South of Scotland Alliance talks enterprise and skills with Deputy First Minister

Published: Friday, 16th December 2016

The South of Scotland Alliance has met Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP in the latest of its bi-annual meetings to discuss key economic issues in the South of Scotland.

Mr Swinney, who is also Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, met senior representatives from ourselves, Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Enterprise - which all make up the South of Scotland Alliance – in Lockerbie.

The main item for discussion was the outcome of Phase One of the Scottish Government’s Enterprise and Skills Review, which included a pledge to create a new vehicle to address the enterprise and skills needs of the South of Scotland. 

Councils present ambitious vision

Both local authorities presented an ambitious vision for the new vehicle, which would focus on driving forward the regional economy, strengthening and growing local communities, supporting people and responding to local and rural economic needs. They will now be involved in discussions to develop the vehicle.

Connectivity and economic development on agenda

Scottish Government plans to develop a programme to provide superfast broadband to all premises in Scotland were also discussed; as were ways of achieving comprehensive mobile phone coverage for the South of Scotland; and future proofing the area in relation to advances in digital technology.

The meeting also discussed progress on the four projects from the South of Scotland Rural Regional Economic Development Programme, and in particular the need to develop new mountain biking trails in the South of Scotland.

Councillor Colin Smyth, Chair of the South of Scotland Alliance and Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Chair of the Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee

“This was a highly important meeting for the Alliance given the recent announcement of the establishment of a South of Scotland vehicle for enterprise and skills services.

“We have campaigned hard to secure a commitment to a South of Scotland enterprise organisation, so it is now vital that we try to ensure that the proposal meets the needs of our area. We set out to the Deputy First Minister our view that the proposed organisation must be ambitious, provide the right kind of support not only for businesses but also for local community projects in the South of Scotland – which is currently only available in the Highlands & Islands.

“The meeting was a valuable opportunity for the Alliance to speak directly to the Scottish Government on what we expect the key focus of this new organisation should be, and stressed that it is important that there is local accountability. The Alliance will now take the lead in bringing key stakeholders together to develop a detailed proposal for the way forward and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government and other key local and national partners as that plan develops.”

Councillor Stuart Bell, our Executive Member for Economic Development

“We were pleased that the Scottish Government listened to our arguments for more intensive support for the South of Scotland. These meetings with the Deputy First Minister have been instrumental in us making a number of important strides forward for the South of Scotland – none more so than the creation of a South of Scotland enterprise and skills vehicle.

“The creation of this new vehicle is a significant opportunity to make a transformational change to our regional economy. It is important now that we ensure that this new organisation is able and equipped to tackle the key issues which face our local and regional economy – such as addressing issues of market failure, and ensuring there is the right enabling infrastructure to support development of the South of Scotland.

”We were also pleased with the Scottish Government’s support in relation to progressing digital connectivity and the South of Scotland Regional Economic Development Programme.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney

“I was pleased that as part of our Enterprise and Skills Review we announced our commitment to establish a new body to meet the enterprise and skills needs of the South of Scotland, recognising the unique challenges being faced in the area. 

“Our meeting provided a valuable opportunity to explore initial views on its future shape.  As we move into the implementation phase, the South of Scotland Alliance will have a key role to play and I look forward to our discussions continuing.” 

More information

More information about the South of Scotland Alliance is available on our website.