A ROUNDTABLE breakfast has been held to gather views from stakeholders on the bill to establish a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency.
The event was organised by Colin Smyth, South of Scotland Labour MSP.
Attendees included business representatives, including Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders Chambers of Commerce, community organisations and the public sector.
The event was held before the start of the second stage of the legislative process for the South of Scotland Enterprise Bill which will establish a new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency.
The second stage is carried out by the Scottish parliament’s rural economy and connectivity committee.
More than half of the proposed amendments have been tabled by Colin Smyth and include proposals to make it a legal requirement for the new agency to consult people in southern Scotland on its proposed action plan and performance.
Currently, the bill states that the agency reports only to government ministers.
His amendments include a requirement for the agency’s action plan to be reviewed annually, the need for all other national agencies such as VisitScotland to work with it and to set out what it will do to support southern Scotland’s economy.
Mr Smyth proposes the agency has a trade union representative on the board and the board membership must reflect all parts of the South of Scotland.
He said: “Having campaigned for an Agency for a decade, it’s important we get the bill right.
“That means ensuring we listen to organisations and create an agency rooted in the south.
“As the only South of Scotland MSP to sit on the committee, which will vote on the amendments, I was pleased to hear stakeholders’ views.
“It is only by working with businesses and organisations that we will create an agency which unlocks the area’s huge economic potential and grows our economy.”
The agency covers Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders but has the flexibility to allow operation outwith these regions.
On Tuesday Dumfries and Galloway Council’s economy, environment and infrastructure committee received a report on the bill’s progress.
The committee also heard of the work of the interim South of Scotland Economic Partnership in supporting projects in the South of Scotland.
A council spokesperson said the agency offered a once in a generation opportunity for economic development investment and action.
It was expected to be operational from April 1, 2020.
As a result of the time needed to create an agency, the government set up the partnership as an interim solution to ensure the area benefited from a new approach to economic development as soon as possible.
This allowed time to bring forward and test new ideas, programmes and projects which were fed into its establishment.
To ensure progress, £10m was made available by the government in 2018/19, with another £13.3m allocated in 2019/20.
The partnership had eight themes: governance and data; communities; food production, forestry and land management; education and skills; key sectors; business support; infrastructure; and arts and culture.
Councillor Archie Dryburgh, committee chairman, said: “It’s good to hear that some of our projects are already benefiting from the partnership.
“Annan Regeneration Project received £250,000 to support the cost of a team to drive forward Annan Action Plan, developing projects to mitigate the impact of job losses after the closure of Pinneys.
“There was £6.6m for Dumfries and Galloway and Borders Colleges’ South of Scotland skills and learning network which will have a positive impact on developing the network of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) hubs in southern Scotland to address skills gaps.”