The Latest news from Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce -

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


Council To Consider Changes To Grading Structure To Ensure Living Wage

Dumfries and Galloway Council considers the Living Wage to be the single most important contribution to tackling poverty across our region and ensures that all of our employees are paid at least this hourly amount.  At the meeting the new Economy and Resources (E&R) Committee (12 Sept) Members will be asked to approve recommended changes to the pay and grading structure which will fully embed payments of the Living Wage to all employees.

All Scottish Local Authorities have committed to pay the SLGLW as a minimum to all employees.  Dumfries and Galloway Council has paid this rate as a minimum to all of our employees since 2012 as part of our ongoing commitment to tackle low in-work pay. The rate is set by COSLA annually in line with the local government pay award. It is derived from the Living Wage Foundation rate, calculated on the basic cost of living and defined as the basic amount needed to enjoy a basic, but socially acceptable standard of living.

As of April 2019, this amounts to £9.07 per hour and it is currently paid to as a supplement to the normal hourly rate to all eligible employees. This payment is included in the calculation of pensions and other relevant allowances. However, by continuing the process to pay as a supplement this has caused confusion at the bottom end of the pay scale, resulting in no difference between lower paid staff and those with line-management responsibility. Over time this will damage morale and cause recruitment and retention difficulties, challenging the integrity of the pay and grading structure.

Members of E&R will be asked to agree to the implementation of the revised pay and grading structure by removing any rates of pay which currently fall below the SLGLW. Distinctions will also be restored between pay bands 1,2 and 3 to recognise the differences in demands for each role within these grades. All costs of implementation have been considered through a number of options, with effect from 1 April 2020.

The cost of paying the SLGLW as a supplement (as at 1.4.19) is £824k. The 3% pay award for 2020/21 increases the SLGLW rate from £9.07 to £9.34, at a cost of £847k. Consolidation does not affect any other bands further up the pay scale. It only applies to bands 1,2 and 3, removing the supplement payment.

Chair of Economy and resources Committee, Rob Davidson said: “Dumfries and Galloway Council originally became an accredited with becoming a Living Wage Employer in June 2015. Paying a good wage for a good job is very important to us, and this is part of our ongoing anti-Poverty work to ensure people have a decent standard of living. We believe that this not only gives the advantage of helping to attract new staff, but also values and retains the workforce we already have.”

Archie DryburghVice Chair Archie Dryburgh said: “This is an this is an issue which needs corrected as it challenges the integrity of the Council’s job evaluation and pay structure. Low pay makes it difficult for employees to find time for community and family life and we have a duty to address this. “

Council Asked To Consider New Workforce Plan

At the first meeting of Dumfries and Galloway Councils new Economy and Resources Committee on 12 Sept, Members will be asked to consider and approve the new Council-Wide Workforce Plan.

This plan has been developed to reflect the current Transformation work which is taking place throughout the Council. The plan sets out proposals to ensure that we have a workforce which will deliver on our ambitions for the future, for our organisation and for our area. It describes the challenges we face, and the strategic actions required to deliver our Council Plan vision: ‘To create opportunity and support ambition to promote and establish Dumfries and Galloway as the best place to live, work and learn.’

The council’s workforce has been greatly reduced over the past 5 years and during this time the Council has been able to deliver significant savings through a range of measures: vacancy management, early retirement and voluntary redundancy and staff movement.

To deliver changes and improve services to our communities we must continue to develop a culture of high performance across our Council, maximise employee engagement and create a working environment where everyone can have a rewarding work-life.

Regular focus groups, monthly staff-engagement surveys and ongoing working groups continue to be used to encourage employees to feedback on a wide range of issues affecting our workforce, such as organisational culture, maximising attendance and health and wellbeing.

Chair of Economy and Resources, Rob Davidson said: “The public sector is facing challenging times and we must support our workforce to remain resilient and committed.  In our Council Plan we recognise that in order to achieve our vision and priorities, it is vital that our workforce is more diverse, flexible, skilled, engaged and motivated than ever before. We need to build on the initiatives already in place to align our workforce requirements directly to the Council Plan.

Archie DryburghVice Chair, Archie Dryburgh said: “This plan is essential to ensure we have a workforce which is efficient, streamlined and fit for the future. It recognises the need to change the way we operate, particularly in this current economic climate. Our employees do a great job for our communities every day and this is about recognising their commitment and professionalism but adapting to fulfil current and future needs.”

