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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.

 

MSP Harper Welcomes Development Funding

South Scotland MSP Emma Harper has welcomed the Scottish Government announcement of economic development funding for Dumfries & Galloway projects, as part of a £2.1 million cash injection for South of Scotland projects. 

 

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The funding will support economic development in tourism, the business community and agricultural projects across Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders.

In total, 28 projects will benefit from the funding through the new South of Scotland Economic agency (SoSE), supporting the region’s economic recovery from the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and helping to generate future job opportunities.

Dumfries & Galloway projects include:

Crichton Central (£833,127) to redevelop an existing building (Criffel View) on the Crichton Campus in Dumfries to create a business incubation facility – the first of its kind in Dumfries - for small and micro businesses.   

Better Lives Partnership (£275,000) to increase its Bridge2Employment programme, which helps young people with autistic spectrum disorder to access supported learning opportunities and progress into work or further study.   

Boyd Group (£65,000) to assist business expansion at Cargenbridge Industrial Estate, Dumfries. 

Glenkens (£64,079) to create an interactive multi-media hub where young people, community groups and visitors can explore the area’s heritage, enhanced by digital technology; and help establish a range of business services that will generate income and sustain project activities going forward.   

Livestock Holding Facilities (£59,600) to establish a livestock holding facility that will allow a range of local farmers to house their beasts, prior to transportation and processing. This aims to encourage co-operation to reduce costs.

Castle Douglas Community Centre (£23,599) to develop a computing and sound production facility, expanding the provision of IT skills and employability programmes for young people and the self-employed. 

Wigtown Festival Company – a feasibility study funding of £20,000 to  look at the potential to deliver a greater range of activities and events throughout the year to boost income from tourists and local community groups.   

Sanquhar Post Office £20,000 for a feasibility study to explore the tourism potential of the property as well as assessing the possibility of the out buildings being used as business accommodation.   

Farm Innovation for Cows & Co (£20,000) for a study for consideration of a ‘waste to energy’ power plant in a quarry environment to reduce energy costs for farmers and generate innovative business diversification activities.

A Regional Food Chain study to consider the creation of a centralised hub in Castle Douglas, supporting all aspects of food and drink innovation to enable micro businesses to compete for new markets.

And an additional feasibility study funding of £20,000 for Alternative Land Use analysis of whether it is possible to grow a range of alternative crops including energy, pharmaceutical, forestry and industrial crops, as well as field scale vegetables and salad crops, in the South, which is currently dominated by traditional farming and forestry.

And finally, a feasibility study for Littleton Farm AD Plant to seek whether the creation of an on-farm industrial estate (“agri-park”), powered by a commercial scale anaerobic digestion plant, converting farm waste into energy.

Ms Harper commented;

“I welcome the Scottish Government’s economic development funding for these projects in our South West region which have received part of the £2.1 million awarded across the South of Scotland.

“These projects will ascertain how to best capitalise on our strengths in this part of the country and the funding will create jobs, support businesses, develop skills, boost tourism, all vitally needed in South West Scotland as we begin our economic recovery from COVID-19.

”I look forward to connecting with the persons behind the projects and following progress”.

MSP Harper Calls For 'Wedding Working Group'

South Scotland MSP Emma Harper has written to the First Minister to request that the Scottish Government create a working group for venues who cater for weddings and civil ceremonies in Scotland.

This working group would be similar to the groups which were set up to allow faith groups and outdoor professional sports to return. This request comes following a number of constituent wedding venues and businesses contacting Ms Harper with their concerns as a route-map through and out of Covid19 is progressed for many businesses affected by coronavirus lockdown.

In the letter which communicates the feelings of her constituents, the South Scotland MSP has said that the creation of a weddings and civil ceremony working group will bring together people from across the sector to discuss examples of best practice, ideas and suggestions on how best to move forward as restrictions ease further. Ms Harper states that, more generally, the group would allow those directly involved in organising, hosting and arranging weddings and ceremonies to work directly with Government to help shape the necessary processes and guidelines which inform policy.

