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.

 

NO PHONE BOX SHOULD BE REMOVED WITHOUT EVIDENCE OF MOBILE SERVICES, SAYS MSP

British Telecom should not axe phone boxes in areas where there is no guarantee of a good mobile signal from several providers, according to South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Connectivity and Transport Colin Smyth.

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The local MSP was making the comments as it was revealed that BT plan to axe a further 650 phone boxes across Scotland- around 20% of the national total.

BT have previously axed 1,500 boxes. The latest cuts would leave about 2,600 phone boxes - a reduction of more than 60% since 2003.

The planned cuts include over 200 in the South of Scotland include 37 in Dumfries and Galloway, 13 in East Ayrshire, 32 in East Lothian, 12 in Midlothian, 95 in the Scottish Borders and 9 in South Ayrshire.

Commenting on the news Colin Smyth said, “Public phone boxes are still very important to many communities across the South of Scotland, especially in rural areas. These cuts are yet another depressing erosion of services in rural communities to add to the loss of Post Offices, banks and cash machines. It’s fine for BT to say that most people now have mobile phones but that isn’t the case for everyone and coverage isn’t always great. BT should at the very least give a clear guarantee that no phone box will be removed in an area where there is not good mobile phone coverage from several providers in that area, not just one. Ideally they should reconsider these cuts or local councils should ensure they object to any cuts that will impact adversely on communities in their area”.

MSP RAISES CONCERNS OVER PLANS TO CUT VET DISEASE POSTS

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has expressed his concern over plans to cut jobs at Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) as part of changes to their veterinary disease surveillance services.

 

 

As a result of budget pressures, the SRUC plan to introduce a new model to carry out their post-mortem examinations on dead livestock, which will lead to the loss of 35 laboratory and administrative posts across Scotland with sites including Ayr, St Boswells and Dumfries in the South of Scotland at risk of job cuts.

Work previously carried out at sites in Ayr will now be centralised but the post-mortem facilities in Dumfries and St Boswells will remain.

Commenting on the news Colin Smyth said, “Any loss of jobs is a real blow, particularly in rural areas where skilled posts are all too often few and far between. My thoughts are very much with those affected shoes skills have provided such a valuable service to agriculture locally. It highlights the human impact of the budget cuts being imposed on our colleges by the Government”.

“It is vital that any changes do not have an adverse impact on the services provided. I know there are concerns in those areas losing facilities that because dead livestock will have to be transported further at extra cost, some farmers may not send animals for post-mortems and that could impact on our understanding of animal disease”.  

“In Dumfriesshire at a time the SRUC are planning investment and more jobs at the Barony, it is disappointing that jobs may be lost at the Dumfries Disease Surveillance Centre”

“In Ayrshire there will be real anger at this news coming so soon on the back of plans to by the SRUC to close its Riverside campus”

Money from Scottish Investment Bank Could Help Reshape High Street

More than 400 bank branches, shops and local businesses have closed or have been winding down in Scotland since the start of 2016, according to a report published by the Fesderation of Small Businesses.

DGChamber President Kenny Bowie commented: "This reports tells us what we have known for some time,

At least 414 banks, shops and government offices have closed over the past four years, according to this research,

It said around 300 were bank branches, along with 80 to 90 shops, as well as several courts, tax offices and other public sector premises. Although shops formed a minority of closures, it said chain stores shutting in smaller towns had a ­disproportionate effect on local ­economies.

The report is calling for a £90 million annual investment for Scottish towns from the Scottish National Investment Bank and the UK Stronger Towns Fund.

We feel that part of this money could make a real difference to helping bring new life to towns accross our region, developing empty properties into shared retail or office spaces, redefining department store premises into cultural areas such as theatres or art galleries. This money could help us start to reshape towns accross the region which will help us on the regeneration journey for future generations."

 

Colin SythSouth Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has said that both the UK and Scottish Governments and the local council should urgently act on the the findings of a new report.

The “Transforming Towns: Delivering a Sustainable Future for Local Place,” published by the Federation of Small Businesses reveals that 10% of High Street properties in Dumfries and Galloway remains vacant.

Colin Smyth believes that two of the ideas in the report would help towns centres across Dumfries and Galloway. The Report suggests that there should be long term investment in town centres to improve access and infrastructure and to carry out wider improvements to Town Centres. The Report also suggests smart solutions should be employed for empty retail units, a number of these have already been used from time to time across the region but the creation of co-working spaces and creating spaces for events and exhibitions is a new opportunity for Town Centres.

The Report also highlights the need for improved technology on our High Streets. Colin Smyth recently met with Brendan Dick, Chair of Openreach Scotland, to raise the concerns of local businesses in many of our Town Centres who are still unable to get access to super-fast broadband despite being in the commercial heart of a town, including large parts of Dumfries town centre.

Colin Smyth said, “This Report lays bare the high number of empty premises on our town centres across the region. Both the UK and Scottish Governments and the local council should act on the findings of this Report. While funds have been made available through a national Town Centre Fund this was a one off fund with a time limit on projects coming forward. This Report suggests a long term fund should be put in place, which would allow groups within Town Centres across Dumfries and Galloway to make bids for Town Centre improvements over a long term period.

