The Latest news from Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce -

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


Business still unable to prepare fully for a no deal Brexit

New research from the Scottish & British Chambers of Commerce shows a concerningly high number of UK firms aren’t ready for a no deal Brexit. Business has consistently called on government to avoid a messy and disorderly exit but in light of the political turmoil and relentless uncertainty, clearer and more consistent information is needed to help them prepare.


The survey of firms from across the country, found that in the midst of conflicting political messages over the likelihood of no deal and remaining gaps in government guidance, half (50%) of Scottish businesses have not done a Brexit risk assessment. Those that trade internationally (50%) are more likely to have carried out a risk assessment on the impact of Brexit to their business than their counterparts that trade in the UK only (39%).

There has been a welcome jump in those that have carried out a Brexit assessment since last year (67% had not carried out an assessment in 2018), but with just weeks until a potential no deal exit, there is still a large proportion of firms that aren’t in a position to prepare for the impact.

Political turbulence and ongoing uncertainty about the final outcome of the Brexit process is hampering business planning, making it impossible for firms to know what to prepare for. While there has been an increase in the guidance available from government on conditions in a no-deal, the advice needs to be clearer and more consistent. In many critical areas, such as regulations, customs and trading in Northern Ireland, there is still no good information on which firms can plan.

In a no deal scenario, firms that trade with Europe will face new customs procedures at the border. However, awareness of other schemes* to maintain continuity of trade remains low. The results show that even among internationally active UK businesses:

  • 68% are not aware of Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP)
  • 66% are not aware of Authorised Economic Operator status (AEO)
  • 72% are not aware of Customs Comprehensive Guarantees (CCG)

SCC and the wider chamber network has campaigned successfully for the government to automatically issue EORI numbers, which are critical for trading across borders, to all VAT-registered businesses. Now, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce is calling on HM Government to either automatically enrol or support businesses to access these other important customs and border facilitations.

The business group also continues to encourage all companies – not just those trading across borders – to consider the potential impact of Brexit on their operations. UK-only businesses will face impacts linked to their own suppliers and customers, or to changes elsewhere in the economy, and should take steps to assess these.

LIz Cameron

Dr Liz Cameron OBE, Director & Chief Executive at the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:

“More firms in Scotland have taken basic steps to prepare for change than was the case last year which is good news but there are still too many with questions for which there are yet no answers.

“Government has stepped up communication to businesses, but ongoing uncertainty makes business planning with confidence next to impossible. Companies are told to plan but are being presented with a moving target.

“Businesses are facing significant changes on multiple fronts, and need official guidance that is consistent, precise and easily accessible, enabling them to trade in any scenario. Yet, there are many areas where there simply isn’t enough clear and actionable information for businesses to mitigate some of the impacts of an unwanted no-deal exit.

“Low levels of awareness around special customs and trade schemes are of particular concern, as this highlights the potential for disruption at borders in an unwanted no-deal situation. Companies should be automatically enrolled or supported to enrol in these schemes to increase trader readiness.

“Our evidence yet again reinforces the importance of averting a chaotic exit on October 31st.”

Get Set For A Community Christmas Festival

The Guild Dumfries C.I.C is over the moon to find out that Dumfries & Galloway Council have chosen them to be the lead partner to deliver the Christmas Lights Switch On in Dumfries. They will be responsible for organising the whole shebang not just a Christmas Makers Market at this years event on Sunday the 1st December.

Andy Ferguson, Chair of the Council’s Communities Committee welcomed the decision.  He said;

“Our Council is delighted that The Guild has agreed to organise the Christmas Lights Switch On in Dumfries this year as part of their Christmas festival.  It is a wonderful family-friendly day and is very much the wake up call that many of us need to start the Christmas planning, when the lights go on in our wee toon.  I look forward to working with The Guild on this project, and hopefully others in the future too.”

