The Latest news from Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce -

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


ScotRail To Return To Public Ownership

The Scottish Government confirmed that when the Abellio ScotRail franchise concludes on 31 March 2022, a new public sector body will assume responsibility for running ScotRail. This will be known as an operator of last resort (OLR).

Scotrail new logo.svg

Current operator Abeillo will work closely with Transport Scotland and Network Rail to ensure a smooth transition to the new structure to deliver stability for customers and staff.

This announcement will have no immediate impact on their role or pay and conditions. ScotRail staff will be moved over to the new operator. Abellio are working on securing a six-period Emergency Measures Agreement (EMA) extension with the Scottish Government until September, which will mean the increased government subsidy needed to keep Scotrail afloat, pay wages, and operate a service for passengers will continue.

It's a six-period EMA, rather than a 12-period deal, due to the uncertainty over the future of the public finances and to provide greater budget flexibility for the government. The EMA has been designed in such a way as to make it very easy to extend it to March 2022, which is the government’s plan.

Since Abellio was awarded the ScotRail franchise in 2015, the railway in Scotland has been transformed. The £475million investment in new and refurbished trains, upgraded stations and modern retailing, alongside our sustained, high levels of punctuality in recent months has delivered for customers. Scotrail customer satisfaction scores are testament to that. Scotrail have also invested in Scotland, employing 5,200 people in high-skilled, well paid jobs.

This announcement will undoubtedly cause uncertainty over the coming months as more details are confirmed about how these plans will operate in practice. The combination of a new structure for the railway in Scotland and the work to recover from the impact of the pandemic mean contiued uncertainty as we are heading into a period of very profound change.

The railway will need to adapt how we work to deal with the new reality and address the biggest financial crisis in its history. That means new products, different timetables, better use of technology, and changes to working practices. It will require a lot of effort and change – some of it no doubt very challenging – but it is essential to secure the long-term future of the railway.

Borderlands: What Does It Mean Frr Our Region?

Dumfries and Galloway Council Leader Dr. Elaine Murray signed the Borderlands Growth Deal alongside neighbouring councils in the Scottish Borders, Cumbria, Carlisle and Northumberland in a virtual ceremony on 18th March 2021.


Borderlands: signing Elaine Murray on Teams

The £452m Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal is a unique, cross border collaboration which will deliver a multi-million-pound investment to Dumfries and Galloway over 10 years. With inclusive and sustainable growth at its heart, the Deal aims to improve the long-term prosperity of our communities while enhancing the environment of the whole region. 

An allocation of £150 million, equating to £85 million from the Scottish Government and £65 million from the UK Government, will directly benefit the South of Scotland, split between Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council. For Dumfries and Galloway, this will mean a total investment in our region of approximately £85m.

Aspects of the Deal are still being developed, but some of the confirmed key projects include:

Stranraer Marina:
Our region, like others in Borderlands, relies heavily on tourism and the Destination theme within the Deal includes investment in Stranraer Marina. This will bring new jobs to the area and will also help Stranraer redefine itself as a destination with a wide offer for tourists and locals alike. Active engagement is underway with other projects and initiatives in the area which are complementary to the Marina project.  Up to £16m will be available through the Borderlands Deal for the transformation of the area, which will attract further public and private sector investment and encourage wider regeneration, stimulate growth and provide quality employment. 

The Energy Theme includes the redevelopment of the former nuclear power station at Chapelcross, near Annan, as a strategic green-energy focussed employment site, bringing new business and jobs to the region.  This welcome investment totalling £21m from the UK and Scottish Governments and local partners will benefit the Annan, Gretna, Lockerbie corridor and will ensure the continuation of partnership working with the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency.  

Dairy Nexus
Dumfries and Galloway and Cumbria are home to 13% of the UK’s dairy herd and our local economy is very dependent on this sector.  The Scottish Rural University College (SRUC) is sponsoring the creation of the Dairy Nexus at the Barony College, developing research and innovation to decarbonise forage-based dairy farming, optimise milk composition and production while safeguarding animal wellbeing, and add value through biorefining milk, grass and manure.  This project will receive £8m of funding from the Deal.

£4m will be invested to improve and extend the 7Stanes network of mountain bike trails in Dumfries and Galloway, enhancing the experience for existing and potential users.

Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Elaine Murray said: “I am delighted that we are now at the stage of signing the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal.  This is the culmination of three years of hard work and shared ambition to produce the first cross-border deal and the largest UK growth deal to date. The Deal will improve connectivity, deliver skills and innovation, and support the longer-term resilience of our towns and communities. This in turn will help attract new residents and new employment opportunities, and welcome more visitors to our region. 

We anticipate that the Deal will deliver an additional 5,500 jobs to the Borderlands, attract over four million extra tourists, unlock investment in our towns, and boost the region’s economy by £1.1billion. This Deal will make a very significant contribution to the economic growth of Dumfries and Galloway, attracting further investment, improving our towns and benefitting the whole of our region.”



Borderlands: Dumfriesshire MSP and MP Praise Growth Deal Sign-Off

THE FINAL sign-off of the Borderlands Growth Deal has been warmly welcomed by Dumfriesshire's constituency MSP and MP.


Both Oliver Mundell and David Mundell have hailed the official launch of the substantial 10-year investment package as 'a game-changer.'


They joined the virtual ceremony on Thursday morning (March 18, 2021) when representatives of the UK and Scottish Government, which are the main funders of the deal, were joined by others from the five partner local authorities.


Oliver Mundell has been a staunch supporter of the project at Holyrood whilst his father David helped take the unique cross-border regeneration scheme forward from conception whilst serving as Scottish Secretary.


The political duo issued a joint-statement after witnessing the Covid-secure signing ceremony in a video link-up.


Oliver and David Mundell stated: "This milestone is great news for Dumfriesshire and shows what can be achieved when our two governments work together, along with local authorities on both sides of the border. It is a real game-changer.


"We are particularly pleased that conditional funding of £15 million from Borderlands is poised to help deliver quality jobs through the creation of a Chapelcross Green Energy Park, near Annan.


"A further £8 million of Borderlands funding has been earmarked for a Centre of Dairy Innovation at Scotland's Rural College's Barony campus at Parkgate.


"Funding for a feasibility study into a Borders Railway extension to Carlisle, as well as general infrastructure improvements should also create opportunities for our constituents, as will developments in neighbouring Cumbria, Scottish Borders and Galloway."

Ground-breaking Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal has been signed

The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal was formally signed today, 18 March 2021, bringing in up to £452million of fresh investment to the Borderlands area. Ministers of the UK and Scottish Governments and representatives of the five councils of the Borderlands Partnership signed the Deal at a virtual ceremony.



The long-term benefits of the Deal will reach all parts of the Borderlands area, driving inclusive growth and delivering significant and lasting benefits for individuals, businesses and communities.

The Deal is truly distinctive, covering the largest geographical area of any regional growth Deal negotiated with the UK and Scottish Governments and it is the first cross-border deal.

It will bring a transformative step change for the businesses and communities of the Borderlands by increasing productivity, growing the working age population, and delivering a more inclusive economy. The projects of the Deal aim to deliver up to 5,500 jobs and £1.1billion of additional GVA with a sustainable and inclusive approach to growth.

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson MSP, said: “I am pleased to be signing the Borderlands Growth Deal, confirming that the Scottish Government will invest £85 million in the region over the next 10 years that will build strategically on the region’s natural assets, resources and entrepreneurial spirit to drive sustainable economic growth.

“Projects the Scottish Government is supporting through the Deal will focus on reinvigorating town centres, expanding business sites and premises to stimulate business growth and job creation, maximising the region’s appeal as a leading outdoor and adventure tourism destination and equipping people with the skills they need to forge successful careers and contribute to their communities.

“The Deal is focused on local people and local priorities, enabling the Borderlands area to create sustainable jobs, re-invigorate the economy, and build strategically for long term growth and prosperity.”

UK Government’s Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, said: “The Borderlands Growth Deal will realise a new era of regeneration and opportunity as we build back better from the pandemic.

“The Ad Gefrin Visitor Experience and Distillery, and the Carlisle Station regeneration project are just two examples of schemes already benefitting from the Deal which will create jobs and improve regional connectivity. We’re levelling up across the UK by investing in jobs, driving economic growth, and strengthening our cross-border links,”

UK Government Minister for Scotland, Iain Stewart MP, said: “The benefits of the UK Government's £265 million investment in the deal will be felt by communities across the whole of the Borderlands region and beyond. Exciting projects like the Mountain Bike Innovation Centre and a Dairy Innovation Centre in Dumfries, Dairy Nexus, will build on regional strengths to create jobs and prosperity, while improvements to digital and transport infrastructure will ensure that we build back better from the pandemic.

