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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.

 

Confidence Dips for Scottish Businesses

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

  • Overall confidence for firms in Scotland fell three points in the past month to -6%
  • Firms’ confidence in their own business prospects was -2%, compared with 2% in October

Business confidence in Scotland fell three points during November to -6%, according to the latest Business Barometer from Bank of Scotland Commercial Banking.

Companies in the region report lower confidence in their business prospects, which fell two points to -4%. When taken alongside their views of the economy, this gives an overall confidence of -6%.

Despite this, businesses’ hiring intentions show that a net balance of 7% of businesses in Scotland expect to hire more staff during the next year, up three points on last month.

Across the UK, overall confidence rose three points to 9% as firms’ optimism about the economy rose 10 points to 7%, although their confidence in their own prospects dropped three points to 12%.

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 Commercial Banking, said: “Unpredictability is a factor we’re all facing as we navigate through the current political climate. Whatever 2020 holds, we remain by the side of business to support firms build confidence and reach their full growth potential.

“This year, we pledged to lend £1.6billion to Scottish businesses to help them capitalise on the opportunities they face and we will continue to work with them next year, when we hope to see greater clarity and higher levels of confidence returning across the country.”

Across Scotland, a net balance of 29% 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 five points on a month ago.

Regional picture

 

Businesses in the West Midlands once again showed the most confidence, at 24%, ahead of London at 20%, and East Midlands at 14%.

Those in Scotland were the least confident, with an overall confidence of -6%, 15 points below the national average.

UK overview

Overall business confidence improved in manufacturing, retail and services and stayed broadly steady in construction. The largest increase was in the retail sector, rising six points to 21%, while the construction sector remained high at 16% despite a slight decline of two points.

Sentiment in the manufacturing sector rose to a four-month high of 10%, while services confidence also increased for a second month, by four points to 4%. 

Paul Gordon, Managing Director for SME and Mid Corporates, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Overall, the national outlook continues to pick up with London seeing a step change from last month as business sentiment rose in the capital. It is also reassuring that overall confidence improved again in three out of the four sectors.

“While the services sector’s confidence remains low, it’s important to note it did increase for a second month and hopefully those businesses may consider some investment for growth. Businesses will hope the political and economic environment supports a further increase in confidence as we move towards the end of the year.”

 

Hann-Ju Ho, senior economist for Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “The third consecutive increase in overall business confidence is positive for the UK as economic optimism reaches the highest level since January.

"While concerns about the impact of the UK leaving the EU continued to ease slightly, hiring intentions remain broadly stable and it will be interesting to see how this trend continues towards the end of 2019 and into the start of next year.”

 

Borderlands Partnership Conference Success

It is anticipated that delivery of schemes under the £394.5million Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal will start next year - delegates at the second Borderlands Conference have been told.

The hugely successful and oversubscribed conference at Slaley Hall in Northumberland showcased the steps the partnership has taken so far on this unique Deal and gave stakeholders the opportunity to participate and influence the next steps.

Earlier this year the five councils which make up the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal signed the ‘Heads of Terms’, securing £85m from the Scottish Government, £265m from UK Government and £44.5m from the local authorities.

The Borderlands Partnership includes Carlisle City Council, Cumbria County Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council. This is proving to be a positive, progressive collaborative partnership, removing country and regional borders attendees were told.

The event attracted more than 300 delegates, who heard that detailed work is now taking place on business cases, which would then need to be approved by government before money is released for projects - with delivery scheduled to start next year.

The organisers main message – ‘The Borderlands Area is open for business’

 

Specific funding has been confirmed for some projects, including £8 million for a Dairy Innovation Centre in Dumfries and Galloway, £10 million to support natural capital innovation across the Borderlands region, £19 million for the Mountain Biking Innovation Centre at Glentress in the Borders, £15 million for Carlisle Station in Cumbria,  £5 million for Alnwick Garden in Northumberland. A feasibility study into the extension of the Borders Railway from Carlisle to Tweedbank will also be funded to the tune of £10 million.

The Deal will also mean an investment of £31 million in green energy projects, with much needed improvements in digital and mobile connectivity across the region. The importance of towns will be the focus of a place investment programme linked to  Destination and Business Infrastructure investments. There will also be £7 million to develop key skills needs to boost the visitor economy in the South of Scotland.

Director at the Northern Powerhouse Henri Murison also addressed the conference and said the cross-border deal would allow local authorities to work together to lever funding which would benefit all their communities.

A spokesperson for the Borderlands Partnership said: “The fact more than 300 delegates attended from across the north of England and south of Scotland shows how much passion and commitment there is for this deal. We still face challenges, but we need to send home the message: the Borderlands economy isn’t broken, it’s just different and requires investment.”

There was a series of workshops covering place and destination, energy, digital, business infrastructure and natural capital which was a great opportunity to share ideas and help shape the final deal.

