South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine says the new economic development agency for the South of Scotland deserves the same level of funding as the one in the highlands.
The SNP MSP, who campaigned for the agency, made her comments as the Scottish Parliament met in Dumfries to take evidence on the bill establishing the agency.
“It’s fantastic that the SNP government is passing legislation to create the new agency. The challenges faced in the south of Scotland might be different to the Highlands, but it’s vital that we receive the same levels of funding, per head of population, as Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
The MSP attended the meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee at the Easterbrook Hall. The cross party committee will scrutinize the bill to create the agency, which will cover the Borders region as well as Dumfries & Galloway.
The new body is due to be established in 2020, however an interim partnership is currently operating in the region with a budget of £10 million for the 2018/19 financial year. That sum is in addition to the millions already spent in the region by Scottish Enterprise and Business Gateway.
The MSP said:
“This interim funding is very welcome and some has already been utilised for the Annan Action Plan to boost the local economy after the closure of Pinneys.
“The challenges facing the South of Scotland include transport infrastructure, a low wage economy, an ageing population and outward migration of young people. These are now compounded by Brexit and the loss of EU funding – so the agency could not come at a better time.
“We already have many strengths in the region that the agency can help build on,” continued the MSP, “such as an internationally-renowned food and drinks sector, a high quality of life, well-established primary industries such as agriculture, forestry, manufacturing and thriving tourism and cultural sectors.”
The meeting of the Scottish Parliament Committee in Dumfries looked at ways in which the new agency could be organised as well as what it’s purposes and powers might be. It also offered opportunities for members of the public and school pupils to find out more about the plans.
“This is a great example of the Scottish Parliament getting out and about across the country to meet people in local communities,” added Ms McAlpine.
Note to Editors – Link to Scottish Government’s South of Scotland Enterprise Agency: consultation report: https://www.gov.scot/publications/south-scotland-enterprise-agency-consultation-analysis-report/
Image attached – Joan McAlpine MSP with Emma Cooper, Chief Executive, Scottish Rural Action.