“Across Scotland we have committed more than £1.5 billion to City Region and Growth Deals.”

The Borderlands Partnership is made up of Carlisle City Council, Cumbria County Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council.

Cllr John Mallinson, Leader of Carlisle City Council and Borderlands Partnership Board Co-Chair, said: “It’s fantastic to announce the signing of the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal bringing fresh investment from Government of up to £350million to our region, alongside local contributions of over £100million. The Deal is an ambitious approach to cross-border working between Governments, local authorities and other partners which will boost economic growth by helping existing business, encouraging new ventures and bringing a wealth of improvements to our region. 

“The Deal will also provide crucial support to our region’s recovery from the Covid-19 emergency and ensure we set in place strong foundations on which to build back better and greener, delivering inclusive and sustainable growth.”


Cllr Mark Rowley, Executive Member for Economic Regeneration & Finance from Scottish Borders Council, who hold the other co-Chair position, said: “The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal will have a transformational impact on the whole region, with the aim of creating 5,500 jobs, bringing in over 4 million extra tourists and improving mobile and digital connections thanks to the funding from the two governments and the additional investment the deal will attract.  

“The unlocking of investment in our towns will generate a predicted £1.1billion uplift in the region’s GVA and the partners will be able to deliver individually and collectively a range of projects which will not only improve the area for existing residents but also encourage more to move here, which will help address some of the common challenges we face.”

The Deal will deliver across four themes: improving places; enabling infrastructure; encouraging green growth; and supporting innovation, business and skills. Each theme has an agreed set of projects which will help deliver a step change for the businesses and communities of Borderlands by increasing productivity, growing the working age population and delivering a more inclusive economy. 

£20 million funding is included for an exciting redevelopment of Carlisle Station and the surrounding area, to act as a gateway to the region. Work to assess the benefits and challenges of extending the Edinburgh – Tweedbank Borders Railway to Carlisle will also be progressed, including feasibility at the appropriate stage of business case development. The Deal will support the delivery of a new Berwick Theatre while the skills and innovation work will include the development of a Mountain Biking Innovation Centre in the Scottish Borders. Funding will also support the development of Chapelcross in Dumfries and Galloway, as the region’s clean growth strategic investment site for low carbon energy generation and energy efficient businesses. 

The Deal will deliver an investment of up to £31million in green energy projects and £7million to develop skills needed by the regional economy, along with much needed improvements in digital and mobile connectivity across the region. The importance of the region’s towns will be the focus of the £50million Place Programme, which, along with significant investments in tourism and business infrastructure, will help position the Borderlands as a vibrant and attractive place to live and visit. 

Delivery has started on some of the Deal projects, following the release of early funding by the UK Government. This includes top up funding for a Digital Voucher scheme supporting businesses and private customers to install high speed broadband; funding for the development of the Borderlands Energy Masterplan; £5million towards the building of Lilidorei, a large-scale new play village to enhance the visitor offer at the Alnwick Gardens, the start of the work to redevelop Carlisle Station and a £3million investment towards the Ad Gefrin Visitor Experience and Distillery in Northumberland.

Lack of Fear Powers Eco Group to 12 months of Growth

ENTREPRENEUR Eddie Black should be running on empty after a year of leading non-stop expansion of his Eco business.

Yet after steering his 70-strong team through the unchartered territory of a coronavirus pandemic he’s as energised as ever.


In the last 12 months Eddie has built a brand new state-of-the-art HQ for his Eco business (set to open later this year), launched a new industrial solutions business, acquired an IT business, launched a range of innovative solutions and new products, purchased a garden room brand, and recruited several new staff.

It’s all been achieved without winning any government or public sector contracts - just through sheer hard work and a determination not to allow the pandemic to sink all he had strived so hard, and so long, to achieve.

Eddie is clear that it’s his previous career as a fishing boat skipper which is behind his survival instincts and agile business decision-making.

He’s not alone. James Watt, CEO and Co-Founder of BrewDog, recently said that his time as the captain of a fishing boat on the North Atlantic, taught him so much about people, leadership, teamwork and adversity.

For Eddie, like for James, survival is always the first step to business success. Quick and decisive leadership are also key.

