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

 

MSP SLAMS POLICE SCOTLAND PLANS TO CENTRALISE DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY SURVEILLANCE OFFICER POSTS

South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has slammed plans by Police Scotland to axe a police surveillance unit based in Dumfries and Galloway, and move the posts to the central belt.

 

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According to media reports, the local unit is to be wound up, even though their role includes monitoring organised crime gangs entering Scotland from England via the M74 and from Northern Ireland through the ferry ports at Cainryan.

Colin Smyth will be demanding answers on this worrying development from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday as part of First Minister’s Questions.

The news comes at a time official figures show that Dumfries and Galloway is the worst rural region in Scotland for drug-related crime. According to the Government’s own report there were 1,388 cases in 2018/19, a rate of 93.3 per 10,000 residents. In the previous year that figure was 1,179, a rate of 79 per 10,000.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said: “This is a shocking development and will have a huge impact on tackling crime in Dumfries and Galloway, and further afield. 

“The Police Scotland surveillance team based in Dumfries has been a vital tool in tackling organised crime and is particularly important because it covers two key gateways into Scotland, the M74, a main route for drugs coming north, and the Port of Cairnryan near Stranraer.

“This is yet another shameful example of the growing centralisation of Police Scotland which I have repeatedly warned against and another blow to local policing. The movement of specialist police officers out of areas like Dumfries and Galloway and into the central belt is not only a loss a jobs from a local area utterly forgotten about by this Government, it has an enormous impact on the safety of my constituents. 

“It is time for the Scottish Government to realise that its constant centralisation is putting lives at risk. The message they send to young people in our region is that if you want a career in Police Scotland you need to move to the cities.

“I will be demanding answers about this from the First Minister on Thursday in the Scottish Parliament during First Minister’s Questions.”

Recruitment to the Borderlands Economic Forum

Members of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy and Resource (E&R) Committee, 30 Jan, will hear details on the process being used for the selection of members to the Borderlands Economic Forum and the structure of the Forum.

 

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 The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal is a unique collaboration that brings together the five cross-border local authorities - Carlisle City Council, Cumbria County Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council.

 As part of the formal governance structure of the Borderlands Deal, the Partnership Board agreed to establish an Economic Forum to enable the private sector to contribute to the further development and delivery of the Deal.

 The Economic Forum will have 14 members made up of 10 from the private sector with 2 from each local authority area and 4 additional places with 2 reserved for LEP representatives and 2 reserved for South of Scotland Enterprise or other Scottish body. All members of the Forum will have the same voting rights. However, given that the chair of the Forum will serve on the Partnership Board, only the 10 representatives appointed directly by the partner councils shall be eligible to be appointed as the chair or vice- chair of the Forum.

 The 10 private sector places will be advertised on the Borderlands website, www.borderlandsgrowth.com/ ,  and through additional publicity. Applicants will be separated by geography and passed to each of the partner councils who will create its own short list and arrange interviews. Every effort will be made to recruit one male and one female member from each council area. Once each local authority has selected, names will be submitted to the Partnership Board for approval and to confirm the appointments. The Forum will appoint its own chair and vice-chair to serve on the Partnership Board.

 Chair of Dumfries and Galloway’s Economy and Resources Committee, Rob Davidson said: “It’s currently early days, and Members at this committee are being asked to approve the interview and selection process,  but I would encourage all those who are interested to apply for one of these places when they become available. We need the best people to bring their experience and help shape our region’s economic future.”

 Vice Chair, Archie Dryburgh said: “Interested individuals should check local press and the Borderlands website so they don’t miss these great opportunities. Make sure you are involved and have your voice heard.”

Chaplecross site to be transformed

Members of the Council’s Economy and Resources (E&R) Committee (30 Jan) will be presented with an update on the transformation of the Chaplecross site. The report includes information on the timeline of planned activities and milestones as an initial baseline for the CX Programme detailed planning.

 

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Efforts to develop the 200ha Chapelcross site and deliver a transformational proposal have been ongoing for a number of years. We now have a collection of valuable knowledge to support beneficial uses for the land and to help develop possible future opportunities.

The new CX Programme seeks to “re-focus” the CX site proposition transform the site and will be linked to the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal. The objective for the site includes the creation of a large-scale mixed-use employment site for Borderlands, which will create wider economic impact. This must support the development of green energy production, storage and distribution solutions. 100% beneficial use of the site over the full decommissioning period to 2095 (in line with Energy Act 2004 requirements) and beyond will be required, as well as making a significant contribution to the achievement of UK’s 2050 net zero carbon target.

Vice Chair, Archie Dryburgh said: “The outcome is not just about what happens within the site boundary, it is also about the role of collaboration with others in the delivery of a shared vision of a brighter future, and the added value that can bring. The CX Programme needs to be ready for a quick start on day 1 following the Borderlands Growth Deal award. This is essential if we are to take full advantage of the 10 to 15 year funding envelope provided by the Deal.”

