outside in Galloway

The Southern Uplands Partnership, using funds from the Galloway Glens Scheme and D&G Leader Programme, has been leading on an innovative ‘Galloway Glens Biosphere Experience’ project, exploring the potential for experiential tourism activities in South-West Scotland. The Galloway Glens project area was chosen as the study area, with its focus on the Ken/Dee Valley, constituting one of the seven river catchments that make up the Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere.

This innovative project ran from 2018 to March 2020 and was led by a Project Officer, Laura Davidson. Laura worked with a range of businesses up and down the Ken/Dee Valley to explore the potential for experiential ‘packages’ of activities and tourist itineraries that would provide an authentic experience to participants, while also being financially beneficial to host organisations.

This week sees the publishing of the project’s final report exploring the potential for this type of activity in Southern Scotland. The report is available here: https://gallowayglens.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Galloway-Glens-Biosphere-Experience-FINAL-Report-May-2020-Web.pdf.

The report highlights a number of findings:

· The trial events were well received by attendees. In general people liked the small groups, knowledgeable group leaders and the local focus.

· The project has been successful in helping to build working relationships that did not already exist. It is hoped that these networks will continue to function and expand as a legacy of the project.

· There was an increased momentum towards the final six months of the project with more businesses approaching and expressing an interest in being involved. This highlights that there is an enthusiasm within tourism businesses to develop their offering and work together for greater benefit.

· The workshops events running in the last three months of the project proved very popular and all booked up extremely quickly. Sadly, the COVID-19 outbreak meant some of these could not go ahead but they have shown there is demand for these types of activities.

· The project has also been well placed to raise awareness of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere. A number of businesses have signed up as Proud Supporters as a result of the project and are actively talking about the Biosphere in their own marketing activity. This is a key opportunity for businesses to capitalise on a world renowned designation and use it to attract more visitors.

It is hoped that the report will be widely distributed to inform future activities in this sector.

The project was overseen by the Southern Uplands Partnership. Upon publication of the final report, Ed Forrest, Project Manager, said:

“The project has demonstrated that people really are looking for something a bit different these days. Whether it’s the personal services of a guide to show you the best places to experience the regions amazing wildlife or an opportunity to find out how some of our common flora can be used to create medicinal tinctures these type of unique experiences really celebrate the amazing people and environment of our UNESCO Biosphere and will leave people wanting to come back for more.”

The project was one of the 35 proposals supported through the Galloway Glens Scheme, a National lottery Heritage Funded initiative in the Ken/Dee Valley in Dumfries & Galloway. Nick Chisholm, Galloway Glens Project Officer, said:

“Tourism is such an important part of the region’s economy but we are still overlooked by many. This project has sought to explore ways in which we can promote the Galloway uniqueness that all of us who live here know well. This report is a great starting point that can be used by other initiatives, such as work taking place around Loch Ken, to both improve our offering and enable us to make more people aware of our special place. We are in a really difficult period but if the region is to recover from the economic damage that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused, then approaches like that trialled in this project will be essential”

McNabb Laurie, the Galloway Glens Team Leader added:

Last week saw the investment announced into the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA). The publishing of this experiential tourism report is therefore perfectly timed as it allows discussion to take place of what type of activity could be supported as we hopefully now look to build a post Covid-19 tourism sector. There is an opportunity to focus on authentic, high quality and sustainable tourism experiences which actually deliver the most benefit for the environment and people of our region. Many thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for their ongoing support.

The Galloway Glens Scheme have produced a video filmed at one of the workshops exploring the project further. This can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abeieiKSu6Q

The Galloway Glens Scheme is a suite of projects taking place up and down the Ken/Dee valley in Dumfries & Galloway seeking to connect people to their heritage, while boosting the local economy and supporting sustainable communities. It is a partnership of the public and private sectors, supported primarily by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. For more details about the scheme or the projects supported, please visit www.gallowayglens.org.

Unprecedented support for local in D&G

A survey published today by Dumfries & Galloway food brand, Savour the Flavours, has found ‘unprecedented’ levels of support in the region for buying local, but it has also revealed widespread concern about the restart of the tourism economy.

