Issued 4th September 2013


Business leaders and politicians in the Borders need to pull together if they are to make the region a better place than ever to live and work, it was claimed today (Sept 4)

James Aitken, the outgoing Convener of the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce, told his organisation’s annual meeting that different local groups and factions had to sort out their differences and act for the good of the area as a whole.

He said that local organisations had to “act transparently” and “make a huge effort to meet and talk to their respective stakeholders.”

Mr Aitken continued: “It does no-one, least of all business in the Borders, any favours to see yet another war of words between different groups and factions when it is likely that regular and transparent communication from all sides would solve many of the perceived issues.”

But he pointed out that historic difficulties between business organisations in the region were now being addressed and thing were moving forward.

The SBCC had recently held a joint meeting with the Federation of Small Business, and has also been instrumental  in setting up a new umbrella body, the Scottish Borders Business Forum.

The Forum is holding its first event – a discussion of local transport issues – on September 14.

But on a more positive note, Mr Aitken continued, there were a lot of great things happening locally including improvements at Eyemouth Harbour; the new 3G sports arena; our Sevens tournaments; the Borders Book Festival; the first palliative care unit; a site for the Bill McLaren museum; and the successful refurbishment of Abbotsford House.

“If one phrase sums up the position of the Chamber this year, as opposed to last year, it is: improving but still lots more to do.  Our financial position is much healthier, our membership continues to grow and what the Chamber is saying and doing is regularly covered in the press.

“The membership of the board is obviously an ongoing process and the Chamber is always looking to hear from local business people who would like to get involved.”

He added: “One thing I have not had as much success on as I would have hoped is the make-up of the board.  It is still male dominated.  That simply has to change and it is something that the board is looking at again.”

Mr Aitken, a partner in and co-founder of Legal Knowledge Scotland, is stepping down as the Convener of the Chamber after two years in the post.

His successor as Convener is Jack Clark, the recently retired Managing Director of Borders auctioneers John Swan and a leading and hugely respected business figure across the region.

Issued on behalf of Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce – 27 August 2013

Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce Programme to Create Graduate Jobs

Scottish Chambers of Commerce – including the Borders Chamber – are today announcing the nationwide launch of the Graduate Recruitment Incentive.

This will provide  support to small businesses across Scotland to create quality jobs for talented young graduates.

The First Minister, Alex Salmond, launched the programme today (Tuesday)  in Campbeltown as part of an announcement on the Make Young People Your Business policy initiative.

The launch comes only a week after the First Minister and other members of the Scottish Cabinet were in Hawick for a series of community engagements including visits to local businesses.

James Aitken, Convener of the Scottish Borders Chamber, explained: “Businesses here in this part of Scotland have the knowledge, ambition and drive to deliver the growth that the Scottish economy needs right now.

“We’re pleased that the Scottish Government is supporting this private-sector led initiative to help small businesses to create new jobs for Scotland’s talented graduates.”

He added: “We all want to see the Borders play a leading role in strengthening Scotland’s economic recovery and this requires dynamic, growing businesses, creating quality jobs.

“That’s why I am delighted that our small businesses in will have the opportunity to participate in the Graduate Recruitment Incentive, to create new and exciting jobs for our most talented graduates.

“Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce is committed to supporting local firms and helping them to make young people a part of their businesses.

Young employees can provide real benefits to local companies, bringing knowledge and enthusiasm.  A career that starts in a small business creates great potential for a young graduate, providing the opportunity to learn a range of skills and make a real contribution to that business’s success.”


For further information:

Bruce Simpson – 07771 865758 or


1. The Graduate Recruitment Incentive is part of a partnership between Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Adopt an Intern and the Scottish Government called Graduate Employment – Business Growth, that comes under the Scottish Government’s ‘Make Young People Your Business’ policy initiative.

2. The First Minister, Alex Salmond, will launch the Graduate Recruitment Incentive today, 27 August 2013 at MacLeod Construction in Campbeltown at 3:45pm as part of an announcement on the Make Young People Your Business policy initiative.

3. The Graduate Recruitment Incentive’s objectives are to:

a.     Encourage the creation of new, permanent, graduate positions

b.     Provide tailored support to employers navigating the recruitment process.

c.     Deliver Career Zones to encourage a culture of engagement between SMEs and graduates

4.         The Graduate Recruitment Incentive is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered nationwide by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce

5.         The Graduate Recruitment Incentive will create 270 jobs by the end of March 2014.

6.         Any Scottish based business with fewer than 50 employees is eligible to take part.

7.         Participating businesses will receive £1,500 subsidy per position created, along with fully funded pre recruitment business support to assist with creating the job spec, job advert and assistance with advertising, followed by fully funded post recruitment business support to assist with induction, embedding and setting up performance management of the new position.

8.         Businesses seeking further information about the Graduate Recruitment Incentive should visit the programme website, .

Issued on behalf of Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce – 27 August 2013

Release: immediate

Borders Chamber Reacts to Eyemouth Job Losses

Reacting to the news that Coastal Marine Boatbuilders of Eyemouth has gone into administration with the loss of 16 jobs, Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce Director Bruce Simpson said:

“This is clearly very bad news for Eyemouth and all our sympathies are for the workers and their families. The Scottish Government has signalled it will do everything it can to help and to try and facilitate a buyer for the business and we obviously hope its discussions are successful.