As part of Phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s route-map out of lockdown, weddings and civil ceremonies have been allowed to restart indoors at public venues, including registration offices, hospitality venues and places of worship as well as outdoors.

 

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Commenting, Ms Harper said:

 

“I have written to the First Minister following requests from several constituent businesses across Dumfries & Galloway who specialise in hosting, arranging and planning weddings and civil ceremonies.

“These businesses have suggested that the Scottish Government set up a working group on weddings and civil ceremonies which would allow the businesses in the weddings sector to join – with government – to propose and share examples of the specific activities that could make weddings go ahead safely, and to input the suggestions so that future guidance and policy could be proposed.

“Those working in the sector are the experts on their particular experience, and it is important to hear directly from them.

“In my letter to the First Minister, I have also included a number of suggestions from local businesses – including from GG’s Yard near Gatehouse of Fleet – who have a capacity of 350 guests which will obviously have to be reduced because of social distancing. I have requested that the Scottish Government release indicative dates to the sector on when restrictions will be eased – dates which would, of course, be subject to medical and scientific advice.

“I look forward to hearing back from the First Minister and would encourage anyone to get in touch should they have any questions.”

Duncan McConchie, owner of GG’s Yard near Gatehouse of Fleet said;

“The Scottish Government have steered us through Covid-19 brilliantly. However, the wedding and events industry is now lacking any route map or guidance from government as to how our industry can open again.  This lack of clarity is leading to complete loss of faith from couples, to venues to suppliers and is resulting in massive financial loss for the industry which is worth over £40 million to Dumfries & Galloway”.

MSP Smyth Warns Unemployment Figures Are 'Tip of the Iceberg'

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has said unemployment figures released last week are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and the region is ‘still nowhere near’ the likely peak.

 

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He is urging the UK and Scottish Government to take urgent action in a bid to halt an unemployment crisis.

According to NOMIS statistics released last week (July 21), 5,015 people claimed out of work benefits in Dumfries and Galloway in June, a 92 per cent rise compared to June 2019.

Taking into account those claiming out of work benefits, as well as those claiming the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and people currently furloughed, this represents 33 per cent of the region’s working age population currently not working.

Colin Smyth said: “Recent unemployment figures have shown the highest claimant count in Dumfries and Galloway for June since 1996 and we are still nowhere near the likely peak. We should never forget that behind the numbers are local people whose livelihoods have been snatched from them, so my thoughts are very much with all those affected. 

“The level of unemployment among young people is especially devastating and we really do risk losing a whole generation to the scourge of unemployment. These figures are just the tip of the iceberg. They exclude the thousands of other people locally who are no longer employed compared to last month but don’t receive benefits and the number of people out of work will rise significantly in the next few months as the UK Government furlough scheme comes to an end. 

“This needs to act as a wakeup call to both the UK and Scottish Government. Our region is standing on the edge of an unemployment crisis and without more Government help to support jobs, the number of families in our region who will find themselves out of work is going to rise significantly. Covid-19 is first and foremost a health crisis but it has also now become a massive economic crisis.”

MSP Highlights Half Hearted Approach To Rail Changes

South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Transport Spokesperson Colin Smyth has welcomed plans to electrify the rail route between Glasgow and Carlisle, via Gretna, by 2035.

 

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However, he has called on rail bosses to go further after it was revealed there are no plans to electrify the route between Girvan and Stranraer.

The proposals are contained within Transport Scotland’s ‘Rail Services Decarbonisation Action Plan’ published today (28th July) which aims to decarbonise Scotland’s passenger rail services by 2035. This would remove diesel passenger trains from Scottish services by that date.

The report states: “By 2035 we aim to have an electrified route between Glasgow via Gretna to Carlisle benefitting commuter flows from New Cumnock to Glasgow and Dumfries to Carlisle.

“Additionally, by electrifying the line we envisage an enhanced strategic capability for rail freight, and a valuable diversionary route for freight and passenger services during closure of the West Coast Main Line. 