 

Savour_The_Flavours.jpeg

1,450 people from every part of Dumfries & Galloway took part in the survey which ran from 2-11 June. Key findings were:

  •          Covid changed how almost everyone shopped for food and drink during lockdown.
  •          People shopped less frequently, but much more locally. This was partly driven by necessity.
  •          84% said they’d like to buy more local food and drink than they currently do.  
  •          81% said they’d prioritise ‘local’ in their shopping as lockdown eases, but people generally want ‘buying local’ to be made easier and more convenient.
  •          Comments highlighted that people want local businesses to prioritise local communities above the needs of visitors.
  •          79% said they were worried about tourism bringing Covid-19 back to D&G.

Lorna Young of Savour the Flavours, a marketing and economic development specialist, said:

“The survey provides a valuable snapshot of how shopping habits changed during lockdown and what people want as our region eases out of lockdown. It suggests unprecedented levels of support for local businesses within our communities, probably reflecting appreciation for the efforts of local businesses in keeping essential supplies flowing at the height of lockdown. 

“From a local food and drink point of view, it’s clear that if people in Dumfries & Galloway are serious about supporting local businesses, then businesses in Dumfries & Galloway need to get serious about making it easier for people to buy their produce.

“The data also evidenced tension between the concerns of local people and the needs of Dumfries & Galloway’s visitor economy – as a region we need to acknowledge and address that tension. So businesses need to reflect upon these concerns about covid and respond sensitively to them. Local businesses are perceived to be at the front line in defence against the virus.  People expect local businesses to be cautious – not just responsible, but actively cautious - in introducing covid-careful measures and adaptations.”

Rachel Findlay of Savour the Flavours, a data analyst and digital expert, said:

“Restarting our local economy was always going to be more difficult than shutting it down, and the findings of this survey reflect that, but there’s also room for cautious optimism.  The extraordinarily high level of support for local businesses appears to be more than just a lockdown response. Intention to buy local in the longer term was a consistent theme in both quantitative and qualitative responses.

“There’s a big opportunity for local businesses to respond to that change in buying behaviour by fast-tracking a transition to a more circular, local economy. For businesses in the foodservice sector, who have arguably been hardest hit by lockdown, the data suggests that customers will return. The purpose of this survey was to help local businesses plan for reopening, and the survey findings are invaluable in doing just that. Businesses can now work from a robust set of data to be able to make evidence based decisions as they reopen.”

The findings of the survey have been welcomed by local businesses.  Denyse Boyle, General Manager of The Boathouse in Glencaple, commented:

“I’m pleased that a good number of our guests are keen to come back to a clean, organised, socially distanced Boathouse for food and drink, both inside and outside. We have diversified during the past 12 weeks and will be integrating many of these changes into how we operate going forwards.  We intend to keep doing doorstep deliveries of good quality local products, restaurant prepared ready meals, and themed dining experiences.  We are excited about welcoming our customers back, but we are taking a careful approach to a phased reopening. We hope to have an extended outside area ready for the 16th of July followed by our inside tables reopening in early August.”

After consultation with the community, Moffat Farmers’ Market is to return on Sunday 12th July with a range of new measures including physically distanced outside stalls, covid-careful hygiene measures and pre-ordering encouraged to minimise queues. Sarah Burchell, organiser of Moffat Farmers’ Market, said:

“The survey results have reassured us that the measures we’re taking are what people want to see. Our goal is to create a safe trading environment but also an enjoyable way for people to shop and access local food and drink, and we have really valued the advice we’ve received from Trading Standards on how to do this.

“The feedback from the survey highlights the importance of working with others, which is what the markets are all about. As a producer we’ve also seen an increase in local collaboration more generally, and we really enjoyed working with The Boathouse on a recent menu showcasing our lamb. Every small business has been affected by covid, but the more we can work together, the faster our recovery will be.”

The survey findings also emphasised the need for local businesses to introduce new safety protocols. Wilma Finlay of Cream o’ Galloway near Gatehouse of Fleet said that risk management is one of her top priorities as she prepares for re-opening, she said:

“The guidelines that have been published for our industry are helpful, but like many local businesses we are going a few steps further than what’s required, following discussions with our staff and input from some regular customers.

“We could have opened our outdoor playground a few days ago, but we took the decision to delay. That’s partly so that we can introduce new electrostatic cleaning regimes on all hard surfaces, which is the same type of cleaning system that’s being used in hospitals. Being able to use technology like this reassures our staff and our customers that Cream o’ Galloway will be a safe place to visit.

