Holyrood notes: Rally is huge event for the local economy

Last week in Parliament I asked the Scottish Government about the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Jim Clark Rally.

While the council has announced that the rally cannot go ahead in May 2015, the organisers are confident that a rally on closed roads remains possible. The central issue seems to be that the council and police are reluctant to discuss the 2015 event while the police investigation is on-going.

Following my question, the Government has promised to set up a meeting between myself, the rally organisers and the Lord Advocate and I hope this will take place very soon. The Sports Minister assured me that the Scottish Government would do all it can to ensure motorsports events can continue to take place as safely as possible in the future.

The tragic deaths at the rally this year had a huge impact on the Berwickshire community and I support the efforts to prevent another accident like this occurring in the future. It is right that we are reviewing safety and the organisers are engaging with this process, but any review must be proportionate and shouldn’t put rallying at risk unnecessarily.

The announcement that the rally would not go ahead in 2015 came as a bit of a surprise, not least because I understand the organisers have found it difficult to discuss the issues surrounding the council’s reluctance to meet with them. I hope that communication between the council and the organisers can be improved as we work together towards a solution.

This event is huge for the economy in Berwickshire and the Borders. Businesses will undoubtedly lose out as a result. I have been taken aback by the number of constituents who feel strongly about the rally and who really want it to go ahead. A Facebook page calling for the 2015 event to go ahead has gained nearly 6,000 likes already. We all want the rally to go ahead if possible next year and I’ll be working hard to that end.

The Prime Minister has announced the A1 north of Newcastle to the Scottish Borders will benefit from part of a new £15bn roads revolution fund. Despite increasing pressure over recent months the SNP are still refusing to match the UK Government’s commitment to invest in the A1. Investment in this road would reduce journey times, provide more jobs and improve transport links for businesses, in the Borders.

Just a few months ago, our former First Minister Alex Salmond promised the creation of an ‘economic powerhouse’ between Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle. This SNP Government now needs to put its money where its mouth is.

Whilst other roads in Scotland continue to see further investment, the SNP continue to ignore significant cross border routes like the A1. It is frankly an embarrassment that the main route linking the Borders and the north east of England to Edinburgh will not be upgraded.33