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


Scottish business confidence rebounds in December

Bank of Scotland’s Business Barometer for December 2019 shows:


  • Overall confidence for Scottish firms rose 17 points in the past month to 11%
  • Economic optimism in Scotland stood at 9%, 20 points above last month
  • Firms’ confidence in their own business prospects was 12%, compared with -2% in November


Scottish business confidence bounced back in December, jumping 17 points to 11%, according to the latest Business Barometer from Bank of Scotland.

Companies in Scotland report higher confidence in their business prospects at 12% and higher economic optimism at 9%. Together, this gives an overall confidence reading of 11%.

The results for December represent the end of a five-month downwards trend in Scottish business confidence. The last time Bank of Scotland’s Business Barometer results showed positive business confidence was in June, when it registered 17%.

Across the UK, overall confidence edged up one point to 10% as firms’ confidence in their own prospects rose six points to 18%, although their optimism in the economy fell to 2%.

The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends both regionally and nationwide. This month’s survey was carried out before the result of last week’s General Election was known.

Fraser Sime, regional director for Scotland at Bank of Scotland Commercial Banking, said: “It’s encouraging to measure such a healthy rise in Scottish business confidence as we close off 2019.

“Confidence has fluctuated this year as economic and political uncertainty gripped Scotland and the rest of the UK, but we hope December’s positive Barometer results will continue into 2020.

“The year looks likely to be another one that’s characterised by some volatility – be that domestically or globally. Whatever the road ahead, we will continue to be by the side of Scotland’s businesses, helping them capitalise on opportunities and overcome obstacles.”

Across Scotland, a net balance of 27% 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, down two points on a month ago.

Elsewhere, businesses’ hiring intentions showed that a net balance of 3% of businesses in the region expect to hire more staff during the next year, down four points on last month.

UK overview


Businesses in the West Midlands had the highest confidence for the third month running, at 23%, ahead of the East Midlands at 18%, and London at 16%.

Those in East of England were the least confident, with an overall confidence of -2%, 12 points below the national average.

In December, overall business confidence saw a marked improvement in the manufacturing sector, increasing 17 points to 27%. Confidence in the retail sector increased by one point to 22%, while confidence in the service sector stayed broadly steady at 4%. The construction sector saw a slight decrease of four points to 16%.

Paul Gordon, Managing Director for SME and Mid Corporates, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “UK SMEs are carrying pent-up demand. The West Midlands has had a particularly strong end to the year in terms of confidence and it is encouraging to see both Scotland and Northern Ireland posting the biggest overall confidence rises as 2019 rounds out.

“As with any monthly measure, there is a degree of fluctuation to be expected but what we know from the conversations we have with businesses up and down the UK is that their ambition remains strong and they crave economic and political conditions that reduce uncertainty.

“As we move into 2020 we will continue support them to grow and trade at home and overseas.”


Hann-Ju Ho, Senior Economist, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “As we come to the end of what has undoubtedly been a turbulent year, it is encouraging to see sustained increases in overall business confidence and the sharp improvement in manufacturing confidence.

“There is now clarity over the UK’s departure from the EU, but the focus will turn to whether a new trade agreement can be negotiated during the transition period which currently runs until the end of next year.”

Kirkcudbright Book Week Programme Announced

The programme has been announced for the first ever Kirkcudbright Book Week, which will run between Monday March 2 and Friday March 6, 2020.

The week is designed to celebrate the developing literary scene in Kirkcudbright and the wider Dumfries and Galloway area and includes a series of mainly free events featuring authors from the area.


Ian Patrick

Writers appearing over the week include children’s author Alan McClure, poet Chrys Salt, crime writers Jackie Baldwin, Ian Patrick and John Dean, who is also a children’s author, novelist Jessie M Page and The Gallery Writers, plus art historian Dr Jo Chapman Campbell, who will examine The Glasgow Boys in an event at Broughton House.



The week includes a celebration of World Book Day at Kircudbright Library on Thursday March 5 for younger writers and readers and at Broughton House the day before.

Also, an event held on Tuesday March 3 at 11am at The Galleries in St Mary Street will see extracts read from a new book. Kirkcudbright-based Gallery Writers have been inspired by the creative possibilities offered by the history of Crossmichael. Funded by the Board of the newly-established Crossmichael Heritage Centre, they have come together to create a collection of prose and poetry currently being compiled and will read extracts.

Kirkcudbright Book Week has been organised by a number of organisations and venues, which are featured in the programme.

Chris Walker, from the Selkirk Arms, one of the venues hosting events, said: “This is another string to the bow of Kirkcudbright, a marvellous itinerary which should bring book enthusiasts from all over the region and wider. We’re lucky to have so many talented authors living and working in Dumfries and Galloway.”

Another organisation supporting the book week is Dumfries and Galloway Council and  Councillor Andy Ferguson, Chair of the Council’s Communities Committee, said: “We’re delighted to support the Kirkcudbright Book Week by providing facilities to allow it to take place.  This sort of community event is exactly the type of inclusive event that our council looks to support communities in our region to run and is a fantastic example of community empowerment in action.”

Councillor John Martin, Vice Chair of the Communities committee, said: “The Kirkcudbright Book Week is something else for the community of Kirkcudbright to get their teeth into.  We have seen through the Festival of Light, the Tour of Britain and other community events that the town of Kirkcudbright is a fabulous host of such events.  I wish the organisers all the very best and would encourage all our locals, and visitors to check out the book week for themselves.”

