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The Latest news from Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce -

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

 

Feasibility Study into the Future of Iconic Town Centre Building Gets Underway

The Guild (Dumfries) CIC are thrilled to announce a successful funding application from Scottish Government’s Town Centre Capital Fund (TCCF) The award allows The Guild to commission Creetown Initiative, to conduct a feasibility study into the possible asset transfer of the former British Linen Bank in Dumfries town centre.

 

The Guild outside BLB

 

The aim of the TCCF is to help stimulate economic growth and encourage diversity to help town centre’s flourish by increasing footfall. The money can also be used to re-purpose buildings for housing, retail, business, social and community enterprise, services, leisure and culture, tourism and heritage and improving access and infrastructure which is part of Council’s Town Centre Action Plan.

The Guild Director Leah Halliday states, “Our ambitious plans are to develop a community space that will offer multiple, affordable rental concessions in our retail area, have both studio and workshop space, offices and meeting rooms, a venue for exhibitions and events plus a community kitchen. These will be available to rent to our community of makers, a variety of local groups, businesses and organisations, offering a central place where people can meet, work, create and collaborate, with a strong ethos of encouraging participation and social inclusion.”

Kirsten Scott, Director adds, “Now more than ever before we must create opportunities for businesses within the Dumfries and Galloway area and make concerted efforts to regenerate Dumfries town centre. The Linen Bank building offers an ideal focus for enterprise, entrepreneurship and community wellbeing, as well as guaranteeing the future of this iconic building”.

Creetown Initiative are delighted to be given the chance to work with the Guild Dumfries on their plans to move into the former British Linen Bank, Queensbury Street, Dumfries. Lead Officer and Senior Project Manager, Andrew Ward says, “This major project will see new facilities open to makers and artists from across the region, a place to work from and a place to exhibit or sell from. Creetown Initiatives remit is to investigate the feasibility of the project, whilst working with architects on design options and other building related matters”.

Another step forward in the regeneration of Dumfries Town Centre it is hoped to complete the feasibility study by end of August 2020 (Coronavirus willing). During that time it is hoped that the asset transfer process moves forward making it possible for The Guild to move into the premises by the end

of the year. As well as looking at the feasibility of the project, Creetown Initiative will identify funds to support any upgrade work that is identified.

Director Natalie Farrell states, “Over the last 2 years during the projects and markets we have organised so far, The Guild have worked with over 100 maker, producers and collaborated with many other organisations, businesses and charities. They have embarked on a series of community engagement events aimed at tailoring our plans to the communities needs and requirements. Our hugely successful Pop Up Shop, which saw up to 1000 visitors per day over a two-week period, was one such exercise which gave us a superb opportunity to gauge public opinion, gain feedback and collect evidence to endorse our plans. We want to continue to nurture and grow the partnerships we have already made at our previous events and share the idea of our community space to the people of Dumfries”.

Further opportunities for the community to discuss The Guild’s plans for The Linen Bank will be available via an online and paper survey, plus an opportunity to discuss ideas and thoughts with the directors and volunteers at a live event in Queensberry Square on Saturday 8th August between 11am - 2pm. Members of the public are invited to safely attend the open air event and find out more. Further details are available on the website. https://www.theguilddumfries.org/ or get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

CHAMBER MEMBER CTC LAUNCHES NEW ONLINE COURSES IN HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE

In March 2020, the UK went into lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This had an immediate impact on individuals and organisations, including CTC, the local Care Training Consortium, who specialise in the delivery of Health and Social care training courses in Scotland.

 

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With strict lockdown measures enforced by the Scottish Government from the 23rd March, CTC were no longer able to deliver face to face training courses from their training centre in Dumfries. At the same time, there was a significant reduction in demand from their SVQ candidates, who had to focus their efforts on delivering essential health and social care services on the frontline. As a result of increasing pressures on the sector, there is a recognised need to prepare new candidates for a career in social care.

Ian Seymour, General Manager at CTC said: “As a business we have spoken about exploring online training, but a lack of time and resources meant we hadn’t yet pursued it. In an attempt to address the new challenges, we faced as an organisation and by the sector, I spent the early days of working from home submitting an application for grant funding from the Ufi VocTech Trust. Much to my delight, the bid was successful and marked the start of our 12-week journey into the digital world of online learning.”

The VocTech Now funding call was introduced by Ufi to support the use of digital tools in vocational education specifically for learning that was being affected because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

By the end of the 12-week project, CTC will have designed, piloted and launched a new online induction programme suitable for those who are interested in pursuing a career in social care.