Eddie, who skippered boats out of Cornwall, Aberdeen and Peterhead, said: “You faced difficult life and death decisions when you were out at sea.

“The longer you waited to make a decision the more dangerous the situation got.

“It taught me to make those decisions quickly and not to put them off.

“In business once you have taken everything into consideration and made your decision, if you don’t go for it, and back yourself and give it everything you have got, then someone else will, and you will have missed your opportunity.”

And, after a rare moment to pause and reflect on a busy 12 months, Eddie adds another vital component for successful business growth:

“A lack of fear.

“For me no business decision now is ever as hard as it was when I was out at sea.

“If you have a problem out at sea, like an engine failure in the middle of a storm, that’s when you were really worried.

“Your decisions at that moment are a matter of life and death, not just for you, but also for all of your crew.

“The sea is the big unknown. Take that out of the equation and you see things clearer.

“Don’t get me wrong, I have had tough decisions to take in business. Things haven’t always gone well. I have made mistakes. But I’ve always had that ability to learn from them, to get back up and to carry on.

“I’ve always had that belief to go for it. And I put that lack of fear down to my time at sea.”

Eddie’s approach has led to a strategy of diversification for his business which started out more than ten years ago as Eco-Genics Ltd specialising in blast cleaning with Dry Ice and now growing into the Eco group of companies providing solutions to a wide range of industry challenges.

“In the early days of the company we were taking phone calls at 2am from the bigger clients asking if we knew anyone who could help them with a problem.

“We were often able to put them in touch with people who could help.

“After a while we thought we might as well service that need ourselves.

“We now offer bespoke solutions for some major international companies, including sanitisation products for factories which have operated 24/7 throughout the pandemic, one of them supplying materials for visors for key workers in the NHS.”

The right people, in business, like at sea, are vital. Eddie knows he and his Eco business are only as good as his crew.

And he has built an impressive team across Eco’s divisions who are all rowing in the same direction to achieve their shared goals.

Eddie said: “What the pandemic has highlighted is that at Eco we have really great people who have a brilliant attitude and want to give back to the business and to the community.

“Everyone has done everything humanly possible to make a positive difference. It shows what you can achieve if you pull together as a team.

“We have fought to get where we are, to get into this strong position. There’s no luck involved in it. It’s down to everyone’s hard work.

“It has created a lot of trust between the team and a lot of trust in the business.”

It was this can-do attitude from the team which saw Eco respond to the nation’s PPE crisis last year by supplying one million items of PPE to care homes across the UK within seven days.

Ghyll House Upholstery, part of Eddie’s other interests, has been busy supporting surgeries, hospitals and other essential businesses from its base in Cumbria by fitting easy-clean materials to help the fight against coronavirus.

Eco has also donated sanitiser to care homes, 250 visors to a local hospice, and equipment to schoolchildren to help them during the pandemic.

“The pandemic has highlighted even more why it’s so important not to just talk about doing something, but to implement it,” said Eddie.

Later this year Eddie will unveil a brand new state-of-the-art Eco headquarters at Annan in south-west Scotland largely planned, designed and built by his own team.

Eddie has recently set up a new company Eco Axess with fellow entrepreneur Lancashire-based businessman Darren Cardwell.


Eco Axess recently acquired garden room brand YouKube and the duo are designing and manufacturing eco-friendly, sustainable, long-lasting, bespoke garden rooms, an ideal solution for those looking for extra space for their home.

Recent expansion also includes the acquisition of Carlisle-based technology business Integrity IT Solutions. It’s an ideal fit for Eco Comms, an independent telecoms provider and IT consultancy offering tailored telecom and IT solutions.

Through what in many ways has been a defining year for his business and his team, Eddie is grateful for the support of his family.


Eddie Black and family

Wife Nicola, daughters Ebony, Estelle and Elkie and son Ethan are all a major motivation to Eddie, with many working in the family business.

“Close family drive me on. They trust me, and they have stood by me when times have been tough,” said Eddie.

Looking back to when he left school at 16 with no qualifications Eddie knows what it’s like to have nothing.

Football might have offered opportunities. As a teenager he was a talented midfielder with Annan Athletic and Carlisle United youth teams.

But at 16, Eddie chose to go to sea on the fishing boats.

“It was a tough environment. As a 16-year-old, you had to grow up quick.”

Little did he know then, it would be the making of him.

To find out more about Eco visit