It is anticipated the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal will deliver an extra 5,500 job opportunities, attract over four million extra tourists and unlock investment in towns across the area, boosting the region’s economy by £1.1 billion.

Dumfries business wins Depot of the Year for Scotland and Ireland

Lines Distribution, based in Dumfries, has fought off strong competition from across Scotland to be crowned The APC’s “Scotland and Ireland Depot of the Year” for the second year in succession.

The APC is the UK’s largest independent delivery network, with 103 locations across the country.

 

Lines Distribution, led by Malcolm and Gill Lines, has been helping Scottish small businesses grow and prosper for the past 22 years. It received the hotly contested award in recognition of its service to SMEs across the country over the past year.

In the past year alone, the logistics company has seen a growth of over 15 per cent in the volume of parcels it delivers for approximately 220 businesses.

This growth has partly been driven by a surge in farming customers. Operating in a rural region famous for its produce and livestock, Lines Distribution has been helping the farming industry to diversify and embrace online channels to reach an ever-expanding customer base.

One such business is Loch Arthur Creamery who has relied on Lines Distribution as the sole logistics provider for its fresh cheese for over 10 years. Malcolm and his team provide reliable next day delivery for Loch Arthur Creamery’s mail order and wholesale cheese businesses, where their speed of delivery is essential to the transportation of perishable goods.

Jacqueline Wilson from Loch Arthur Creamery explains how the support is particularly important around the Christmas peak season: "Mail order cheese baskets are a very popular Christmas gift, so the two to three weeks before Christmas can be an especially busy season. Lines Distribution efficient and reliable support during this time helps us take the maximum number of orders possible.

"Lines Distribution are like an extension of ourselves. The ability to pick up the phone to the Dumfries depot and know I'll be speaking to someone local, who knows our business and how we operate is a major advantage. It takes a lot of pressure off." 

The business also remains active in the local community, having sponsored Dumfries Rugby Club for over 15 years as well as The Big Burns Supper – the largest Burns Night celebration in the world.

Malcolm Lines, Depot Principal at Lines Distribution, said: “To win The APC’s Scotand and Ireland Depot of the Year award for the second year in a row is a testament to the hard work of our team, and their dedication in helping small businesses across Scotland grow. Our region is rich with innovative, enthusiastic companies that produce world-class products for an eager audience of consumers. To play a small role in their development and success remains a true privilege.”

Jonathan Smith, Chief Executive of The APC, said: “As we celebrate our 25th Anniversary, we are recognising the depots and people that make our network truly exceptional. Once again, Lines Distribution absolutely deserves this accolade, as a much valued partner to its customers across Scotland and a respected member of The APC’s network.

The ADM awards recognised the outstanding achievements of employees and depots across the network. Alongside Lines Distribution’s award, six other depots were crowned as the network’s best regional depots across the UK, judged on their proven track record of exceptional service for people and businesses in the local area. Individuals were also celebrated: Carl Davies from Hertfordshire Overnight won “Van Driver of the Year” and Agne Fellows from The APC’s Cannock Hub won “Employee of the Year”.

Cow with calf dairy farming viable at scale

A three year pilot by an organic dairy farm to test a radical new approach to dairy farming has concluded. Rainton Farm in south west Scotland, run by David and Wilma Finlay, has now committed to continuing with their cow with calf dairy farming system permanently after being satisfied of the long term financial and environmental viability of the approach. 

In conventional dairy farming calves are removed from their mothers, usually within 24 hours of birth, and are reared separately. At Rainton Farm, whose products are marketed as The Ethical Dairy, the calves are reared by their mums till five to six months of age. During this time they can suckle, develop maternal bonds and express natural behaviour. 

 

David Finlay said:

“We have been working towards this system for more than a decade, and in late 2016 we gave ourselves a three year deadline to either prove it could work or to quit.  Cow with calf dairy farming has been done on a small scale before, but to the best of our knowledge we are the first dairy farm in the world to make this work at a family farm scale. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it.

“Three years in I can say with absolute certainty that this system works.  It works for the cows who have demonstrated a marked reduction in stress, improvement in health and higher than expected levels of productivity. It works for the calves who thrive being reared by their mothers, growing twice as quickly as before. It also works for us and the farm staff, with reduced input costs and a highly motivated farm team.     

“In simple terms what we are doing is simplifying and de-intensifying dairy farming. We’re working with nature and with the animals’ natural instincts to create an ecological, grass-based farming system, producing highly nutritious food with a positive environmental impact.”

The Ethical Dairy brand launched in 2018 and the Finlays have seen interest in their farming system rocket. Earlier this year David was named Farmer of the Year at the prestigious Ceva Animal Welfare Awards, and the farm hosted the UK’s first Ethical Farming Conference to showcase international best practice in regenerative and ecological agriculture. Consumer interest in their cheese was so high they had to bring forward a planned production expansion to meet demand.

