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

 

One Year Left To Apply To The EU Settlement Scheme

Today marks one year before the EU Settlement Scheme application deadline of 30 June 2021. So far, there have already been more than 3.6 million applications and, according to internal management figures, more than 3.3 million have now been granted status.

 

EU Settlement Scheme

EEA citizens and their family members who have been granted pre-settled or settled status have secured their rights in UK law, ensuring that, whether in four or 40 years’ time, they will have the evidence they need to continue living and working in the UK – the country they call home.

The latest detailed official statistics show that the highest number of applications have so far come from Polish (697,900), Romanian (590,100) and Italian (363,600) nationals with more than 3.2 million applications coming from EEA citizens living in England, 180,700 from Scotland, 59,400 from Wales and 59,700 from Northern Ireland.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, people have had access to a range of support either online, by email or by telephone to help them apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

With only a year left until the deadline, the UK Government encourage everyone eligible to apply now to secure their status and feel confident about their future in the United Kingdom after Brexit.

There are over 1,500 Home Office staff working on the EU Settlement Scheme with 250 Settlement Resolution Centre staff in place to provide assistance to applicants with any questions about the scheme or who need help applying.

The EU Settlement Resolution Centre continues to provide support seven days a week by telephone and by email. People can also use the EU Exit ID Document check app to complete the identity stage of their application and the UK Government estimates that more than 3.2 million have already done so. A postal route is also available.

Additional support is available for those who do not have the appropriate access, skills or confidence to apply online through Assisted Digital, which can offer assistance over the telephone.

 

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£2.7m announced by South of Scotland Enterprise to boost tourism in South of Scotland

South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) has announced its first major investment programme providing a vital funding package to support the recovery and future of the economy in the South of Scotland.

 

SOS EA logo

SOSE has committed just over £2.7m over five years to support a new tourism, marketing and destination development programme to be delivered by a new industry-led leadership body called South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA).

The announcement comes at a crucial time as businesses and communities prepare for tourism reopening following COVID-19. It also confirms SOSE’s commitment to look beyond Covid-19 to the future growth and sustainability of the economy of the South of Scotland with the aim to make the region a world-class visitor destination attracting people to live, work, visit and invest in the area for many years to come.

The announcement is a culmination of two years’ work and brings together the Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership and Visit South West Scotland. The 2.7m announced today is in addition to the original start up fund of £350k which was awarded through South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SOSEP) provided by the Scottish Government, and supported by VisitScotland, Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council to develop the economy of the South. This brings the combined investment across the partners to over £3m.

Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Fergus Ewing said: “Tourism is one of Scotland’s greatest assets and we have been clear that we want to get the sector operating as soon as it is safe to do so.

“Our extensive package of support for business which includes the £30 million Creative, Tourism and Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund, the £120 million Pivotal Enterprises Resilience Fund, and 100% rates relief for the year, is already helping a wide range of tourism businesses across Scotland.

“This £2.7 million investment will build on that, helping to position tourism in the South for sustainable future growth. I wish the South of Scotland Destination Alliance every possible success in its efforts to boost the region’s tourism industry at such a critical time.”

Professor Russel Griggs OBE, Chair of South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) said: “This is a landmark investment and one which confirms our commitment to being ambitious and bold for our region. We have always said we will do things differently - to work in the South, for the South – and this is a key part of this is this five-year partnership. As well as helping the Covid recovery, we are looking ahead to get us to a place where we will be attracting more people than ever to visit, stay and spend in the South of Scotland, and in a manner which is sustainable and amplifies the many wide reaching benefits tourism gives rise to.

“We must focus on an optimistic future and one which makes our economy stronger than ever, building on the fantastic community spirit and commitment that we all have for our beautiful area and we will work closely with the SSDA to deliver this.”

Ian McAndrew, Chair Visit South West Scotland, said: “Two years ago when we first started discussing the possibility of working together as a leadership group, no one could have envisaged what our sector and our region is now faced with. The formation of SSDA, coupled with a strong, strategic partnership with SOSE is an enormous boost for our industry as we start to put the recovery wheels in motion. Recovery from COVID-19 needs us all pulling together in the same direction – and the SSDA is now best placed to help achieve that.”

