Clash over Borderlands growth bid


TWO MSPs have clashed over a deal being made to promote economic growth on both sides of the English Scottish border.

Oliver Mundell, Dumfriesshire MSP, and Colin Smyth, South of Scotland MSP, are at odds over the Borderlands Growth Deal which includes the councils of Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Borders, Cumbria, Carlisle and Northumberland.

The deal was in the Conservatives' election manifesto and Mr Mundell said the party's proposals were a game changer for southern Scotland and a major economic boost.

Mr Smyth criticised the Scottish and UK governments for claiming to back the Borderlands Initiative project but failing so far to give any funding.

It was revealed in the Scottish parliament last week that, so far, only the councils, including Dumfries and Galloway, which has allocated an initial £150,000 for development work, have put forward funding, with no contributions to date from the two governments.

Mr Smyth asked Keith Brown, cabinet secretary for economy, jobs and fair work, what support the governments planned to give to develop the deal.

Mr Brown said: “I am unaware of any direct funding from them. The Edinburgh city region deal will include Scottish Borders Council so money will come from both governments for it.

“We established the Borderlands Initiative but it is for local authorities to take such things forward. We will rely on the representations and proposals that local authorities make to us and we will seek to support them.”

Mr Smyth added: "If the governments put their hand in their pockets to help resource the work, a deal could be brought together more quickly. Their failure to support the deal with hard cash puts into doubt their commitment.”

The councils are developing projects such as a Centre of Excellence for sustainable food production in Canonbie, food and drink, tourism, energy, forestry, improvements to the A75 and between the M74 and Dumfries, the West Coast main line, a Borders Railway extension and digital improvements.

Mr Mundell MSP said: "I have played a key role in pushing Borderlands back to the top of the agenda and I hope the Scottish government will match the commitment and use this opportunity to take forward proposals to develop major infrastructure projects."

He added: "I certainly won't be taking any lectures from Mr Smyth who, while chairman of the council's economy, environment and infrastructure committee, did nothing to support Langholm and Eskdale when jobs were disappearing.

"My experience is that the council has done nothing to take the Borderlands Growth Deal initiative forward. Maybe if he wasn't hell-bent on taking forward a £25m flood defence scheme in Dumfries, which nobody wants, there would be more money to deliver real economic growth and jobs for Eskdale.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at 10:42AM
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