Hundreds have their say on proposals to transform the Borderlands’ economy

Hundreds of stakeholders had their say on proposals to transform the Borderlands economy at a special conference in Dumfries on Monday 18th June.

Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Elaine Murray, welcomed more than 370 business representatives, public sector organisations and individuals to the first Borderlands conference. She said: “I am delighted that so many people attended on the day, this shows what an important project the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal is. One attendee described the conference as an ‘Illuminating and fantastic event’, which reflected the enthusiasm I perceived on the day, that this is a once in a generation opportunity which must be seized.”

Five local authorities from north and south of the border are working in partnership to put together a proposal that should have huge implications for those who live, work and visit the area.

It was the first opportunity for interested parties to hear about the themes that are being developed to underpin the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal – and to give their views on the major projects they believe would kickstart transformation.

The conference was held at a key time for the partnership, made up of Carlisle City, Cumbria County, Dumfries and Galloway, Northumberland County and Scottish Borders Councils.

Responses from the conference will help the partnership to build a case to present to both the UK and Scottish Governments later this year. Views were sought on the Borderlands’ key themes: Digital; Energy; Destination Borderlands; Rural Productivity; Business Growth; Transport; Innovation and Skills and Quality of Place.

The conference had backing from both governments who have pledged support for a deal.

Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, said: “The Scottish Government has made clear our support for a proposed Borderlands deal in our budget statements. And we look forward to negotiating the detail of that deal when the partners are ready with their proposals. This is a key part of our commitment to 100% coverage of deals across Scotland.
 
“We want to see an ambitious deal that focuses on driving inclusive growth and the priorities that will make a difference and help the economy thrive.  We want a deal that helps address the area’s connectivity challenges, supports growth in sectors particularly important in the Borderlands, and creates more opportunities for all to attract people to the area.

 “We are working to tackle the economic challenges in the South of Scotland, having already committed to establishing a South of Scotland enterprise agency, and we want to ensure that priorities align to maximise impact and success.”

Speaking ahead of the conference the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell said:  "The Borderlands Growth Deal represents a unique opportunity to provide a real shot in the arm to the economy of our region, a region that faces similar challenges wherever you live or work within it. 
“Working with the proposals that have been prepared by local authorities, businesses and individuals, we will spend the summer shaping these in to a coherent deal that will support the economy of the region by encouraging people to invest in new opportunities, by building on our strengths and improving the lives of those who live here. 

“In that way, we will bring to the Borderlands the benefits that are now being seen across the UK as investment in City and Growth Deals progresses.

Dumfries and Galloway Council Chief Executive Gavin Stevenson said: “Crucially we now sit between the emerging powerhouses of the central belt of Scotland and the Northern Powerhouse in England. Unless we act they will continue to suck up our young talent and skills.

“We need to re-position ourselves, we need to stabilise and to stop our productivity falling and then we also need to reinvent. This feels like a once in a generation opportunity.

“We know our potential, our children will not forgive us if there are no jobs in the future. I think we are at that point where we either put up or shut up. We get out there, we shout, we demand and we create the business opportunities.”

Those attending quizzed a panel, chaired by the UK Government’s Borderlands champion John Stevenson MP, on how the deal could support inclusivity, tourism projects and benefit small rural communities.

Speaking after the event, Northumberland County Council Leader Peter Jackson said: 
"We've been amazed by the level of enthusiasm by businesses from right across the Borderlands area. 
 
"Around 370 delegates have come up with a range of ideas that we could progress to make the whole Borderlands a better place. We're talking about schemes such as industrial parks to create high-value employment but also start-up units and ways to improve the tourism offer to put us on the national and international map 
 
"I think this is the start of something that could build into a significant programme to make this one of the most exciting places to live in the whole of the UK."

For more information visit the partnership website www.Borderlandsgrowth.com or email info@borderlandsgrowth.com
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