The Guild wants to create a Christmas Festival at the Light Switch On, which will take place around the whole of the town centre. A makers market, events, entertainment, performance, music, workshops and activities will be happening not just along the High Street, but in other premises and side streets too. The Guild hope that both retailers and businesses throughout the town get behind this community festive extravaganza and stay open late on the day and invite them to get in touch if they wish to discuss ideas. They would actively encourage and support any other activities and fringe events that the town centre businesses wish to host by signposting these to visitors on market day. 


Leah and Kirsten from the Guild

Leah Halliday, a Director at The Guild said “We feel it is extremely important they also take advantage of the increased footfall expected in the town on the day to encourage the message of Shop Local. We have many superb businesses located in our town centre and we wish them to benefit from this festival experience and share in the overall sense of community and the benefits of working collaboratively together.”

The Guild organised an extremely successful makers market last year. The response from the community after the event suggested a strong desire for a Christmas Makers Market to continue. The Guild are keen to build on this previous experience so they can create a festive celebration and an even bigger Makers Market this year. Applications are now open for their Makers Market at this event and they are on the hunt for the perfect mix of makers, creatives, food & drink producers and street food vendors. The deadline to apply is the 15th September at midnight with lots more details on their website.

John Martin, Vice Chair of Communities Committee commented;

“This is another fantastic example of partnership working between our Council and the local community.  The Switch On event is one of the busiest days in Dumfries with up to 5,000 people attending.  I am sure The Guild will be incorporating their own unique brand on the event and would like to thank them for taking on the event.” 

The Guild want the event to be a true community affair and are keen to collaborate and work in partnership with other organisations, businesses and community groups, to play a lead role in delivering a memorable festive experience in Dumfries town centre which will be enjoyed by all.

Kirsten Scott, one of the Directors at The Guild said “We are arranging a meeting in the near future to discuss ideas and consolidate a plan, but if anyone is interested in getting involved, sponsoring, donating, helping us to fundraise or would love to volunteer some of their time to help us, then we’d love them to get in touch”



SCC Comment on Programme for Government 2019-2020

Commenting on the First Minister’s Programme for Government announcement, Dr Liz Cameron OBE, Director & Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:

SCC's Liz CameronOn Scotland’s Future:

‘’The First Minister has outlined the Scottish Government’s plan to seek a section 30 order from the UK Government, during the passage of the newly announced Referendums (Scotland) Bill in 2020.

‘’Businesses are in need of certainty and stability, two things which are sorely lacking in the current economic and political environment.  We will continue our process of engagement with our members across the country to understand how the prospect of another referendum on Scotland’s constitutional future could potentially affect their ability to grow, create new jobs and invest.”

On Climate Change:

‘’A joined-up approach from private and public sector is absolutely essential to tackle the global challenge of climate change. Business is already playing its part and we share the Government’s ambition of leaving the earth in the best condition possible for future generations.  We welcome the Government’s ‘Scottish Green Deal’ approach, including the pledge to improving Scotland’s bus network and the Green Growth Accelerator.

“The Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan will act as an important enabler to upskill and reskill Scotland’s workforce and we look forward to playing our part.

“Chambers of Commerce in Scotland, including Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow are leading the Circular Economy agenda and with a wealth of private sector expertise in this area, we will ensure the business voice is engaged in the newly-announced Circular Economy Bill.”

On International Trade & Exporting:

“Businesses will welcome the First Minister’s focus on international trade and exporting; a critical enabler of Scotland’s economic growth. The four-year Foreign Direct Investment Growth Plan and the £37 million further investment in R&D technologies will act as upbeat measures to continue raising the bar of Scotland’s place in the world.

“We are ramping up our international trade footprint and leveraging our global business-to-business connections, and the continued collaboration between private and public sector will be key to unlocking the potential of international growth markets.”

Business Competitiveness / Taxation:

‘’Whilst we have welcomed the progress that has been made on the issue of Non-Domestic Rates, the bill in its current form does not go far enough to reduce the rates burden being faced by Scottish businesses. For example, the current poundage rate is at a 20 year high with £65 million worth of costs being put onto businesses due to the Large Business Supplement being out of parity with the level currently in England.

