A WISHLIST for the south of Scotland’s future economic growth will be discussed at a meeting in Langholm tomorrow.
The South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SoSEP) will host the event in the Buccleuch Centre at 6.45pm, during which it will highlight the feedback given during a consultation last year.
SoSEP was established by the Scottish government in 2017 and is a forerunner of the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency, expected to be up and running in April 2020.
The partnership is committed to delivering a strong programme of engagement with stakeholders to ensure they influence the work programme and inform the proposals for the agency.
It is working with businesses to understand the existing issues and opportunities and how best to address these in driving inclusive growth in the area.
Consultation events are being held until early July 2019 for the public and industry professionals. The meeting in Newcastleton is at 6.45pm on Thursday, June 27 in the village hall.
Full details and booking information are at http://www.sup.org.uk/sosep.asp
Feedback from the 2018 events was fed into the Scottish government’s consultation on the formation of the agency.
A summary report was published which reflected on the events and feedback received. The main outcomes are:
• the economy of the south of Scotland is different, not necessarily weaker;
• the profile of the south of Scotland needs to be addressed;
• a focus on the needs of young people is essential to counter an aging demographic, with concerns over sustainable housing and employment;
• the provision of training, which develops the skills of those seeking work, is essential to secure sustainable employment and business goals;
• the provision of better transport connectivity is required;
• diverse support from the new agency should be wide-ranging, easily accessible and transparent;
• focus on strengthening individual communities, making the area an exemplar for inclusive growth;
• digital connectivity remains a challenge, mostly around take-up, exploitation and securing economic advantage;
• the suggested geographic area is correct but must reach every part of the area;
• a sector-specific approach is vital and prioritised sectors should be the ones which deliver the strongest economy in the future;
• there is a need to collect accurate data for the area.
The South of Scotland enterprise bill was passed unanimously by Parliament last week.
Joan McAlpine, South of Scotland SNP MSP, described it as “a momentous day”.
She secured a late change to the bill to acknowledge the powerful role played by cultural and natural heritage in the area’s economy.
Ms McAlpine, convener of the culture, tourism, Europe and external relations committee, highlighted the work of projects like The Stove Network, Midsteeple Quarter Project and Creative Futures which use cultural programmes to drive economic regeneration and community development work in Dumfries.
During the parliamentary debate, she said: “Art and culture play an important role in engaging and energising communities and community development which is very much in the spirit of what we’re doing with this bill.
“The south was an important player in Scotland’s early textile industry, its agriculture and forestry sectors are thriving and it has a growing tourism industry.
“It has a diverse business base, much of which is small and family-owned. The economic seeds are there and, with the right nurturing, can flourish.”
Colin Smyth, South of Scotland Labour MSP, also secured changes which will ensure the agency is more locally accountable.
His proposal makes it a legal requirement for the agency to consult people, including the two councils, on its proposed action plan and performance and ensure the agency reviews the action plan at least every five years.
Other changes he secured included strengthening its objectives to cover improving transport and digital connectivity and supporting social enterprises.
The government also agreed to ensure workers had a voice in running the agency with a commitment to establish a workers’ interest committee to advise the agency and the board would include members with knowledge or experience of workers’ issues such as trade unions.
Mr Smyth said: “We need an agency for the south, from the south. Unless it finds local solutions to the local challenges and opportunities facing the economy and communities, the agency will not deliver.
“It’s time to get on with setting up the agency and making sure it delivers.”