Boost for region’s economy

John Lamont.
John Lamont.

The South of Scotland will have its own enterprise agency up and running by 2020 but what its budget will be has yet to be decided.

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed this week that a South of Scotland Enterprise Bill will form part of the SNP’s programme for Government, which means legislation will be introduced in the next year.

For the past few months an interim organisation - the South of Scotland Economic Organisation - has been operating in the region with a £10 million budget. But Highlands and Islands Enterprise has a budget of £67 million against a budget of £188.8 million for Scottish Enterprise and so far there is no indication as to what budget the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency will have.

The enterprise agency has the backing of Conservatives John Lamont MP and MSP Rachael Hamilton, who want to see it based in the Borders - suggesting that Hawick will be well placed to serve both the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.

“The South of Scotland Enterprise Agency represents a huge opportunity for the Borders, but only if we get a truly local organisation, based in the Borders and backed up by some serious cash,” said John Lamont.

Labour South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth also welcomed the announcement: “I welcome the long overdue legislation to establish the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency- ironically a decade after the Scottish Government abolished local enterprise agencies in Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders.

“But that legislation must ensure the membership of the agency is rooted in the South of Scotland, with powers to deliver real change and with a budget to deliver that change. It must also be underpinned by investment in a Borderlands Growth Deal from this year’s Government budget.”