Business still unable to prepare fully for a no deal Brexit

New research from the Scottish & British Chambers of Commerce shows a concerningly high number of UK firms aren’t ready for a no deal Brexit. Business has consistently called on government to avoid a messy and disorderly exit but in light of the political turmoil and relentless uncertainty, clearer and more consistent information is needed to help them prepare.


The survey of firms from across the country, found that in the midst of conflicting political messages over the likelihood of no deal and remaining gaps in government guidance, half (50%) of Scottish businesses have not done a Brexit risk assessment. Those that trade internationally (50%) are more likely to have carried out a risk assessment on the impact of Brexit to their business than their counterparts that trade in the UK only (39%).

There has been a welcome jump in those that have carried out a Brexit assessment since last year (67% had not carried out an assessment in 2018), but with just weeks until a potential no deal exit, there is still a large proportion of firms that aren’t in a position to prepare for the impact.

Political turbulence and ongoing uncertainty about the final outcome of the Brexit process is hampering business planning, making it impossible for firms to know what to prepare for. While there has been an increase in the guidance available from government on conditions in a no-deal, the advice needs to be clearer and more consistent. In many critical areas, such as regulations, customs and trading in Northern Ireland, there is still no good information on which firms can plan.

In a no deal scenario, firms that trade with Europe will face new customs procedures at the border. However, awareness of other schemes* to maintain continuity of trade remains low. The results show that even among internationally active UK businesses:

  • 68% are not aware of Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP)
  • 66% are not aware of Authorised Economic Operator status (AEO)
  • 72% are not aware of Customs Comprehensive Guarantees (CCG)

SCC and the wider chamber network has campaigned successfully for the government to automatically issue EORI numbers, which are critical for trading across borders, to all VAT-registered businesses. Now, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce is calling on HM Government to either automatically enrol or support businesses to access these other important customs and border facilitations.

The business group also continues to encourage all companies – not just those trading across borders – to consider the potential impact of Brexit on their operations. UK-only businesses will face impacts linked to their own suppliers and customers, or to changes elsewhere in the economy, and should take steps to assess these.

LIz Cameron

Dr Liz Cameron OBE, Director & Chief Executive at the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:

“More firms in Scotland have taken basic steps to prepare for change than was the case last year which is good news but there are still too many with questions for which there are yet no answers.

“Government has stepped up communication to businesses, but ongoing uncertainty makes business planning with confidence next to impossible. Companies are told to plan but are being presented with a moving target.

“Businesses are facing significant changes on multiple fronts, and need official guidance that is consistent, precise and easily accessible, enabling them to trade in any scenario. Yet, there are many areas where there simply isn’t enough clear and actionable information for businesses to mitigate some of the impacts of an unwanted no-deal exit.

“Low levels of awareness around special customs and trade schemes are of particular concern, as this highlights the potential for disruption at borders in an unwanted no-deal situation. Companies should be automatically enrolled or supported to enrol in these schemes to increase trader readiness.

“Our evidence yet again reinforces the importance of averting a chaotic exit on October 31st.”

Get Set For A Community Christmas Festival

The Guild Dumfries C.I.C is over the moon to find out that Dumfries & Galloway Council have chosen them to be the lead partner to deliver the Christmas Lights Switch On in Dumfries. They will be responsible for organising the whole shebang not just a Christmas Makers Market at this years event on Sunday the 1st December.

Andy Ferguson, Chair of the Council’s Communities Committee welcomed the decision.  He said;

“Our Council is delighted that The Guild has agreed to organise the Christmas Lights Switch On in Dumfries this year as part of their Christmas festival.  It is a wonderful family-friendly day and is very much the wake up call that many of us need to start the Christmas planning, when the lights go on in our wee toon.  I look forward to working with The Guild on this project, and hopefully others in the future too.”

The Guild wants to create a Christmas Festival at the Light Switch On, which will take place around the whole of the town centre. A makers market, events, entertainment, performance, music, workshops and activities will be happening not just along the High Street, but in other premises and side streets too. The Guild hope that both retailers and businesses throughout the town get behind this community festive extravaganza and stay open late on the day and invite them to get in touch if they wish to discuss ideas. They would actively encourage and support any other activities and fringe events that the town centre businesses wish to host by signposting these to visitors on market day. 


Leah and Kirsten from the Guild

Leah Halliday, a Director at The Guild said “We feel it is extremely important they also take advantage of the increased footfall expected in the town on the day to encourage the message of Shop Local. We have many superb businesses located in our town centre and we wish them to benefit from this festival experience and share in the overall sense of community and the benefits of working collaboratively together.”

