Westminster notes: Encouraging more tourists to the Borders

This week I met with Scottish Borders Chambers of Commerce to discuss economic priorities for the Borders.

We discussed the great potential in the Borders for economic development, and in particular the tourism opportunities which the new railway must bring across the Borders.

When the railway opens, the eyes of the UK will be upon us and we need to use this ‘OIympics moment’ to encourage thousands of new tourists to visit our area. I am working with local businesses across the Borders to ensure that this benefits the whole Border region, including Berwickshire, and not just those communities which will have a station.

We also discussed some of the challenges facing our area, and what we could do to combat them. It is very important that we keep up with developments in digital technology.

As chair of the Borders Digital Forum, I have spent years campaigning for increased investment, and meet regularly with the mobile phone companies to encourage this. I welcome recent progress but am continuing to press the case to ensure the Borders has the best digital infrastructure possible.

This year, I used my Private Member’s Bill to commit the UK to maintain its international promise to spend the UN target of 0.7% of our national income on international aid. Having passed the Commons, the Bill is now working its way through the Lords. Despite some fierce Conservative opposition, the Bill is well on its way to becoming law.

Enshrining our commitment in law will allow us to move on from debating how much we spend on international aid, to focusing on how we can ensure it is spent most effectively and sustainably.

UK aid makes a real difference to the lives of millions of people living all across the world, many of whom get by on less than a dollar a day. I am proud that this Bill will directly improve the lives of some of the poorest people in the world.

I am holding a number of meetings with constituents to discuss what they think the UK’s priorities should be for UK aid. One of these will be in Duns on Thursday, March 19, at 7pm.  I would be pleased to see you there. Please contact my office on 01896 663 650 for further details.

On Sunday I was very kindly invited to a tea party in Eccles run by the recently formed Kelso group, Contact the Elderly. With an aging population, loneliness and isolation of elderly people has the potential to become a real issue in our communities. It is great that there are groups like Contact the Elderly, who are taking a proactive step in order to prevent loneliness and isolation.

I really enjoyed our conversations, as well as the fantastically impressive spread of tea and cakes that were on offer! I am very grateful to the group for inviting me along, and I wish them the very best in their very important work.