“The irony is that the company had recently won a contract to build support vessels for the offshore wind industry. Renewable energy is an important and growing economic sector in the Borders and across Scotland and offshore wind in particular offers fantastic opportunities.”

He added: “We understand there have been several expressions of interest in buying the assets of the company and we hope these will result in a successful outcome and a bright future for the business.”


For further information:

Bruce Simpson – 07771 865758 or

Issued on behalf of Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce – 14 August 2013

Borders Chamber says Scottish Cabinet must listen to region’s concerns

Scottish Cabinet ministers have been urged to “look, listen and learn” when they travel to the Borders next week for a hectic two-day round of meeting and greeting.

The region’s leading business organisation, the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce, say that the visit represents a major opportunity to ensure that local issues are brought to the attention of those at the very heart of government.

The Scottish Cabinet will be meeting in Hawick as part of a series of events next Tuesday and Wednesday (20th and 21st). It travels around the country on a tour every summer, though it is the first time it has been to the Borders since it met in Melrose in 2009.

James Aitken, Convener of SBCC, said today that the visit was hugely welcome – but he urged that Cabinet Secretaries should take on board what they hear from local business chiefs and opinion formers when they are here.

“We would also ask that those organising this visit ensure that the itinerary is in place and made known earlier so that as many people as possible can engage with the Scottish cabinet,” he said.

“It’s fantastic that ministers are taking the trouble to come to the Borders. Sometimes we can feel remote from the centre of power in Edinburgh – seeing the Scottish Government’s top team here is a strong sign that far from being forgotten about, they want to hear our concerns.

“This is a great opportunity to raise the profile of the Borders, but two things need to happen – organisations in the region such as SBCC need to tell them what the main issues are, and they have to take on board these concerns and act on them. They need to look, listen and learn.”

The SBCC has its own hit list of local priorities where it believes the Scottish Government can play a part in bringing change and improvements.

“Transport is an obvious issue – the fact that we’re getting part of the Borders Railway back is brilliant news and absolutely vital to the future of our economy, but it needs to go beyond Tweedbank,” Mr Aitken explained.

“It’s a good start, but to really maximise its potential, there now needs to be a second round of funding to restore the original route closed by the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, taking it on to Hawick and then Carlisle.”

“Road communications are also poor here, and it’s important that – while we appreciate the constraints on spending in the current recession – we expect to see plans for the full dualling of the A1 between Edinburgh and Berwick at some point soon. There is also an urgent need for the creation of additional passing lanes on the A7 and A68.

“Transport is one of the issues being given priority by the newly-launched Scottish Borders Business Forum, and we need to hear that the government fully recognises its importance.”

Other issues Mr Aitken highlights include the decline of the textile industry in the Borders; the need for fast rural broadband; putting pressure on Border TV to provide distinctively Scottish news and current affairs programmes; and a change in the red meat levy to assist Borders farmers.

“Although it appears that the Scottish Government is already in full agreement with us on many of these things, actions speak louder than words. That is why it is important that ministers are regularly reminded of the importance of these issues to the region.”

For further information on this release, please contact James Aitken on 07818 440046 or e-mail


Borders Chamber presses for change to “bizarre” animal slaughter rules

Controversial rules over animal slaughter mean that money which could be helping Scottish farmers is going to competitors south of the border instead.

Now the leading business organisation in the Scottish Borders is demanding a change to the “bizarre” system which rewards UK farmers as opposed to promoting the Scottish product.

Lambs and pigs from the Borders can’t be slaughtered locally because there are no longer any abattoirs in the region.

But this means that – despite them spending all but the last few hours of their lives in Scotland – they are promoted in England as British product and lose their Scottish brand.

The money is used to promote consumer sales of meat – but the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce has launched a campaign on the issue, saying the cash should come back north and be used to support Quality Meat Scotland instead.

Jack Clark, a director at the chamber and the recently retired Managing Director of St Boswells-based auctioneers John Swan, said: “Frankly, the current situation is bizarre. It’s discriminating against Scottish – and in particular, Borders – producers.

“This is Scottish quality meat – born in Scotland, raised in Scotland and taken from Scotland only for slaughter. It’s only fair that the money should be used to promote our fantastic meat products throughout the UK.”

Mr Clark said that the closure of Vion’s meat plant at Broxburn just outside Edinburgh last year exacerbated the problem of lack of slaughter and processing facilities in Scotland.

“This has been a problem for years, but it’s becoming more serious”, he added. “The First Minister has recently written to the Prime Minister about the iniquities of the present levy system and that’s clearly helpful – it’s good to see he’s on our side.

“In addition, Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, is applying considerable pressure to Defra, the department responsible in Whitehall, over this.”

Mr Clark added: “In total, Scottish farmers are losing about £1.4 million a year. That money should be going to help promote our excellent Scottish meat – including, of course, that produced in the Borders, where agriculture is a vital industry.

“Changing the scheme wouldn’t be difficult with the traceability systems the livestock industry has in place – it would just involve tagging the levy onto the animals’ country of birth, rather than where they are slaughtered.”