Author John Dean, who lives in the area and is one of the organisers, said: “Kirkcudbright and the surrounding area is home to some talented writers and the book week is designed to celebrate their work. It should be exciting.”

You can find out more about Kirkcudbright Book Week by visiting

Facebook – search for Kirkcudbright Book Week

The Hunt is on for Scotland’s Next Hero Hacker

- Scottish Business Resilience Centre seeking new ethical hacking star to join its team -


SCOTLAND’S dedicated body for business resilience is on the hunt for its next ethical hacker hero to help fight the ever-growing threat of cybercrime.



The Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) is currently recruiting its next Chief Ethical Hacker, which will see them supporting Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Government to ensure Scottish businesses of all sizes are well-equipped against cyber-attacks.

The new recruit will also lead Curious Frank, a subdivision of SBRC which works with a team of student ethical hackers from Abertay University to ensure organisations are as cyber-resilient as possible by safely exposing risks and advising businesses on how to fill any gaps in their cyber-security.

Eamonn Keane, Head of Cyber Security and Innovation with SBRC, said: “We’re continuing to see a growing focus on the importance of cyber security and the value of ethical hacking in making SMEs more resilient to cyber-attacks.

“Our next Chief Ethical Hacker will lead our dedicated team working with businesses to break into their systems through methods they know criminal hackers are using, to help them learn how to fill any gaps in their security. The team also tests the effectiveness and resilience of the security systems businesses already have in place.

“We think this is a really exciting opportunity to join our expanding organisation and take on a significant role in reducing the threat of cybercrime to Scottish businesses.”

The desirable candidate will be responsible for training business leaders and staff, as well as delivering lectures and attending conferences to help small businesses with their cyber security concerns.

SBRC is ideally looking for an experienced graduate of ethical hacking or cybers security to fill the full-time role. He/she should be a natural team leader and confident in delivering presentations and lectures and explaining the complexities of cyber security to all types of businesses.

Interested candidates can apply via the S1 Jobs website:   

UK funding package for Scots farmers welcomed

Farmers in Dumfries and Galloway can plan for the new year with greater confidence and clarity as the UK prepares to leave the EU.


That reassurance was given this week by local MP Alister Jack as the UK Government confirmed they will provide nearly £3billion in Direct Payments support UK-wide in 2020.

Next year’s cash injection will replace funding under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as the UK leaves the EU.  

It will supplement remaining EU funding farmers are scheduled to receive, allowing Direct Payments for 2020 to continue at current levels.

Mr Jack, who is also Secretary of State for Scotland, predicted a more straightforward, fairer system as the UK was released from the constraints of the CAP.

He urged the Scottish Government, which was responsible for distributing agricultural support north of the border, to ensure a smooth delivery.

Mr Jack said: “Agriculture is vital to the Scottish economy and the UK Government is determined to help the industry flourish going forward, producing some of the world's best produce.

“The £473m UK Government support for Scottish farmers for 2020 is in addition to the recently announced injection of more than £211m, £160m of which will resolve the issue of historic convergence allocations.

“Released from the remoter, more bureaucratic EU CAP, we will be able to provide the support that allows Scottish farmers to shape a better future, reflecting our unique and varied agricultural land, climate and environments.”


Local Labour politicians Colin Smyth MSP and Cllr Adam Wilson have called on the UK Government to intervene and stop the scandalous rail fare increases that will hit passengers using Lockerbie Train Station from 2 January 2020.


Rail fares across the UK are set to go up by an average of 2.7% from 2 January. However, commuters travelling to work in Edinburgh from Lockerbie will face a £7.50 hike for a Day Return meaning it will now cost £27.50 for a day return to the capital, an increase of 37.5% . The price of an Open Return will increase to £39.90 from the previous £31.20 fare, an increase of 27.8%.

These scandalous fare increases come as services have gone from bad to worse at Lockerbie Train Station. The busy 10.32am service to Edinburgh was axed for five months despite the train still passing through Lockerbie Station and passengers with mobility scooters have been told they will need to apply for a pass to take their scooter on new trains on a journey by journey basis for the foreseeable future rather than be able to apply for the previous annual pass.

Both Colin Smyth MSP and Councillor Adam Wilson are calling on the Secretary of State for Transport to intervene and put a stop to these scandalous rail fare increases.

Scottish Labour Transport Spokesperson and South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said, “The performance of Transpennine Express simply goes from bad to abysmal. This latest price hike proposed by the private company is a scandal and means commuters now face a near 40% price hike.

The UK Government regulate services between Lockerbie and Edinburgh and must urgently intervene and put a stop to passengers from Lockerbie Train Station being exploited for private profits. Local MP David Mundell should join my call in urging his Conservative Government to intervene and stop this scandalous price hike on local commuters.

This scandalous price hike backs up my call for First Group to be stripped of the Transpennine Express franchise and for the services to come under public control.”

Annandale North Councillor Adam Wilson, whose ward covers Lockerbie Train Station said, “For too long passengers at Lockerbie Train Station have had to put up with overcrowding, delays and cancellations. Many people chose to live here because the train station allows them to commute to Glasgow and Edinburgh for work.

This scandalous price hike will see local commuters pay nearly 40% just to get to work and is a kick in the teeth for passengers who have already suffered months of delays and cancellations. The UK Government must stand up for local passengers rather than the profits of private rail operators.”