Reinvigorating the area’s economy

Visitors to Gunsgreen story telling festival meeting a pirate in the tunnels under the house.
Visitors to Gunsgreen story telling festival meeting a pirate in the tunnels under the house.

South of Scotland residents are being asked to help shape the agency being set up to reinvigorate the area’s economy.

The South of Scotland Enterprise Agency is being set up by the Scottish Government to transform the region’s economy but while politicians may have their own ideas of how best to do that, they also want to hear from local people and the public consultation announced last week by the Scottish Government’s Economy Secretary, Keith Brown will determine the shape of the agency.

South of Scotland Labour MSP Claudia Beamish wants to see low wages in the region being tackled, while Conservative MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, Rachael Hamilton, believes that tourism should be the key focus for the South of Scotland Economic Enterprise.

Ms Hamilton, who runs the Buccleuch Arms Hotel, at St Boswells with her husband, said: “Tourism must be a focus of the South of Scotland Economic Enterprise.

“This is a great opportunity for the South of Scotland and the Scottish Borders and we need to make sure we get this right. That means focusing on the key areas that drive our local economies. To focus on tourism can help improve low productivity, increase below average business size and grow low wages.”

Ms Beamish is seeking reassurance that the agency would commit to union participation, saying: “South Scotland has more people working in low paid jobs than in other parts of Scotland so a focus on fair work opportunities is essential.

“I will be ensuring the Cabinet Secretary meets his promise that there will be full engagement with trade unions. This must involve having membership of one of the six themed groups as well as being a member of the board going forward.

“There must also be a commitment to include a social remit to the scope of the agency. Highlands and Islands Enterprise have a social element which is integral to its workings. I expect a South Scotland Agency to have the same so there is community involvement and rural economic regeneration.”

Economy Minister Keith Brown described it as “a milestone moment for the future prosperity” of the area.

“The consultation will ask the people, businesses and the voluntary sector across the South of Scotland what would make this agency work for them,” said Mr Brown.

“We have set out our overarching vision for the agency that drives inclusive growth across the area. We now want people to help shape the detail of the activity the agency can take forward to deliver those aims.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to transform the area’s economy, building on its significant strengths and traditions. And the launch of this consultation is a milestone moment for the future prosperity of the region.

“The South of Scotland is a beautiful area and has played a long and important part in the history of the Scottish economy.

“It has a diverse business base, many of which are small and family owned. The economic seeds are all there and, with the right nurturing, can flourish.”

The consultation close on June 7.