In his letter to David Cameron, First Minister Alex Salmond said: “Scotland deserves the right to spend all the levy income it contributes to the benefit of the Scottish industry.”

Mr Clark and his colleagues at SBCC are also pressing for a fresh examination of the feasibility of opening and financing a small scale abattoir in the Borders – a move which would help boost the local rural economy.


Issued on behalf of Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce by Written Words

For further information: contact Jack Clark on 07818 451152



TOP business and political figures across the South of Scotland today (Tuesday) warmly welcomed a major TV shake up which is set to give viewers in the region much better coverage of Scottish affairs.

Under new plans announced by the ITV regulator Ofcom, Border TV will have to provide an additional 90 minutes of distinctively Scottish programming every week.

This finally opens the door for viewers in the South of Scotland, which is served by Gateshead-based Border, to receive the much-acclaimed Scotland Tonight current affairs programme which is produced by STV.

At present, viewers in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway receive ITV programmes slanted towards the north of England, with virtually no coverage of Scottish issues outside local news programmes.

The rest of Scotland receives programmes from STV, which is heavily committed to reflecting the current Scottish political debate.

Ofcom, which has been conducting a consultation on the future of ITV programmes, announced today that from next January, Border TV will have to show at least 90 minutes a week of distinctively Scottish programming.

They also say that this may be shared with STV, paving the way for Scotland Tonight – the station’s flagship current affairs programme – to be seen in the Borders region for the first time.

This is considered to be particularly important because there is a widespread belief in the South of Scotland that the region is missing out on the vital debate over Scotland’s future in the run-up the the independence referendum, set to be held in September next year.

Scotland Tonight is seen as an important part of this process.

Ofcom cannot force Border TV to show the programme – it will have to be agreed as a commercial arrangement between the two broadcasters – but leading opinion formers in the South of Scotland now say they hope a deal can be done.

Television chiefs from the two stations don’t even have to wait until next January – the rules allow them to sort out a schedule and start transmissions  as quickly as they like.

Scottish Borders Council, which used its consultation response to back plans for Border TV to include more Scottish programming, said today it was “delighted” at the announcement.

The authority’s leader, Councillor David Parker, commented: “We warmly applaud this imaginative and open thinking at ITV. It looks as if viewers in the South of Scotland may now finally receive the coverage of Scottish affairs which they deserve.

“The Scottish Borders has always prided itself on its distinctive history, culture and traditions, but it is also very much a part of Scotland and wants and needs to engage with the rest of the country.

He added: “Whatever happens in next year’s referendum, the Scottish political landscape is changing and will continue to change radically in the years ahead.

“Borderers and those living in Dumfries and Galloway have as much of as right as anyone else to be properly informed about what is happening and to have their voices heard.

“Ofcom has now signalled that it agrees. We now urge Border TV and STV to rise to the challenge and work together to ensure that our region receives the serious and comprehensive coverage of Scottish current affairs which it deserves.”

James Aitken, Convener of the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is fantastic news and we would encourage Border TV to seize the initiative as quickly as possible.

“As we said in our response to the consultation, we are currently unable to see lots of programmes that the rest of Scotland is watching. Greater coverage of our amazing region can only be good for local businesses.

“Re-broadcasting Scotland Tonight in our region means we can finally engage properly with the Scottish political debate.

“However, we’d urge Border TV to go beyond their licence obligations and consider re-broadcasting other distinctive Scottish programming from STV, including STV Rugby – which would make it easier to see local players such as British Lion Stuart Hogg playing for Glasgow – and the Young Scot Awards.”

He added: “Of course all-Scotland programming could work both ways – it could mean, for instance, that viewers in the rest of the country could watch and enjoy many of our distinctive Border traditions, such as our rugby sevens tournaments and our common ridings and other festivals and gatherings.”

Gordon Mann, Chief Executive of Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce, said: “We welcome this and look forward to a return to a dedicated news service relevant to our region.

With the Scottish Parliament charting out a different course from Westminster and the upcoming debate on independence, it makes more sense for us to be part of the Scottish debate and to hear first hand about these issues.

“The idea that you can effectively deal with the South of Scotland as an opt out from an ITV station serving the massive north east regions of England was never going to work.”

Under the new licensing arrangements there will also be a return of a dedicated local news service, with 30 minutes of weekday early evening news relevant to the region.


Issued on behalf of Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce, Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce and Scottish Borders Council by: Written Words.

For broadcast interview requests or further information please contact:

