A time for optimism and hope for the Borders economy

The Maltings in Berwick
The Maltings in Berwick

A total of £345m confirmed by both UK and Scottish Governments last week for the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal has been described as a ‘game changer’.

The Borderlands Partnership is a collaboration that brings together five cross-border local authorities - Carlisle City Council, Cumbria County Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council.

Hans Waltl

Hans Waltl

Detailed talks will now continue to establish the exact level of funding allocated to various schemes, the aim being to create thousands of new job opportunities, bring millions of extra tourists to the area, improve digital connectivity and unlock investment in towns across the region generating a predicted £1.3bn return on the Governments’ investment.

The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal has six key programmes: digital; Borderlands Energy Investment Company; destination Borderlands; quality of place; knowledge exchange network and business infrastructure programme.

As well as these areas of development there are also four place-based projects in the deal: the redevelopment of Chapelcross former power station; a mountain bike innovation centre; a Berwick theatre and conference centre and Carlisle Station Gateway; plus additional projects such as the Borders Railway extension.

Councillor Shona Haslam, Scottish Borders Council’s Leader, said: “The Scottish Borders will benefit significantly from the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal and we welcome the announcement.

The Borders Railway.

The Borders Railway.

“One of the key goals for the Deal is a commitment to a feasibility study into the extending the Borders Railway beyond Tweedbank to Carlisle.

“The close work between all five local authority partners helped to develop an exceptionally strong case for the Deal, and together we’ve worked hard with both the UK and Scottish governments to secure this funding announcement.

“For the Scottish Borders, this is just one of a number of exciting developments that will provide significant investment in our area from both the public and private sector, including the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal and the upcoming establishment of South of Scotland Enterprise.”

Borders-based SNP MSP for South Scotland, Paul Wheelhouse, said: I believe there’s a real opportunity to use this latest Growth Deal, adding to the investment from the earlier Edinburgh and South East Scotland city region deal as a platform to kick-on and unlock the economic potential of the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway and, while the detail of projects has yet to be agreed, I am particularly keen, in my capacity as one of the area’s MSPs, to see the partners progress the proposed feasibility work on extension of the Borders Railway to Hawick, and beyond to Carlisle.

“Both governments’ funding should, I hope, lever in council and private sector investment that will help to, collectively, drive the significant economic growth that I want to see in our region - a region of Scotland that has enormous potential.”

Garry Clark, Federation of Small Business development manager for the Scottish Borders, added: “As Borderlands moves another step closer, small businesses in the Borders will welcome the fact that it will be resourced to deliver the kind of transformational change that they have come to expect.

“This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to leverage investment across the Borders and to put the building blocks in place for much needed infrastructure projects, such as the extension of the Borders Railway through Hawick to Carlisle.

“Some 94% of businesses in the Borders are small and micro businesses and three in every five people are employed by these businesses.

“That is why Borderlands must hard wire the voice of local businesses into the new deal through the appointment of a Small Business Champion.”

Local FSB member Hans Waltl said: “Strategic economic investment in the Borders is long overdue. This money must be used to enhance our local tourism offering.

“Together with the development of a new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency, this is a time of optimism and hope for the Borders economy.”