“We will use alternative traction as a transition in the South-West of Scotland until full electrification and also on the line from Ayr to Girvan. At this stage we are planning to run alternative traction permanently from Girvan to Stranraer.”

Colin Smyth said: “I have long campaigned for the full electrification of the Nith Valley line between Glasgow and Carlisle, via Gretna so I welcome the aim to deliver this by 2035 but I am very disappointed that there are no plans for the same between Girvan and Stranraer. Once again passengers in the south of Scotland are being offered a second class service.

“Electrifying Scotland’s passenger routes will help to decarbonise rail services, continue to reduce carbon emissions and crucially increase travel speeds on those tracks that benefit.

“The Scottish Government therefore should be going further and committing to more electrification, including the Girvan to Stranraer route. As it stands, these proposals are half hearted at best. There have always been concerns over the long-term commitment to services to Stranraer south of Girvan and this decision will simply raise these concerns again. If a track has full electrification, it shows a commitment to that route. There is a big debate about closer links between Scotland and Northern Ireland and pie in the sky proposals for a bridge between the two countries. Yet the Government can’t even commit to properly improving the rail and road links to the existing ferry terminals. 

“Reducing emissions but also increasing access to rail is going to become more and more important as the years go by and we owe it to our children and grandchildren to fully commit to doing all we can.”

British Employees Feel the Need To Take a Break Every 43 Days – To Avoid Total Burn Out.

British employees feel the need to take a break every 43 days – to avoid total burn out.

 

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A study of 2,000 office workers found taking annual leave at least once every six weeks helps stave off exhaustion.

And seven in 10 adults agreed they suffer fatigue and feel run down if they go too long without booking a holiday.

It also emerged that the top tell-tale signs of a holiday being due include feeling stressed (56 per cent) and finding mental well-being is starting to suffer (53 per cent).

For three in 10 adults, sleepless nights are an indicator that work is beginning to take over, while 23 per cent will book a break if they find themselves crying for no particular reason.

Geoffrey Dennis, chief executive of SPANA which provides free veterinary treatment to working animals in developing countries worldwide, said: “Everybody deserves a break, and having regular little pit-stops can make all the difference to both productivity at work, and mental health.

“It is so important to book time out before it gets to the point where you aren’t eating, sleeping or functioning properly.

“Luckily most British employers are understanding of this fact, and workers get a choice about when they can take a break.

“However, it’s sadly a very different story for working animals overseas, which undertake gruelling work every single day and never get to enjoy holidays or retirement.”

The study also found seven in 10 adults don’t feel the need to book a holiday abroad or in the UK to recuperate – being just as happy to spend a few days at home.

Of those who would book a break right now, almost half said they’d thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to simply relax in the garden.

And 43 per cent want nothing more than to put their feet up in front of the TV, while 41 per cent want a bit of peace and quiet to read a book.

Taking long walks (43 per cent), exercising (32 per cent) and pursuing a personal interest (23 per cent) are also high on the agenda when they do get to enjoy some time off work.

But one fifth of workers relish the thought of booking time off to do absolutely nothing.

When quizzed as to how they are feeling about work right now, while 26 per cent think they are coping well, one in 10 adults feel stressed, and a further eight per cent are exhausted.

More than one in 20 (seven per cent) workers are at the point where they feel unable to concentrate while fifteen per cent are fed up.

Geoffrey Dennis added: “Breaks from work are absolutely essential for our mental well-being.

“Unfortunately, this kind of respite isn’t an option for working animals and their owners in developing countries.

"These working horses, donkeys, camels, elephants and other animals work tirelessly throughout the year, carrying backbreaking loads in harsh environments and extreme temperatures. A break from this toil is a distant dream.

“These animals urgently need our help – and that is where SPANA comes in.

"The charity improves the welfare of working animals worldwide, providing vital veterinary care for sick and injured animals, as well as training and education for owners in how to better look after their animals - including ensuring they have adequate rest.”