Maggie Stanfield or Andrew Collier
T: 07403 753801 or 0131-202 6050 or

April 24 2013
Commenting on the news that Langholm weaving company Reid & Taylor has gone into administration with the loss of 35 jobs, Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce Director Maggie Stanfield said:
“This is a shattering blow to a community which has already suffered badly from economic decline. It is doubly painful to learn that the company has gone down with a full order book, and that the failure is due to financing problems.
“The Reid and Taylor name is now more than 175 years old, so this a loss not just of jobs, but of an important part of the local heritage.”
Ms Stanfield continued: “Everything must be done to support those who are facing job losses, with real efforts made to find a buyer for the site. We must hope those efforts are successful.”
24 April 2013
PLANS by the Scottish Cabinet to meet in the Borders this summer have been warmly welcomed by the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce (SBCC).
First Minister Alex Salmond and his senior ministers will be coming to Hawick on August 20 and 21 to hold a full session of the Scottish Cabinet.
During the two day visit, they will also meet local people from a range of different communities and backgrounds and hear their views on a range of issues.
While individual Scottish Government ministers regularly make visits to the Borders in connection with their official duties, it is the first time that the whole Scottish Cabinet has been in the region since it last met in Melrose four years ago.
Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce Convener James Aitken said that the visit would be a “huge shot in the arm” for the region.
He added: “This is fantastic news. To have every senior minister in the Scottish Government coming to Hawick shows real commitment and will give us an unprecedented opportunity to put local issues and concerns to them face to face.
“There have been some concerns locally in the past that it’s been hard to get opinion formers in the Central Belt to listen to what we have to say. Well, now some of the most important opinion formers of all – members of the Scottish Cabinet – are coming to us.
“We will be delighted to offer them a hugely warm Borders welcome and to help in any way we can to make their visit a success.
“Alex Salmond has already signalled they will be here to listen, and we will have plenty to tell him and his colleagues about, including transport links and the state of the local economy. It’s good to know that they’ll be hearing what we say.”
The First Minister said: “The summer recess gives us an important opportunity to get out and meet people from a wide range of backgrounds and communities and hear their views on a range of issues. We will be talking and listening to local people about the things that matter to them.”
Full details of the programme have yet to be announced. Summer Cabinet visits will also be made this year to Shetland, Campbeltown and Fraserburgh.

22 April 2013


ONE of the leading politicians in the Scottish Borders will put himself under the spotlight this week when he talks about his work both as an MSP and at the heart of the Scottish Government.

Paul Wheelhouse, who is an SNP regional member for the South of Scotland and also the country’s Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, will discuss his work and take questions at a special discussion event organised by the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce (SBCC).

The conversation with Mr Wheelhouse will be hosted by Andrew Collier, a Director of SBCC who is also a journalist, broadcaster and political communications consultant. A question and answer session will follow.

Andrew Collier said: “I’m looking forward to hosting this public conversation with Paul Wheelhouse, who is very much an active and popular local MSP here in the Borders as well as being one of the Scottish Government’s rising stars.

“Paul lives in Berwickshire and has his constituency office in Hawick, so he’s very much on top of local issues. I know that he has a huge and genuine passion for the region.  This event will be an ideal chance for him to tell us about what he and his fellow politicians are doing to make the Borders a better place to live and work.”

Mr Collier added: “Paul’s job as Minister for the Environment and Climate Change gives him responsibility for some of the most challenging issues of our times. Global warming isn’t an abstraction – it’s here and it’s happening right now.

“You only have to look at the long hard winter we’ve just had, last year’s appallingly wet summer and the floods we’ve suffered here in the Borders to see that weather patterns are changing.

“Wind farms in this area represent one attempt to deal with this challenge by helping Scotland’s move to a low carbon economy. They are an example of how robust environmental policies can bring jobs and investment to places like the Borders.

I’ll be interested to hear Paul Wheelhouse’s views on how else we in this region can benefit from the green agenda.”

James Aitken, Convener of SBCC, said: “We’re pleased that a leading Holyrood politician is able to come and talk to local people in this way and to answer what I’m sure will be some very interesting questions from the audience.

“The age of the political public meeting may have gone, but it’s still important that our elected members have opportunities to engage directly with their constituents and answer questions and I’m glad we’ve been able to facilitate that.

“We believe that SBCC should not only be the leading voice of business in the Borders, but also act as a forum for all sorts of debate about what sort of a region we want and how best to promote ourselves to the rest of Scotland and beyond.

“Talking to politicians is an important part of this process, and we’ll be continuing to engage with them in the future and to let them know what our priorities are.”

The event, In Conversation With Paul Wheelhouse, takes place at Mansfield Park (Hawick Rugby Football Club), Hawick this Friday, 26 April, at 12.30 for 1pm. Admission is free for both SBCC members and non-members.


3 April 2013

Scottish Government ministers should “grasp the thistle” and finally make plans to upgrade the main A1 road through the Borders, says the region’s leading business body.
The Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce (SBCC) says that Westminster is offering an unprecedented opportunity to turn the entire 330-mile route between Edinburgh and London into a motorway or dual carriageway.
It is now urging Scottish transport minister Keith Brown and his colleagues to follow suit by making funds available to ensure the route is completed.
It emerged this week that the London-based coalition is planning a number of major road improvements, including upgrading the A1 to dual carriageway status along its entire length.
But the Westminster government can only sanction improvements as far as the Scottish border near Berwick – the remaining 47 miles to Edinburgh are the responsibility of the Scottish Government and local councils.
Last night, SBCC Convener James Aitken urged that Scottish ministers respond positively to the UK initiative and give priority status to an A1 upgrade north of the border.
“They should grasp the thistle on this without delay,” he added. “It would not be a major expense compared with other planned road projects as nearly two thirds of the A1 in Scotland is already dual carriageway.
“Upgrading the rest would make the road quicker and safer and would be a major boost not only for the Borders, through which it passes, but also Edinburgh and other parts of Scotland.
“It would be something of a national embarrassment if the road were to be improved to dual carriageway status for the whole length of England, only for a few miles of the road in Scotland to be left as a single carriageway.”
He continued: “This is one of our major roads and, if there is a Yes vote in next year’s referendum, it will become an international artery carrying billions of pounds’ worth of goods in both directions. An upgrade is essential.
“We are aware that money is tight and sympathetic to the fact that the Scottish Government is having to make tough choices, but we would urge a rethink of priorities in the light of the UK government’s decision on the A1.”
Both Scottish Borders and East Lothian councils believe that the improvements will back their local economies and have already urged that the road is upgraded.
For further information:
James Aitken, Convener, SBCC or 07818 440046