To mark the conclusion of the three year pilot, The Ethical Dairy has released a video and a blog telling the story of their farming system through the experience of one cow.  The 3 year old heifer was one of the first cows born into the system and raised her first calf this summer. The video can be viewed on The Ethical Dairy’s social media channels and on You Tube at https://youtu.be/lAT9mVjyNMk .

Wilma Finlay said:

“We didn’t embark on this journey as a marketing stunt or in response to topical concerns. Ten years ago very few people were talking about the challenges in dairy farming, in fact it’s only very recently that we’ve seen a surge in public interest in farming practices and a resulting increase in veganism.

“We developed this system because we were deeply concerned about the environment and the direction of travel of the industry.  We wanted to see whether it was possible to create a different system of dairy farming; one that puts the environment, high animal welfare and job satisfaction at the very heart of everything we do.”

Dumfries & Galloway, where the Finlays’ farm is located, is home to 45% of Scotland’s dairy industry. Introducing a radically different dairy model in the heart of one of the UK’s biggest dairy regions has not been without challenge.  David added:

“We know that many people in the farming industry think we’re crazy - in fact they’d probably use much stronger language than that.  I understand their annoyance at us, but the industry needs to respond to public concern.  There are powerful, global vested interests who are currently demonising all beef and dairy. Sticking our heads in the sand in the hope it all blows over is just not going to work. 

“Grass-based regenerative farming systems can deliver incredibly positive environmental outcomes, as well as nutritious, high quality food. Scotland needs to lead the way in pioneering a grass-based regenerative system of agriculture that is as sustainable, in all senses, as it is productive. We now have very exciting results from our cow with calf model, and we are looking forward to sharing our findings with the wider industry.”

Rainton Farm is now working with a cross-sectoral innovation project that will undertake an audit of their system and disseminate key aspects of their cow with calf system to other farmers. The project will explore aspects such as overcoming barriers, financial modelling, benefits and market information to support potential new entrants to the system. Farmers who are interested in finding out more about becoming involved in the project are invited to contact David Finlay directly.

More information about The Ethical Dairy and its products can be found at www.theethicaldairy.co.uk on Twitter on @theethicaldairy and on Facebook @EthicalDairy

Scottish Chambers of Commerce supports £3 million deal to make whisky in China

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) has hailed a plan to build a whisky distillery in Inner Mongolia worth more than £3 million to suppliers in Scotland.

The deal follows a series of SCC-led events which welcomed business groups from Inner Mongolia to Scotland, under the SCC Network’s International Trade Partnership.

The Convention was the first time the bi-annual event was hosted in the UK. In addition to the business deal, SCC signed a business co-operation agreement with the Inner Mongolian General Chambers of Commerce which supported the transaction.

David Valentine MBE, owner of Valentine International LLP, agreed a six figure contract to manage the design and build of the region’s first whisky distillery on behalf of the MengTai Group Co, to be based in Orbos.

Mr Valentine, based in Forfar, has said at least two other Scottish whisky equipment companies are in the final stages coming on board the project which is expected to be worth over £3 million. The agreement was reached after attending the 15th World Chinese Entrepreneurs’ Convention with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce President Tim Allan and Chief Executive Liz Cameron OBE. The event was held last month in London and hosted around 3,000 Chinese and Chinese national business representatives from 80 countries.

 

 

Dr Liz Cameron OBE, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:“This is great news for Scotland and an early win for our new International Trade Partnership programme which our Network operates in partnership with the Scottish Government. 

“These opportunities were identified as a direct result of SCC hosting a business group in Scotland from the Government of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region. This visit very quickly resulted in the signing of a business co-operation agreement with the General Chamber of Inner Mongolia at a major global Chinese entrepreneurs convention in London last month.

“This deal creates a significant opportunity for Scottish suppliers worth over £3 million. We are confident of more investors coming to Scotland as a result. It is an example of what can be achieved by forging relationships and adding value and confidence between businesses across the globe.”

Mr Valentine, who specialises in establishing commercial ventures in China, said: “Working in partnership with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce to forge this relationship in Inner Mongolia was instrumental in bringing this opportunity to fruition.

“The project will deliver a multi-million-pound export bonus for at least two other Scottish companies, still to be contracted, for the design and build of the distillery production equipment and for the supply of bulk whiskies. As the project progresses there will be further opportunities for skilled industry experts to oversee the operation during the initial phases of the development.’’

Ao FengTing, Chairman of MengTai, said: “My ambition is not just to produce China’s best quality whisky but one that is globally recognised in terms of world rankings. Scotland is the “home of whisky” and has the greatest expertise in terms of distillery equipment manufacture and know how. So, we are confident that Valentine International will deliver a world beating project for us in Ordos.’’