Chair of E&R Committee, Rob Davidson said: “This is a major project, especially when combined with our Borderlands Deal. We are looking long-term, the work we do today is the foundation for the full transformation of the land between now and 2095. Developing this huge site will show the potential prosperity of our region. By realising the land’s maximum potential, we will be encouraging economic growth, attracting further investment, not only around the East, but across the rest of D&G, attracting new companies into the area, bringing employment for local people. “

Gretna Green Supports Local Economy

The award-winning family business, Gretna Green Ltd continue to move forward with the nest stage of the privately invested, multi-million-pound renovation of the Historic Gretna Hall, which has stood in the heart of Gretna Green Village since it was built in 1710.


Gretna Green Ltd acquired the iconic hotel in 2016, where they carried out a successful rebrand and renovation of the historic building. Now in its third year of operation as a member of the Gretna Green family of hotels, (which includes Smiths Hotel, Gretna Green and Greens at Gretna Hotel), Chairman, Alasdair Houston has spearheaded further improvements to Gretna Hall Hotel in his relentless commitment to elevating Gretna Green as a wold-class destination for leisure, weddings, business and a base from where to discover what Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders have to offer.


This next stage of the renovation project will concentrate on the development of guest accommodation blending the character of a substantial historical building, with the comfort you would expect from a contemporary hotel.


This project comes five years after the successful refurbishment and turnaround of Garden House to Greens at Gretna Hotel and sees Gretna Green Ltd appoint local businesses, architects and trades people, supporting the local economy, securing existing and creating new job opportunities in the rural community.


Of the project, Alasdair Houston says:
“It is vitally important for me not only to continually develop our family business and ensure we constantly surprise and delighted our customs, but also to ensure the Investment we make contributes to a sustainable future for the community. By continuing to adapt and improve our hotels and our visitor attraction, using the skill and expertise of local tradesmen and women, we are able to support local businesses and add further career opportunities to the local people.


Our development plans aim to attract more visitors to the region, offering outstanding accommodation options and excellent customer service standards at every turn.”


Gretna Hall is the most recent addition to the family of Hotels owned and operated by Gretna Green Ltd. These, in partnership with the five-star visitor attraction, The Famous Blacksmiths Shop, welcome over 850k annually to destination Gretna Green. As this number continues to grow, so does the opportunity for creating new jobs and avenues for local suppliers of food and beverage products to reach international audiences. Gretna Green Ltd is committed to the continued development and growth of the local economy and a sustainable future for the South of Scotland.

CONFIDENCE DROP FOR SCOTTISH BUSINESSES

Business confidence in Scotland fell 15 points during January to -4%, according to the latest Business Barometer from Bank of Scotland Commercial Banking.

Companies in Scotland reported lower confidence in their business prospects at -2%. When taken alongside their views of the economy, this gives an overall confidence of -4%.

Businesses’ hiring intentions showed that a net balance of 3% of businesses in Scotland expected to reduce staffing levels during the next year, compared to 3% expecting to take on more staff last month.

Across the UK, overall confidence rose 13 points to 23% as firms’ optimism in the economy soared 22 points to 24%, while confidence in their own prospects increased four points to 22%.

The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends both regionally and nationwide.

Fraser Sime, regional director for Scotland at Bank of Scotland, said: “It’s evident that levels of uncertainty among Scottish businesses remain elevated. Despite this month’s dip in confidence, it’s encouraging to see opportunity on the horizon, including the COP26 United Nations climate change summit, which is being hosted in Glasgow later this year. That will shine a spotlight on sustainability in Scotland and the great businesses that are working to become greener.

“We’ve also announced our own ambition to reduce the carbon emissions we finance by more than 50% by 2030. This will promote the kind of sustainable practices that will help Scottish firms prosper for years to come.”

Across Scotland, a net balance of 19% of businesses said they felt that the UK’s exit from the European Union was having a negative impact on their expectations for business activity, up eight points on a month ago.

Businesses in London had the highest confidence at 38% this month, ahead of the South West at 34%, and the East Midlands at 31%.

National overview

 

In January, overall business confidence saw a marked improvement in the construction and services sector with construction increasing 15 points to 27%, while services increased 17 points to 21%. Confidence in the retail sector increased by two point to 24%, while the manufacturing sector saw a decrease of six points to 21%

Paul Gordon, Managing Director for SME and Mid Corporates, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “It is hugely encouraging to see a significant increase in business confidence for firms up and down the UK. London had a particularly strong start to the year, which could be businesses’ positive reaction to greater political and economic certainty. It is also encouraging to see both the South West and East of England posting significant strides. However, Scotland saw a sharp decline, moving the region into negative sentiment. The overall buoyed results are also reflected by improvements in three of the four sectors and we hope that more businesses plan for growth as we continue into 2020.”

 

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Hann-Ju Ho, senior economist for Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “After a turbulent 2019, it is encouraging to see a solid rise in overall business confidence to start the new decade. These results, if sustained, could signal a stronger economic growth at the start of 2020, although risks to the central outlook remain.”