2nd April 2013

Businesses in the Borders need to prepare for the future they will face after next year’s historic independence referendum, according to one of the country’s top economists.
They need to look seriously right now at the challenges and opportunities in the event of both a Yes or a No vote – and even at what might happen if we end up with something in between, he said.
Graeme Blackett, who is Managing Director of the consultancy Biggar Economics, was delivering a keynote address to local business leaders and others at the latest meeting of the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce (SBCC).
“You should be identifying the risks of all the options – the status quo, independence and something in the middle which may emerge,” he told his audience at Ettrick Riverside in Selkirk.
“This is real. There is going to be a referendum and change is coming, so you need to be thinking about that.
“But it’s not just about risk. You also need to look for business opportunities. For instance, even in the short term, it is already clear that the debate will raise Scotland’s international profile. There are possibilities there.”
The constitutional debate, he added, was too important to be left solely to politicians. “Ask questions, get involved with groups, and engage with organisations like the Chamber of Commerce.
“And answer the questions as well. Make suggestions about what should happen. You need to set the agenda for the debate. It will go on until the referendum, and I suggest beyond that.”
Mr Blackett also discussed Scotland’s economy. He did not recommend how people should vote, but did present some recent economic statistics.
The UK was currently 19th in the OECD table of advanced economies, he said, while an independent Scotland would come in about seventh.
By another measure – the Human Development Index Report – the UK was currently in 27th place, while with independence, Scotland would come eighth or ninth.
“Scotland is a wealthy country,” he added. “Yet Norway is still 20 per cent richer. That’s the country we should be competing against. Arguably, we’ve actually been dealt a better hand than they have.”
Speaking after the meeting, James Aitken, Convener of the SBCC, said: “This was a fascinating and informative lecture by Graeme Blackett, who is a highly distinguished economist,  and we are delighted he took the trouble to come and speak to us.
“His advice that Borders businesses should not be outsiders and should take part in the referendum process is hugely sensible. There’s actually an argument that because of their proximity to England, companies in the Borders could be affected by constitutional change more than those in the rest of Scotland.
Mr AItken added: “Each local company needs to look at its own circumstances, evaluate its individual strengths and weaknesses in the case of each of the potential scenarios, and make its voice heard.
“This is the most important debate Scotland has faced in more than 300 years and no matter what your view on the independence question, it’s imperative to plan for the future.
“It’s also crucial to look at the risks and opportunities for your company dispassionately and separate them from your personal views. That’s not always easy to do, but you do need to focus on the business perspective.”
The SBCC is planning more events to act as a forum for Borders businesses and others on the referendum in the run-up to the vote, which takes place on 18 September 2014.
For further information:
James Aitken, Convener, SBCC 07818 440046 or
Andrew Collier, Director, SBCC 07403 753801 or
Graeme Blackett’s presentation can be downloaded here BiGGAR Economics of Constitutional Change Presentation mar13

25 February 2013


SCOTTISH countryside supremo Richard Lochhead set out his vision for the country’s rural economy when he paid a visit to the Borders last week.

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment said that the region had a big role to play in boosting Scotland’s prosperity through the high quality of its agricultural products.

Mr Lochhead was speaking at a packed event organised by the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce (SBCC) at the Cardrona Hotel, near Peebles.

He said that if Scotland voted for independence in the 2014 referendum, farmers and the local rural economy could win a better deal through a fairer settlement from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.

At present, he told his audience, Scotland was towards the bottom of the payments pile when it came to CAP payments, losing out by hundreds of millions of pounds because the UK government didn’t negotiate properly on our behalf.

Mr Lochhead added that the atmosphere leading up to next year’s referendum would be “electric” and said that with a yes vote, the opportunities for rural Scotland would be “limitless”.

He continued: “We want your ideas and input as a business community as to what we could do.”

Rural issues important to the Borders such as broadband, mobile phone reception, the renewable energy grid and the price of fuel were all currently regulated by Westminster, he said, but would be dealt with by a Scottish government after independence.

The Evening was chaired by Jack Clark, the outgoing Managing Director of Borders auctioneers John Swan, who is also a Director of SBCC. At the end of the event, the Cabinet Secretary presented him with a gift on behalf of the chamber.

Mr Clark said: “It was fantastic that Richard Lochhead could find the time to come and talk to us – especially since he is currently spending much of his time dealing with the horsemeat scandal.

“He gave a thoughtful and interesting address in which he reflected the views of the Borders rural community that the horsemeat issue actually offers us an opportunity.”