There are a number of excellent local initiatives such as the Council’s Town Centre Living Fund which is creating create new opportunities for people to live in properties previously empty in our Town Centres. But this work needs to be accelerated because encouraging more people to live in our town centres is key to making them more buoyant. One way to help achieve this in Dumfries is Government and Council funding in the Midsteeple Project to bring empty properties on Dumfries High Street back into use”

Governments and the council should also work together to find opportunities to support small business to co-locate facilities and benefit from improved digital connectivity. Moffat is identified in the report for the high number of self-employed people living in the Town. This highlights how attractive our region can be to do business but we need to support those businesses to grow.

The Report also suggests that  Shared Banking Hubs should be rolled out due to the number of bank branch closures. Banking Hubs where more than one bank comes together to share resources and costs would ensure that access to cash is maintained in the many towns and villages affected by branch closures.

Colin Smyth added, “I have been trying to encourage banks and building societies to seriously consider proposals for bank hubs. A number of our larger towns such as Gretna have been left without a bank branch which is a major loss to local residents and businesses. Hubs could also host other services. We recently saw the closure of the Post Office in Langholm and that has been saved by moving the services into the Council offices and shared facilities will increasingly be the way to preserve many of our services”.

Tune In to Local Radio in More Places Than Before

Dumfries’s long-established and popular Community Radio Station, Alive 107.3, has been awarded its second extension to broadcast since it first gained its OFCOM license in 2007.

 

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The newest license enables the station to broadcast to the community of Dumfries until the end of August 2024. Alive 107.3 has been broadcasting for the last ten years is the only licensed Community Radio Station broadcasting via FM transmitter to the town of Dumfries.


Chairperson, David Macfarlane, said, “This is fantastic news, not just for our team of volunteers who have worked tirelessly over the years but for our loyal listeners and the people of the Dumfries area! I’m delighted that Ofcom have agreed to extend the license for another 5 years; it shows they have confidence in what we do. There’s a real buzz about the station and we’re very excited about the future.”


One week later, the Alive team were delighted to receive more good news from OFCOM, who also approved the Community Radio Station’s application to extend the coverage of their FM Transmissions. This important application means Alive will soon be able to increase the transmission output from their Dumfries Transmitter, meaning many more people living in and around Dumfries will be able to tune in every day from their radios at home, work, and in the car. Alive’s technical team will now be working on the practicalities of increasing the power on the transmitter before a final inspection and approval by the OFCOM engineer.


David added, “There is much work still to be done before the extra power can be switched on, but we’re delighted by this additional news. The License extension and Transmission extension are an indication of OFCOM’s confidence in Alive as Dumfries’s only Community Radio Station. Alive is unique in this area as we’re run for the benefit of the entire community. Our programming is incredibly diverse – there’s something to suit everyone. Most of our programmes are made right here in Dumfries. Locally and nationally we’re an award-winning station, our presenters have won awards and some of our unique output has been picked up by other stations in the UK. It’s a great station to listen to local talent too. The license extension also allows Alive to continue the important work it does within the community. The volunteers do a tremendous amount of work around the town and region and have supported countless festival, events, and fun days this year. Alive also works with schools, colleges and community groups to give young people an insight into radio broadcasting and pass on transferable skills to benefit them as they pursue careers. These extensions will allow all this important work to continue and Alive can continue to go from strength to strength, thanks to the incredibly talented team we’ve got!”

 

Alive 107.3 is broadcast on 107.3fm in Dumfries, on-line at www.aliveradio.net and through dedicated Alive smartphone apps and on RadioPlayer.

MSP URGES NEW WEST COAST RAIL FIRM TO IMPROVE SERVICE AT LOCKERBIE STATION

South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Transport Spokesperson Colin Smyth has called on First Group to commit to improving services for passengers at Lockerbie Railway Station following the announcement that the company is taking over the running of the West Coast mainline train route from December.

 

Colin Smyth at Lockerbie

 

Along with Italian stated owned firm Trenitalia, FirstGroup replaces Virgin Trains, which was barred from bidding to keep the route to run trains from London Euston to Glasgow. At present only, a fraction of services stop at Lockerbie Station and Colin Smyth has written to the Chief Executive of First Group Matthew Gregory to urge the firm to commit to increasing that number. He has also called on Mr Gregory to commit First Group to making a contribution towards the cost of increasing car parking at the station.

Colin Smyth has been campaigning for better services at Lockerbie Train Station since his election in 2016.

Colin Smyth said, “The franchise announcement today which will see FirstGroup and Trenitalia run the West Coast mainline is a huge missed opportunity for the services to be brought back under public control. By returning our railways to public ownership would see profits re-invested in services and rail infrastructure which would improve services from Lockerbie, not taken out of our services for private profits.

I have written to the Chief Executive of FirstGroup to urge the new franchise to increase the number of services from Lockerbie. At present more West Coast Mainline services between London and Glasgow pass through Lockerbie Station without stopping than actually stop and that is a disgrace. More and more passengers want to use Lockerbie Station yet the private rail companies aren’t delivering the services people want. First Group have said they will increase services on the line from Motherwell but they need to do the same from Lockerbie. I have also urged the company to contribute to the cost of increasing parking at Lockerbie Train Station. It is train operators who benefit from the passengers who use the station and any increased parking, so they should shoulder some of the cost and not leave it all to the local council taxpayer.”