The Guild organised an extremely successful makers market last year. The response from the community after the event suggested a strong desire for a Christmas Makers Market to continue. The Guild are keen to build on this previous experience so they can create a festive celebration and an even bigger Makers Market this year. Applications are now open for their Makers Market at this event and they are on the hunt for the perfect mix of makers, creatives, food & drink producers and street food vendors. The deadline to apply is the 15th September at midnight with lots more details on their website.

John Martin, Vice Chair of Communities Committee commented;

“This is another fantastic example of partnership working between our Council and the local community.  The Switch On event is one of the busiest days in Dumfries with up to 5,000 people attending.  I am sure The Guild will be incorporating their own unique brand on the event and would like to thank them for taking on the event.” 

The Guild want the event to be a true community affair and are keen to collaborate and work in partnership with other organisations, businesses and community groups, to play a lead role in delivering a memorable festive experience in Dumfries town centre which will be enjoyed by all.

Kirsten Scott, one of the Directors at The Guild said “We are arranging a meeting in the near future to discuss ideas and consolidate a plan, but if anyone is interested in getting involved, sponsoring, donating, helping us to fundraise or would love to volunteer some of their time to help us, then we’d love them to get in touch”



SCC Comment on Programme for Government 2019-2020

Commenting on the First Minister’s Programme for Government announcement, Dr Liz Cameron OBE, Director & Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:

SCC's Liz CameronOn Scotland’s Future:

‘’The First Minister has outlined the Scottish Government’s plan to seek a section 30 order from the UK Government, during the passage of the newly announced Referendums (Scotland) Bill in 2020.

‘’Businesses are in need of certainty and stability, two things which are sorely lacking in the current economic and political environment.  We will continue our process of engagement with our members across the country to understand how the prospect of another referendum on Scotland’s constitutional future could potentially affect their ability to grow, create new jobs and invest.”

On Climate Change:

‘’A joined-up approach from private and public sector is absolutely essential to tackle the global challenge of climate change. Business is already playing its part and we share the Government’s ambition of leaving the earth in the best condition possible for future generations.  We welcome the Government’s ‘Scottish Green Deal’ approach, including the pledge to improving Scotland’s bus network and the Green Growth Accelerator.

“The Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan will act as an important enabler to upskill and reskill Scotland’s workforce and we look forward to playing our part.

“Chambers of Commerce in Scotland, including Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow are leading the Circular Economy agenda and with a wealth of private sector expertise in this area, we will ensure the business voice is engaged in the newly-announced Circular Economy Bill.”

On International Trade & Exporting:

“Businesses will welcome the First Minister’s focus on international trade and exporting; a critical enabler of Scotland’s economic growth. The four-year Foreign Direct Investment Growth Plan and the £37 million further investment in R&D technologies will act as upbeat measures to continue raising the bar of Scotland’s place in the world.

“We are ramping up our international trade footprint and leveraging our global business-to-business connections, and the continued collaboration between private and public sector will be key to unlocking the potential of international growth markets.”

Business Competitiveness / Taxation:

‘’Whilst we have welcomed the progress that has been made on the issue of Non-Domestic Rates, the bill in its current form does not go far enough to reduce the rates burden being faced by Scottish businesses. For example, the current poundage rate is at a 20 year high with £65 million worth of costs being put onto businesses due to the Large Business Supplement being out of parity with the level currently in England.

‘’The introduction of the Transient Visitor Levy Bill is one that will be met with caution by businesses across Scotland. Many of Scotland’s communities depend on our world-leading tourism and hospitality sector. Therefore, what is absolutely clear, is the need for business communities across Scotland to be fully engaged before the introduction or implementation of any additional tax burden is placed on businesses.”

On Digital & Infrastructure Investment:

“Digital innovation is one of the main drivers of the global economy. In order to keep up with international competitors in this quickly expanding field, we must be on the ball when it comes to investing and expanding our digital capability.

‘’With 100% fibre broadband coverage still to be achieved across Scotland, it is critical we pick up the pace of fibre broadband delivery and guarantee every part of Scotland is connected. We urge the Scottish and UK Government to work together, collaborate and join-up, enabling our businesses and communities to reap the economic benefits that connectivity can bring.”

On Workplace Diversity:

“We welcome the First Minister’s continuing commitment to diversity in the workplace and taking steps to further reduce the gaps in the current system of work.

‘’The pledging of £5 million over the next three years to help up to 2,000 women return to work after a career break is an important step in helping women back into work as well as addressing Scotland’s skills shortages and recruitment challenges.”