“It has made consumers extremely cynical about cheap imported foreign food, but at the same time they are putting their trust back in the sort of high quality Scottish meat we produce here in the region and elsewhere in Scotland.”

He added: “We are proud of our tradition of producing sustainable, premium quality meat, and this provides us with an extra opportunity to market it.”

James Aitken, Convener of the SBCC, said: “This was another highly successful event which once again proves that we are helping to set the agenda when it comes to the big business, social and political issues facing the Borders.

“It’s fantastic that we are able to attract speakers of the calibre of Richard Lochhead and helps to explain why our membership is vibrant and growing.”

Future events planned by the chamber include a debate on boosting tourism in the Borders and a high-profile conference on local media, including the controversial issue of the region receiving its ITV coverage from Gateshead instead of Scotland.


For further information:

James Aitken, Convener: 07818 440046
Andrew Collier, Director: 07403 753801

The Chamber has high resolution images of the event. To obtain copies, please contact

19 February 2013
Release: Immediate
Plans to give Borders businesses a single campaigning voice for the first time in the region’s history have been given a resounding welcome by the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce.
The plan to establish the new organisation – named the Scottish Borders Business Forum – was agreed by representatives of a host of local organisations at a special meeting held at the council headquarters in Newtown St Boswells on Saturday. Speaking after the meeting, Borders Chamber Convener James Aitken – who delivered a keynote speech at the launch event – said: “This is a massive step forward for the Borders and will play a major part in finally ensuring that our voice is heard in the rest of Scotland and beyond.
“We have needed an umbrella body like this for a long, long time. It is not designed to replace existing business organisations like ours, but to complement them. “Having a Scottish Borders Business Forum will make a massive difference. By presenting a determined and united front, we can really start to make an impact.”
Mr Aitken continued: “In order to ensure that this new organisation gets off to the best possible start, the Chamber has made a sizeable financial donation. We want it to work – and it will. “Of course, there are always going to be areas where local business organisations won’t agree with each other. That’s fine. The point is that there are plenty of other issues where we will share a common voice, and the forum will allow that voice to be heard more than ever before. “Problems such as the decline in the local economy, finding ways of boosting our tourism, getting superfast broadband and improving transport links affect nearly Borders business and there is near-universal support for addressing them. With this new organisation, we really can do just that.
“The Borders is a fantastic area and a great place to live, work and invest. Now we can communicate that message more than ever before. “The Scottish  Borders Chamber of Commerce is right behind the Scottish Borders Business Forum, and we would urge other business organisations in the region to back it too.”
The new forum will now establish a steering group to decide on the way forward. Scottish Borders Council has agreed to host future meetings, though it will play no part in the body’s administration.
For more information: James Aitken, Convener SBCC 07818 440046 Andrew Collier, Director SBCC 07402 753801

February 12th 2013

MOVES to provide TV viewers across the Borders with improved Scottish news and current affairs coverage are to be made with a major debate in the region on the subject.

The Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce (SBCC) is to host a conference this summer at which broadcasters, politicians and local representatives will be encouraged to suggest changes to the current “unsatisfactory” television offering.

Along with the rest of the South of Scotland, the Borders receives its ITV programming from Border TV, which is based in Gateshead. Its nightly ‘local’ news programme, Lookaround, regularly features stories from as far away as the Lake District and the Cumbrian coast.

Anger over this was expressed at Holyrood last week when South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine led a members’ debate on the subject.

Ms McAlpine went on to tell MSPs during the debate that ITV was “in denial” about the problem in the south of Scotland. She is to meet bosses at the channel this week (Wed Feb 6th) to discuss the issue further.

SBCC convener James Aitken said after the Holyrood debate: “It is good to see the Scottish Parliament taking the time to examine our ITV news provision.  We do though need to start talking about it ourselves and having a serious discussion about what should be done.

“That’s why we have decided to host our own event giving broadcasters and politicians the opportunity to come and make their own suggestions for improvement. We will then pass the results of our discussions on to the television regulator, Ofcom, and of course to the people of the Borders and the wider South of Scotland.”

He added:  “There is a feeling in some quarters that, at a hugely exciting time in Scotland’s history, this part of the country is not being properly served by the ITV network in terms of local news. Borderers are as Scottish as anyone else, and have a right to the highest quality provision of news, information and debate on Scottish affairs.

“I want to make it plain that we have absolutely no complaint about the hard working and dedicated staff of Borders TV who currently serve our area. They are talented professionals who would do a great job no matter which ITV company employed them.”

Another SBCC Director, Andrew Collier, who is a professional journalist, said: “It is unsatisfactory that our local news comes from Gateshead and is more likely to cover events in Kendal or Keswick than Kelso. This area is not ‘our region’, as the Borders news programme presenters often call it.”

It may be, he added, that the Borders would get better and more relevant news coverage if it came from STV.  “We have a rich history and culture in the Borders and the South of Scotland generally. There are some great things happening here. The rest of the country deserves to hear about them.”

He continued: “We’re fully aware that – despite Joan’s excellent and impassioned debate – there is little the Scottish Parliament can do to change things, as broadcasting is reserved to Westminster. But people living here should be asked what they want, and STV should certainly be given the chance to tell us what it can offer us.”

