South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the launch of South of Scotland Enterprise, the new development agency for the region which began operations this week by announcing its immediate priority would be responding to COVID-19.
The agency is already working with both the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway councils to find ways to maximise resources to best serve businesses and communities across the south of Scotland which are being hard hit by the lockdown.
Commenting, Ms McAlpine says,
“Businesses in the region are facing unprecedented pressures right now. Our economy relies heavily on tourism and hospitality businesses, some of which will be worst hit by the pandemic. This means there’s never been a greater need for the support this agency can offer. I campaigned for a long time for it to be established so it’s a relief that it’s up and running in time to help those in urgent need right now.
“There’s no doubt the new agency has been launched in at the deep end and is operating in very difficult conditions but I’m confident it will rise to the challenge.
“Businesses should continue to consult the Scottish government business helpline for information at www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19 or phone them on 0300 303 0660. Information about grants for and changes to non-domestic rates can also be found at findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/coronavirus-advice. The Scottish Borders Council & Dumfries & Galloway Council have up-to-date advice on their websites at www.scotborders.gov.uk/coronavirus <www.scotborders.gov.uk/coronavirus> and www.dumgal.gov.uk/article/20660/COVID-19-Support-for-Local-Businesses <www.dumgal.gov.uk/article/20660/COVID-19-Support-for-Local-Businesses>.”
Dumfries and Galloway Councillor Stephen Thompson added,
“It’s not ideal that the first major role of the new South of Scotland Enterprise will be to help strengthen some of the economic frailties in Dumfries and Galloway, exposed by the response efforts to COVID-19 Pandemic. But this will cut the teeth of the agency and give a clear sight as to the inherent strengths and weaknesses of the economy, and what sustainability and opportunity for local enterprise may look like now and in the future.”
“It’s been a long journey from the South of Scotland Alliance meetings between Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Borders when the need for an effective agency that recognised the needs of rural Scotland was properly articulated. The South of Scotland Economic Partnership has played the holding role until now and has made positive progress. We’ve also seen the shift from legacy economic roles moving from Councils, where funding is often political rather than professional, to a dedicated expert body with dedicated funding from Scottish Government.”
“Local Councils now need to strengthen their enabling role and show leadership in working with dedicated agencies, all of whom need to align their direction for the benefit of Dumfries and Galloway and the wider south of Scotland area.”