Ms McAlpine – who sits on the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee – questioned Scottish Enterprise representatives giving evidence to the committee, and asked why the agency was assisting so few “growth export” companies in the region.
Boosting exports is a key economic priority for the Scottish Government.
Scottish Enterprise is one of the national agencies involved in promoting economic development, enterprise, innovation and investment in business in Scotland.
Shortly after the meeting, Ms McAlpine received an email from Lena Wilson, the top boss at the agency.
Ms Wilson has asked Adrian Gillespie, Managing Director of Operations, and Iain Scott, Chief Financial Officer to update Ms McAlpine on future plans and discuss what more needs to be done.
Ms McAlpine said: “I was pleased Lena responded so quickly to my public criticism – it shows that when you make a fuss you get some action!
“But the real test will be seeing an increase in economic activity in D and G. The percentage of the total of Scottish Enterprise growth exporters here is 1.8 per cent, which is the lowest percentage in Scotland and is way behind other rural areas. That figure is clearly not good enough and Scottish Enterprise bosses know it’s not good enough. I want this meeting to be about solutions.
“Another Scottish Enterprise survey of account-managed companies that was put before the committee last year showed that the lowest level of access to finance in Scotland is in Dumfries and Galloway. Again, not good enough.”
Scottish Enterprise was restructured some years ago, meaning the functions of unelected Local Enterprise Companies were devolved to local councils, who now run services like Business Gateway.
Some politicians have claimed the restructuring moved SE functions to the central belt, but Ms McAlpine said it was the other way around.
“This is the opposite of centralisation. Powers were given to the local council, but what have they done? The move was popular with councils, but it doesn’t seem to work for businesses, who are the ones creating the jobs.”
Scottish Enterprise previously set out its South of Scotland Rural Regional Economic Development Programme, in partnership with the South of Scotland Alliance – Dumfries and Galloway Council, and the Scottish Borders Council.
The programme consists of five key projects including an Economic Development Strategy for the M74 Corridor Area.
Ms McAlpine added:
“I appreciate that work is being done, but not fast enough – it’s time for a new approach.”
A link to the official report of the Economy, Energy and Tourism meeting on Monday the 3rd November can be found here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28862.aspx?r=9614