Joan McAlpine said: I’m extremely pleased to hear that the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce will host a conference this summer where broadcasters, politicians and local representatives will be encouraged to suggest changes to the current television provision.”

She continued:  “At a time of such political importance in the lead up to the referendum on Scottish independence, it is vital that viewers in this area receive the same coverage from both sides of the debate as the rest of the country.

“I will not let ITV ignore the strength of feeling on this issue.  Viewers in the south of Scotland deserve better.”


February 11th 2013

BUSINESS organisations in the Borders can win a far better deal for the region if they are prepared to work together and speak with a single voice, according to the Convener of the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce.

James Aitken will make a keynote speech at a top-level meeting which is being organised by Scottish Borders Council this weekend.

The event, at the council headquarters in Newtown St Boswells, has been organised to discuss creating a Borders Business Forum which would provide a single campaigning voice for businesses interests right across the region.

In his speech, Mr Aitken – a lawyer – will warn that without such a forum, the views of business in the Borders will struggle to be heard.

“It is very easy for politicians to ignore us if we are not clear in what we are asking or arguing for,” he will say.

“It is no exaggeration to say that these are momentous times for Scotland. There will be a referendum on independence in 2014. Scotland could again be independent by 2016. Then there is the possibility of a referendum on UK membership of the European Union.

“These are some of the reasons we need a Borders Business Forum.”

Mr Aitken will warn that the lack of a unified campaigning front representing Borders business has had damaging consequences in the past, including the original loss of the railway in the 1960s, recent threats to its re-opening, the loss of the Border Reivers professional rugby team and the lack of improvement to local trunk roads.

He is not, he will say, arguing that existing business organisations should disband and create a single entity. “The idea of a Borders Business Forum is not that we will agree on everything. Of course we won’t.

“There are, though, certain issues that we could come together and debate. These might include the campaign to extend the Waverley line to Carlisle, superfast broadband, the quality of our TV and media coverage and the dualling of the A1 to the English Border. There are of course others.

“There are also so many great things going here in the Borders that we need to let more people know about.  There’s the new visitor centre at Abbotsford House, and Eyemouth Harbour can now receive cruise ships. Our first crematorium is now in operation and a second is planned. Then there’s the new 3G sports arena.”

Other exciting events which deserve wider promotion, he will say, include the Borders Book Festival, the Border Union Show, common ridings and our Sevens tournaments.

“Plans are now in place for a purpose-built mountain bike chairlift at Innerleithen.  A  site has been found for the Bill McLaren Museum and of course there’s the start of construction of our railway.”

“My idea of a Borders Business Forum is not a body that imposes its thoughts and ideas on all the business organisations in the Borders.  It is not a governing body.  Business organisations can play as much of a role as they wish and one that they are comfortable with.

“Think of how much stronger we would be if we shared some of our knowledge and resources. And think how strong our voice could be if we speak as one on the major business issues affecting the Borders.”

January 21st 2013

ONE of the most dynamic business organisations in the Borders is mounting a drive for new members – with the promise of fighting harder than ever to promote the interests of local companies.

The Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce (SBCC) is seeking to branch out after spending the last year re-establishing itself as one of the most important and respected voices for all sizes of business in the region.

Over the last few months, it has fought on a number of local issues and also attracted some of Scotland’s major politicians to top-level speaking events – a trend which is set to continue.

Events in the last few months have included networking events with former enterprise minister Jim Mather and MEP Alyn Smith. There have also been meetings with Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and MSPs Christine Grahame and Chic Brodie.

There will be more high-profile speakers this year including an evening with Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, at the Macdonald Cardrona Hotel near Peebles on February 20. A session with local MSP and climate change minister Paul Wheelhouse is also being planned for the spring.

Only last week, the chamber held a membership and recruitment evening at Abbotsford House, the historic home of Sir Walter Scott, which was attended by Sean Connaughton of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce.

James Aitken, the SBCC’s Convener, said that the organisation now had real clout and was able to speak with authority on behalf of business in the Borders.

“Our membership is already vibrant and growing, but we have a huge amount to offer and clearly the more members we have, the stronger and more respected our voice will be.

“The Borders is an absolutely fantastic place to live, work and run a company, with lots of things going on and a real sense of optimism and pride. We are delighted to be part of that.

“The Chamber is able to represent all sectors of local business, from retail and tourism through to service industries, manufacturing and agriculture and the rural economy. We aim to fly the flag for our members when it comes to hugely important local issues such as the railway, fast broadband, rural issues and renewable energy.

“We’re also keen to develop mutually beneficial links with other business organisations, whether it be here in the region, in other parts of Scotland, and of course with our neighbours across the border.”

He added: Our membership offers fantastic value for money and those who join us get a lot back in return. We’re an active organisation, provide some great services and networking opportunities and have a lot to say. I can promise that being a member can also be great fun.”

There are a number of additional benefits including a members’ newsletter, representation on social media, social events and a range of attractive discount deals on services.

James continued: “We don’t receive any outside funding, so we’re almost entirely dependent on our membership income. But we have worked hard to keep our overheads and therefore our costs down, which means we can afford to freeze our fees for this year.”

