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NEW YEAR MESSAGE SCOTTISH CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE

It’s not just the start of a new year but a new decade. A hundred years ago the so-called “roaring twenties” conjured a decade of prosperity, modernity and the advent of moving pictures. The question is, can we make the next ten years a bustling new jazz age in Scotland?

 

 

Liz-Cameron-Chief-Executive-Scottish-Chambers-of-CommerceJPGWe have certainly come through a bruising 12 months, which topped the years of uncertainty that followed in the wake of UK’s slow lurch towards the exit door of the European Union. This disruption came hot on the heels of the banking crisis, which did so much to shake up economic stability in the first decade of the millennium. During this time, Scottish businesses have been battered and are crying out for some much-needed consistency and regularity.

The only constant through the turmoil of recent years has been the rapid pace of technological change. And while I am not one to make predictions, I would put good money down that digital transformation  – driven by data and artificial intelligence – will only accelerate. Likewise, businesses need to put their shoulders to the wheel if we are going to meet the most significant challenge facing citizens across the globe, climate change.

Businesses in Scotland will need to dig deep to embrace the upheavals the coming era brings. Thanks to Brexit, these include an urgent need to internationalise and target new markets for sales and growth. Business and government now must work more closely together than ever as the rules of global trade are being re-written. Business needs to be at the table while they are.

There is also a massive skills challenge to meet both for future entrants to the employment market as well as current employees. We need a major shift in mindset so that education and training is seen as a lifelong effort. We need to train and prepare the workforce before industries are disrupted or become obsolete. Otherwise we will continue to lose out on valuable productivity growth, not to mention waste our most precious resource – human capital and potential.

Governments in both Westminster and Holyrood must do everything in their power to enable businesses to thrive and grow. There are key areas that our parliamentary leaders must address to ensure businesses and the economy are able to step confidently into the future.

As 2020 dawns, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce call on the Scottish Government to deliver a happy new year to businesses by confirming that the small business bonus is not under threat,  that measures are taken to ensure local authorities aren’t given leeway to create 32 unlevel playing fields for businesses, and that the continual cry of businesses to sort our business rates are urgently actioned. 

We further urge Scottish Government to think very carefully about the future of the ScotRail franchise so that there is no momentum lost in delivering the continued improvements we have been experiencing to vital transport services. We also need to ensure that the signals sent out to investors in infrastructure – including in the transport sector – rings loud and clear that Scotland is truly open for business.

Significant aspects of our competitive edge are in the hands of elected parliamentarians. They must put jobs and business high on their list of policy and operational priorities, committing to a major clamp down on the rising cost of doing business. There is a quietly growing perception that business needs to be taxed or even punished for growing and creating jobs, which is driving policies that make business investment more challenging. Maintaining and honing competitive edge will be essential if Scottish employers are to compete globally and tackle the challenges we all face.

2020 must be the year when both governments refocus and balance their energy, expertise and support to domestic priorities. We urgently need an environment where we can grow and compete.

MSP Wishes DGChamber Members - Happy New Year

MAY I start by wishing all DGChamber members a very Happy New Year and I hope you have had a fun-filled festive season. What a crazy year it has been in the world of politics (perhaps the only thing we can all agree on is that we’re glad it is over)? 

 Oliver Mundell MSP (New Year Lifestyle)

The past year has also been an eventful one for me personally -- welcoming my daughter into the world. 

 

It really has been life-changing for me and has brought a whole new perspective.  It is the best gift I could have dreamed of -- even if it doesn’t always feel that way at 3 am. Who thought politics was a tough job? 

 

As I look forward to the year ahead, I can only hope it will prove to be a less divisive and unsettling one politically.  The past year has seen little progress on the issues that matter most to local people and has instead seen politicians talking to -- and often shouting at each other.

 

Perhaps it is turning 30 but I can’t help feeling my youthful optimism is fading. 

 

Sadly, I don’t hold out too much hope that 2020 will be the year we put constitutional wrangling behind us and focus on health, education and transport in the Scottish Parliament. 

 

On a more positive note, regardless of what happens nationally, I am confident our region will continue to pull together at a community level. 

 

It is the work of local people that makes Dumfriesshire such a great place to live. Let’s continue that spirt into 2020. 

MP urges Minister to 'haul train company over the coals'

NEWLY re-elected MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale David Mundell has called on UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to 'haul train operator TransPennine Express over the coals.' 

David Mundell Transpenine

Mr Mundell highlighted to the Minister 'appalling and unacceptable levels of service'  at Lockerbie Station in recent weeks culminating in numerous cancellations when a new timetable was launched this week.

A long-time campaigner for improved services, the local MP has written an urgent letter to Mr Shapps.