Ian said: “We have a very limited time to deliver this project, but all going well we will launch our new online learning courses to the Dumfries and Galloway health and social care sector by the end of July. With courses such as first aid and infection control, we recognise that there may also be a growing demand for our courses in other geographic areas and in other sectors too. We welcome enquiries from anyone who is keen to find out more.”

Ian added: “Our experienced team of trainers, each with their own area of specialism, are responding well to their lockdown challenge to develop and pilot this new e-learning programme in record time. This is only possible due to our existing expertise in delivering these courses in a face-to-face learning environment. We already have the learning materials and knowledge; we just need to adapt the courses for online study and find new ways of

supporting our students with online learning. It’s all very exciting and we are extremely grateful to Ufi for funding the project.”

This has not been the only development for CTC during the coronavirus pandemic. While researching online learning, Ian and his team also came across CuppaCare, a simple concept that uses an app on a mobile phone to send high-quality, targeted learning and guidance to staff teams or individuals, just when they need it.

Ian said: “We love the concept of CuppaCare so much, that we have used some of our UFI VocTech funding to offer a limited number of CuppaCare’s short courses (Sips) free of charge to the local care sector. We are the first training provider in Scotland to partner with CuppaCare and we are extremely excited about bringing new learning opportunities to the Social Care sector in Scotland.”

CTC is already in the final stages of testing their new online courses and plan to launch their e-learning programme by late July. Ian said: “While we know online training does not suit everyone and cannot fully replace face to face learning, we hope that our actions to reposition some of our training will be of benefit to the health and social care sector during these very challenging times. We hope to be able to offer face to face courses again soon too, but until it is safe to do so, our new online learning options will help make learning accessible to those most in need at this challenging time.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about CTC’s online induction courses and/or the new CuppaCare micro learning is invited to sign up to the CTC newsletter via www.caretrain.co.uk and to follow CTC on social media.

HARPER CONDEMNS POINTS-BASED IMMIGRATION SYSTEM WHICH WILL BLOCK ESSENTIAL CARE WORKERS

South Scotland SNP MSP Emma Harper condemns the UK Government Home Secretary’s new Visa Scheme which excludes frontline carers from the new points-based scheme which is due to commence in January. Ms Harper says it could lead to a shortage of staff in care homes and hospitals which would significantly undermine efforts to tackle an expected second wave of COVID-19.

 

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Ms Harper said: “Scientists are predicting a second wave of the virus over the winter and we know that we will need to recruit staff into the care home and care at home sectors to deal with increased numbers of people requiring care.

“Recruitment in to Care professions are already a challenge in Scotland and the changes to the immigration system, created by the UK Government’s, Priti Patel MP, which come into effect on 1 January, means that these essential frontline care workers are excluded, as are many cleaners, porters and support staff who also help keep our health and care sectors running smoothly. 

“If this system had come into effect before the Coronavirus pandemic is over, we would be facing a real crisis in the battle against the virus.  The fact that the changes will come into effect when we expect to be in the middle of a second wave means we will be unable to recruit the staff we need and will place many lives in danger.”

“I am really concerned that this will cause recruitment challenges for many of our 30 Care Homes and Care at Home providers across Dumfries and Galloway and I have written to D&G Council to seek clarity on how this points-based approach will negatively affect care across our region.

Ms Harper added: “The UK Government’s new immigration policy plans fail to address Scotland’s distinct demographic and economic needs, and completely disregard key sectors that we have relied upon during this health pandemic, including our valued social care workers.

“Despite repeated warnings from the Scottish Government, experts, businesses and representative organisations about the damage their plans would inflict on Scotland, the UK Government has ignored the evidence and plans to push ahead regardless.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our economy and it is vital that any future immigration system adequately addresses our future needs as a society. As we face the biggest economic crisis in decades, I urge the UK Government to meet with Devolved Administrations to ensure their proposals can be adapted to work for us all.”

Transport hub praised for lockdown efforts

EXPANDING Dumfriesshire company, Eardley International, have been praised for their friendship and support for lorry drivers during the Covid-19 lockdown.

 

 

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Whilst many facilities serving the UK roads network closed, 'The 'fechan Truckstop' remained open, observing strict distancing regulations.

 

Husband and wife Graham Eardley and Mhairi Harvey, who operate the busy Ecclefechan transport hub, were determined not to let their lorry driver customers down as they took a break from their essential work.

