Report calls for better cross-border services

Coldstream bridge marks the border between England and Scotland
Coldstream bridge marks the border between England and Scotland

Creating a cross-border Borderland brand and better cross-border services are essential ingredients for the future success of the region.

Those are the findings of the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee in their final report on ‘Our Borderlands - Our Future’ published last week.

“We accept that, since devolution, there are some areas of legitimate policy divergence, for example, in terms of health and education policy, north and south of the Scotland-England border,” reads the report.

“However, this should not impinge on the access of residents living on both sides of the border to essential services. We recommend that the UK Government work closely with the Scottish Government and local authorities on both the English and Scottish side of the border to provide adequate access to essential public services, and for the social and economic benefit of the region as a whole.”

Evidence was heard of some public bodies increasingly treating the border as an “international frontier” which people should not cross for health and education services.

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith, concluded: “The success of businesses on both sides of the border depends to a significant extent on the availability of educated and skilled potential employees in the whole of the area.”

Sir Alan added that devolution “should not prevent a collective and shared effort to promote the area as a whole,” which should be a higher priority for authorities in Northumberland and Scottish Borders, and for the UK and Scottish Governments.

Supporting the creation of the Borderland Initiative in 2013 and looking for councils and governments on either side of the border to work together the committee said: “As we have repeatedly stated, collaboration and co-operation is key – not only across the border, but at all levels of government.”

Borders MP Michael Moore welcomed the report “which recognises the unique challenges and opportunities faced by the Borders”.

“Transport infrastructure, jobs, mobile and broadband services and fair pay are some of the key issues addressed by the report as fundamental to the lives of Borderers and economic development of the area.

“I agree that we need a more integrated approach from the UK and Scottish Government.”