Mr Mundell said: "TransPennine have failed to provide the service they are required to for local rail users and treated Lockerbie Station passengers to a lamentable service in recent weeks. 

"Many local people have been left stranded at Lockerbie unable to get to their destinations in Glasgow and Edinburgh or even to get home. 

"And whilst some glitches might have been expected when the new timetable was introduced this week, wholesale cancellations cannot be justified. 

"I have highlighted these service failings and TransPennine's poor customer service response to Grant Shapps, as Transport Secretary, and asked him to call in TransPennine, read them the riot act and demand they explain themselves for recent service failures and demonstrate to him how they are going to guarantee the services run as required in the future."

Mr Mundell called on TransPennine to apologise to Lockerbie travellers.

But he continued: "That's not enough though. What they want is the certainty that services in the timetable will run and that they will be able to get to their destination and back.  

"We have worked so hard to get improved services at Lockerbie and, as I've told both the TransPennine and Mr Shapps, I don't want to see those improvements undermined by poor reliability."

Supporting Scottish farmers on water abstraction returns

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency today (Wednesday 18 January 2019) confirmed that Scottish farmers and landowners who hold a water abstraction license would have until 31 January 2020 to submit annual returns.

The returns, a mandatory requirement for license holders, ensure that their abstraction of water doesn’t impact on the ecology of Scotland’s rivers and reservoirs. The data is also a key indicator of compliance and forms an important component of SEPA’s annual Compliance Assessment Scheme.

The move recognises the impact of external factors such as extreme weather and EU Exit preparations impacting farmers.  It also acknowledges that whilst a commonly understood annual deadline, an annual reminder issued by the agency in previous years had been delayed.

Ian Buchanan, Chief Officer at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, said:

“The data that water abstractors supply is really important in helping understand the state of Scotland’s environment.  The process is both quick and simple, involving the downloading and return of a document at www.sepa.org.uk/regulations/water/abstractions/#five which can either be posted or emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

“We’re grateful to those who have already completed their returns or plan to do so by the end of December.  For those who need a little more time, we’re here to help.  We’ll be writing to abstractors to advise of the extra time and support available and our colleagues are here to help on 03000 99 66 99.”

 NFUS Environmental Regulations Policy Manager, Jenny Brunton, said:

“NFUS appreciates that SEPA has extended the water abstraction licence deadline return until the 31 January 2020 in recognition of the low return rate and current pressures on Scottish growers.

“It is important that data returns are submitted to SEPA in order to allow them to make an accurate assessment of the impact of irrigation on watercourses. Even if no water has been abstracted for any period, a nil return must still be submitted to SEPA using the abstraction data returns form.”

“We remind all Scottish growers that a failure to submit data returns is considered a non-compliance with the conditions of the licence and could affect payments under the Basic Payment Scheme or result in a Cross-Compliance inspection.” 

Further information on abstraction returns is available at www.sepa.org.uk/regulations/water/abstractions/#five

COUNCILLOR CALLS ON TRAIN OPERATORS TO GET ROUND THE TABLE AND HEAR DIRECTLY FROM PASSENGERS

Annandale North ward Councillor Adam Wilson has called on train operators Transpennine and Avanti to get round the table and hear concerns directly from affected passengers.

 

The call comes as a meeting of the South West Scotland Transport Partnership (SWESTRANS) on Friday 13th December agreed to re-establish the Lockerbie Station Liaison Group. The Liaison Group last met in 2014. The re-establishment of the Group will provide an opportunity for passengers to get around the table with Scot Rail who manage Lockerbie Train Station, Frist Transpennine Express and the West coast mainline franchisee, Avanti West Coast.

The re-establishment of the Group comes as passengers have been faced with frequent delays and cancellations on services from Lockerbie Train Station. The website, On Time Trains, has ranked Lockerbie Train Station as 2,619th out of the 2,621 train stations in the whole of the UK.

 

adam wilson

Councillor Adam Wilson, whose Annandale North ward covers Lockerbie Train Station said, “Passengers from Lockerbie Train Station are being failed by train operators whose services are now plagued with cancellations and delays. At the weekend 41% of services from the station were cancelled on Saturday causing havoc and on a daily basis passengers can expect a handful of services to be cancelled.

I, and passengers from Lockerbie, have no confidence in the train operators serving Lockerbie. That is why they must accept the invitation and get round the table as part in the Lockerbie Station Liaison Group to listen to directly from passengers who are affected by cancellations and delays every single day.

The strategic importance of Lockerbie Train Station to our region can not be understated. It is a scandal that the UK Government, Scot Rail and train operators have neglected services and allowed it to be ranked in the bottom 3 of all train stations in the UK. Urgent action must be taken to get services back on track, and I look forward to the Lockerbie Station Liaison Group holding train operators to account.”