‘’The introduction of the Transient Visitor Levy Bill is one that will be met with caution by businesses across Scotland. Many of Scotland’s communities depend on our world-leading tourism and hospitality sector. Therefore, what is absolutely clear, is the need for business communities across Scotland to be fully engaged before the introduction or implementation of any additional tax burden is placed on businesses.”

On Digital & Infrastructure Investment:

“Digital innovation is one of the main drivers of the global economy. In order to keep up with international competitors in this quickly expanding field, we must be on the ball when it comes to investing and expanding our digital capability.

‘’With 100% fibre broadband coverage still to be achieved across Scotland, it is critical we pick up the pace of fibre broadband delivery and guarantee every part of Scotland is connected. We urge the Scottish and UK Government to work together, collaborate and join-up, enabling our businesses and communities to reap the economic benefits that connectivity can bring.”

On Workplace Diversity:

“We welcome the First Minister’s continuing commitment to diversity in the workplace and taking steps to further reduce the gaps in the current system of work.

‘’The pledging of £5 million over the next three years to help up to 2,000 women return to work after a career break is an important step in helping women back into work as well as addressing Scotland’s skills shortages and recruitment challenges.”

Council Invests £32.6m on Capital Projects Across Region

Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Finance, Procurement and Transformation Committee [10 September 2019] will consider an update on its Capital Investment Strategy, which will see £32.6m worth of investment into capital and infrastructure projects across the region.

The Council’s budget, agreed in February 2019, made significant investment in regional and local priorities, including;
• £961,000 spent this year for Flood Protection Schemes in Newton Stewart, Langholm and Stranraer.
• £7.15m to carry out repairs and maintenance in schools and to fund works required to increase capacity for the increase in hours of early learning and childcare.
• More than £9m to maintain roads, pavements, street lighting and invest in active travel and traffic measures.

As part of the Local Government Finance Settlement, Dumfries and Galloway Council received £1.53m to invest in Town Centres to stimulate and support economic development. Conditions were attached, which means the funding must be committed by March 2020 and projects completed by September 2020. The Council has already engaged with local groups and organisations and have plans in place to ensure all this funding is utilised to support Town Centres across the region.

Councillor Adam Wilson, Chair of the Finance, Procurement and Transformation committee, said, “This financial year our Council will spend more than £32m on capital and infrastructure projects to support local and regional priorities. Despite reducing funding from the Scottish Government, our Council continues to invest in schools, roads and other local priorities.”

Councillor Henry McClelland, Vice Chair, said:  "We must focus our capital spending to ensure that we can target it effectively and maximise its impact, supporting local communities, creating and supporting employment, and building sustainable communities. We’ve been able to align regional and national priorities to capitalise on the Scottish Government Town Centre Funding, national Flood Protection Scheme support, and the capital grants from government to help roll out the 1140 hours Early Learning and Childcare programme. We're also tapping into national capital investment for active travel schemes through Sustrans Scotland that will improve key links between our communities.” 

MP Mundell welcomes farm funding boost

Substantial support, which should boost farming in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, has been warmly welcomed by local MP David Mundell.


David Mundell MP

The UK Government confirmed today in their Spending Review that £160 million of convergence money would be allocated to the agricultural industry north of the border.


Scottish Conservative MPs have pressed for the EU Multi-annual Financial Framework money, aimed at redistributing Common Agricultural (CAP) payments more equitably across the EU, be delivered to Scotland.


David Mundell explained that he had held discussions over a period with local farmers who had raised the issue.


He said: "This is good news for the agricultural sector in my area and I'm delighted that this funding will now be available for distribution.


"It should particularly help the upland areas of my constituency where sheep and other enterprises operate on large areas of scenic, but less productive, land."


Mr Mundell added that more viable farm enterprises, in turn, benefited the wider rural community.