 

Restrictions prevented the couple from keeping the indoor cafe premises open but they ensured lorry drivers could have hot drinks and meals served outside or for them to eat in their cabs.

 

Staff at the truckstop received widespread praise on social media for their efforts to ensure the hard-pressed lorry drivers were made as comfortable as possible during rest breaks.

 

Graham said: "The HGV drivers were amongst the unsung heroes of lockdown. They literary kept the country going and, especially during the early days of restrictions, we did not think enough was being done UK-wide to support them."

 

The couple enlisted the help of Dumfriesshire constituency MSP Oliver Mundell to highlight the plight of drivers.

 

He and his father, local MP David Mundell toured the 12-acre site this week to personally thank Graham, Mhairi and the rest of the 15-strong workforce.

 

Oliver Mundell said: "The truckstop at Ecclefechan provided a vital service during an extremely challenging period. 

 

"Lorry drivers were doing work of national importance and yet describe encountering difficulty in accessing some of the basic services they needed during rest periods because of the number of facilities closed around the country."

 

The Truckstop site, near junction 19 on the M74, includes a lorry fuel station, truckwash, cafe, rest area, showers, TV room and wifi as well as being base for Graham and Mhairi's refrigerated lorry haulage business which specialises in conveying meat to mainland Europe.

 

Several other transport operators, employing around 150 staff, also use parts of the Ecclefechan site, which has a wind turbine at its heart, and the couple are currently using the remaining land to develop an additional secure lorry park.

 

The 'fechan Diner was reopened indoors on Wednesday with limited seating when the Scottish Government further eased restrictions.

Dumfries & Galloway looks to 2021 Royal Highland Show

Dumfries & Galloway and its famous Belted Galloway cows will take centre stage at next year’s Royal Highland Show.

 

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Plans had been well advanced for the region to host this year’s event which then had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In normal times the role of host rotates between the country’s eight regions. But due to this year’s exceptional circumstances the directors of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) have voted in favour of Dumfries & Galloway remaining as the host region for 2021.

The show, taking place at the Royal Highland Centre outside Edinburgh from 17-20 June, is the pinnacle of the agricultural calendar and a showcase for the best of rural life and business.

The presidential team, led by broadcaster and Lord Lieutenant of Dumfries, Fiona Armstrong, welcomed the news as an opportunity for farmers, businesses, artists and others to highlight all that’s south west Scotland has to offer.

Fiona, who will now continue as RHASS Honorary President, said: “This is wonderful news and such a boost for Dumfries & Galloway. And we all need a boost at the moment. 

“We would like to thank the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland for their generosity in allowing this to happen. A chance like only comes around every eight years. 

“We had ambitious plans to highlight the region and it would have been a great shame if those had come to nothing.

“This year’s show was a ‘virtual’ one – and very successful. Next year’s will hopefully be the real deal allowing us to showcase D&G as a place of excellence for its food, farming, coast, countryside, art, culture, heritage and tourism. 

“And we are looking forward to the region’s much-loved Belties having a starring role.”

DG Unlimited (Dumfries & Galloway’s Chamber for the Arts) is working with Fiona and her team to provide a platform for the region’s artists and makers at the show. There will be specially commissioned artworks, including multi-coloured life size cut outs of cows which will be displayed round the showground so visitors can take “A Selfie With A Beltie”.

Cathy Agnew, DG Unlimited Chair, said: “Dumfries & Galloway has a large and vibrant creative community and the Royal Highland Show is a wonderful chance for us to help bring some of this immense artistic talent to the attention of a diverse national and international audience, at the same time as encouraging young people to learn more about their own region.”

There are also plans for the former servicemen who have developed the Dumfries Veterans’ Garden to create a special garden at the show. 

The strapline for the 2021 show will be “Dumfries & Galloway – Let’s Grow Together” – reflecting the region’s ambition to build on its many strengths.

These include being the heartland of Scotland’s milk production. It is also home to Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town, the Artists’ Town of Kirkcudbright and the Food Town of Castle Douglas. And Gretna is the UK’s weddings capital.

Bill Gray, RHASS Chairman, added: “We are really looking forward to shining a spotlight on Dumfries & Galloway at the 2021 Royal Highland Show. The Presidential team has some big plans for showcasing their region.

“With prizewinning livestock, gorgeous landscapes and top-quality food and drink producers, the region has much to celebrate – Dumfries & Galloway generates enormous value to Scotland’s rural sectors, and we can’t wait to display this to everyone this year.”