Will Haegeland, Chair Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership added: “Tourism, now more than ever, is critically important to the whole economy in the South of Scotland. While we could never have anticipated the unprecedented challenge that COVID-19 has brought to our industry, our new alliance with Visit South West Scotland in forming the SSDA is a significant step forward for the region. SSDA brings optimism, passion and ambition, so with the strong support of SOSE, we are now ready to start delivering a concrete plan that will form an important part of our recovery. We’re looking forward to making that happen and putting the South of Scotland firmly on the must visit tourism map.”

VisitScotland Chief Executive Malcolm Roughead said: “This major funding announcement is fantastic news for tourism in the South of Scotland, helping to support and deliver long-term social and economic benefits to communities in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.

“The funding announcement also represents a major step forward for the new South of Scotland Destination Alliance which will bring together tourism businesses across the South of Scotland to work together to ensure the best possible outcome for the whole of the visitor economy. Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it sustains communities socially and economically and contributes to the health and wellbeing of the population,

“We look forward to working closely with the South of Scotland Destination Alliance going forward to support the recovery of tourism across the region, helping the industry become an economic and social powerhouse again.”

Romance villages' plight raised at Holyrood

THE impact of Covid-19 controls on the weddings mecca of Gretna and Gretna Green has been highlighted at the Scottish Parliament.

 

Dumfriesshire constituency MSP Oliver Mundell raised the issue during a session of the culture, tourism, Europe and external affairs committee at Holyrood.

 

Mr Mundell stated that hotels and other wedding-related businesses had been affected at the twin border villages and across his constituency.

 

A lack of tourism and the number and size of marriage ceremonies were factors, he pointed out. 

 

Referring to the Gretna registration district, Mr Mundell said: "There are a number of tourism and hospitality businesses, particularly hotels, but also associated businesses which are very dependent on the wedding trade."

 

Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing explained social distancing was the main reason preventing the return of larger weddings.

Responding to a question from Mr Mundell, the Minister added larger weddings inside would be allowed again once they were considered safe.

MSP's concerns about SNP flagship project

THERE was a call this week for the SNP Scottish Government to step up and deliver on their flagship broadband programme.

 

Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell was reacting after concerns were raised that a legal challenge will not be completed by the end of the year, meaning the so-called R100 project (reaching 100 per cent of properties) could lose vital funding.

The northern zone of the £600m Scotland-wide project is currently centre of a dispute about a contract and the planned broadband delivery timings remain uncertain for those in the Highlands, Aberdeen, Dundee and Angus.

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SNP Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP was previously reported as saying he would resign if the project wasn't delivered by 2021, which is now an increasingly difficult target to achieve.

Now Mr Mundell says that the SNP need to ensure there are no further issues with delivering superfast broadband, with digital connectivity going to be vital in restarting the post Covid-19 economy.

He said: "The SNP's flagship broadband scheme continues to be beset by delays. They have talked the talk but completely failed to deliver the infrastructure on the ground.

"Digital connectivity is going to be absolutely vital in boosting our economy after Covid-19 and we can't let our rural communities in particular be left behind."

 

Mr Mundell continues to monitor progress in the south Scotland zone, which includes his constituency.

MP and MSP welcome commission plan

Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP David Mundell and Dumfriesshire constituency MSP Oliver Mundell have both welcomed this week's UK Government announcement of a Trade and Agricultural Commission.

 

The development reaffirms the UK Government's plans not to make concessions when it comes to food and animal welfare during negotiations for post-Brexit international trade deals.

 

All three National Farmers' Unions across the UK support the plan to create a Commission tasked with safeguarding existing standards.

 

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David Mundell said: "This move is very welcome in clearing up the uncertainty caused by inaccurate speculation and claims. It demonstrates the Government is fully committed to retaining the highest possible food and animal welfare standards."

 

Oliver Mundell added: "Our agricultural industry and the food produced are amongst the finest in the world and it would not be in the interest of the country, producers or consumers to reduce existing standards."