“At the moment we expect to reopen some areas of the business next week. The survey findings are very useful, we had already addressed many of the points raised, such as online ordering to minimise queues and introducing a one-way system. So it’s reassuring to see that the data reflects the informal feedback we were already getting.”

Not all local businesses are planning on reopening in July. Paul O’Keeffe of Thomas Tosh in Thornhill explained why:

“We're planning to reopen on the 5th August; we think it’s the right thing for us and our community to wait a little while longer. This survey's findings are helping us make sure we fully address local customers' concerns about having safe surroundings.  And it's great to know that there seems to be even bigger customer support for local food and hospitality businesses as we come out of lockdown.”

The full report of the survey can be downloaded now on www.savourtheflavours.co.uk.  It is being shared widely with industry partners, public agencies and other regional food groups to help inform recovery planning. Lorna Young added:

“While it’s clear that there are concerns about our rural economy reopening for business, survey comments suggested that people are pragmatic. There is widespread understanding that many communities, and local jobs, are economically dependent on food service and tourism.

“It’s worth remembering that our rural economy in Dumfries & Galloway is mainly small, locally owned businesses who really do want to get it right for their local community.  The more we can pull together as a region, be sensitive to worries and look after each other, the more sustainable our economic recovery will be. The food and drink industry is so appreciative of the people of Dumfries & Galloway taking time to respond to this survey, the feedback from local people is absolutely invaluable.” 

SNP challenged on pupils facing poor broadband

Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell has accused SNP Connectivity Minister Paul Wheelhouse of completely dodging a parliamentary question surrounding broadband upgrades.

 

Mundell_-_Oliver_at_Openreach_Cabinet.jpg

The Scottish Conservative and Unionist constituency representative had questioned the South of Scotland MSP if the SNP Government would prioritise broadband upgrades for households with school-age children.

This was after many in Mr Mundell’s constituency had failed to access proper online home learning in recent months as a result of poor connections.

However, instead of answering his question, Mr Wheelhouse instead responded with common SNP lines around the responsibilities of broadband, despite the SNP being on course to fail to deliver the roll-out of their flagship R100 broadband programme by 2021.

In all, the word education was only mentioned once in the Minister’s response, prompting Mr Mundell to hit out.

Oliver Mundell said: “This was an extremely typical response from the SNP Minister when challenged on his Government’s commitment to upgrading broadband.

“Instead of even trying to address the issue which has arisen for many of my constituents during the period of home learning, he instead churns out the usual lines on who is responsible.

“The fact is it is the SNP Government who are failing to deliver their R100 flagship scheme on the ground in terms of infrastructure which they are fully responsible for.

“The response ran to almost 450 words, yet only refers to education once, which shows their lack of commitment on that specific issue.

“If there was a report card for the SNP on broadband, it would consistently read -- must do better.”

DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY RISKS A ‘LOST GENERATION’ UNLESS MORE IS DONE TO TACKLE YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT – SAYS COLIN SMYTH

South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has warned that Dumfries and Galloway risks losing an entire generation to unemployment unless more action is taken.

 

ColinSmythMSP

Statistics compiled by Scottish Labour have revealed that the number of young people (16-24) who are receiving social security payments has increased exponentially across Scotland between February and May of this year.

In Dumfries and Galloway, between February and May, the percentage of young people claiming social security rose by 64.2 per cent, from 600 in February to 985 in May. This is seven per cent of the region’s working population.

Colin Smyth is calling on the UK and Scottish Government to act now and implement a proper jobs guarantee scheme, or risk losing an entire generation to the ravages of unemployment.

The local MSP said: “These figures are shocking and show that youth unemployment in Dumfries and Galloway and across Scotland is spiralling out of control. 

"A rise locally of nearly two-thirds in just a couple of months is devastating for each and every one of those young people involved and as the UK Government furlough scheme comes to end that number is set to rise. 

"It shows that not only should that scheme be extended but we urgently need a quality jobs guarantee scheme to support business to retain and take on young people. 

"If that doesn’t happen we risk losing an entire generation to the ravages of unemployment. The UK and Scottish Government must act swiftly and decisively to provide a future for all of our young people.”