Anyone interested in joining the chamber of finding out more should contact Alan King at

5th November 2012
THE LEADING business organisation in the Scottish Borders has welcomed the latest development in the construction of the new rail link between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, with the 35-mile route now due to open in 2015.
Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce has warmly welcomed the formal transfer of responsibility from Transport Scotland to Network Rail this morning (Tuesday November 6) – a move which now allows the construction phase to proceed.
However, the organisation is now urging the Scottish Government to go further by funding the expansion of the line through to Hawick and on to Carlisle – a move which would re-establish the historic route which was controversially closed by the Beeching cuts in 1969.
James Aitken, Convener of the SBCC, attended the transfer ceremony and said afterwards the line was “massively important” for the region.
He added: “After an absence of more than 40 years, the re-introduction of the rail line finally brings some normality back to the Borders and provides huge opportunities. Indeed, it is the single most important economic development in the area I can think of in my lifetime.
“It is a fantastic day for all of the Borders. The SBCC would like to thank all those people who have campaigned so hard for many years on this issue as well as the Scottish Government and the majority of the members of the Scottish Parliament.
Unfortunately, there has been an unwelcome amount of political squabbling locally about whether this line is necessary. I and the Chamber take the view that it is critical to our future and now we are about to enter the construction phase, I would urge that the unwarranted negative campaigning stops and that everyone gets behind the project.
“Getting the railway back is vital because it re-connects us with the rest of Scotland. It not only means people can travel between Edinburgh and the Borders quickly and easily – it will also make onward journeys to places such as Glasgow and Dundee much less stressful, faster and more convenient.
“While the completion of the link will be brilliant news, certain other steps need to be taken to ensure that both the people of the Borders and the local economy obtain maximum benefit.
“For those using cars, there needs to be plenty of free parking space at Tweedbank and if possible at all stations. The whole advantage of having the line will be degraded if local people are worried they won’t be able to park their vehicles when they arrive, or if parking fees persuade them to continue to drive to Edinburgh instead.
“Also, the right platform and station infrastructure needs to be put in place to ensure that special trains can use Tweedbank to visit local attractions such as Abbotsford House and the Melrose Sevens. This would be a further significant boost to tourism in the Borders.”
Mr Aitken also said that he and the Chamber were strongly in favour of continuing the line on to Hawick and Carlisle. “A new cross border link is hugely important and the campaign to get that starts right now.  We in the Borders not only want to see improved transport links with our neighbours in Scotland but with the North of England.  The state of the A1 north of Newcastle is nothing short of disgraceful and we call on the UK Government to do something about this as soon as possible.”
Another Director of the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce, Ged Gowans, commented today: “The formal commissioning of the contract to reinstate the Borders Railway is fantastic and very welcome news for the area and represents an opportunity for expansion and betterment in economic and social sectors.
“While the construction work itself will offer a limited boost to local business, the completed and operational line will open up new links with the central belt and beyond, to the benefit of business and in connecting those living in the Borders area with greater job opportunities and the like.
“The Borders Chamber of Commerce sees this as the first step in the regeneration of the wider Borders area, where the railway betters and expands current infrastructure links, creating opportunities for redevelopment, tourism and trade.
“It is now vital that further work be done to extend the rail links beyond Tweedbank along with improving the road network and e-commerce links such as the provision of superfast broadband in line with the rest of the UK.”


February 20th 2013 (Wednesday)
Organisation: Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce

Venue: Cardrona Hotel, Peebles
Time: 7 for 7.30
Guest Speaker: Richard Lochhead MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment

Network Meeting featuring Richard Lochhead MSP Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment. During the evening, he is expected to discuss the future of the Borders economy, important farming issues, how the rural community will fare under independence if Scotland votes Yes in 2014, and the possibility of a UK referendum on EU membership.

February 16th 2013
Venue: Council Offices, Newtown St Boswells

Time: 9am – 11am
Subject: Borders Business Breakfast
Bookings: Contact Bartje Mcgee on 01835 824000 ext 8224 or if SBCC member let Bruce know.

Scottish Borders Business Forum event to discuss the need for a common voice on business issues. Agenda: 9am Light Breakfast 9.30 Background – Cllr Stuart Bell 9.40: Guest Speaker Duncan Nisbet, Next Generation Broadband Step Change 2015 Project (Scottish Government) 10.05: Why a Borders Business Forum – James Aitken, Convenor, Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce. 10.20: Discussion on the current issues faced by Borders businesses. 10.50: Proposals for next steps.

December 6th 2012 (Thursday)
Organisation: SBCC
Venue: Town House Hotel, Melrose
Time: 4 for 4.30

For over 30 years Scottish Business in the Community has been Scotland’s lead organisation promoting responsible business practice. At an event in Edinburgh on Thursday 8th November Scottish Business in the Community launched its new business HUB concept designed specifically to help small and medium enterprises to work together improving their impact on society, the environment and the economy.

A network of Hubs is being established throughout Scotland including the Scottish Borders. The Borders Hub will work with a diverse and wide geographic area to help enable businesses to work together – from textiles and forestry to tourism and hospitality the Hub will build on the work of Scottish Business in the Community’s Senior Executive Programme. The Hub will also work with other business support organisations in the area through collaborative projects that develop businesses and address social and environmental challenges in the region. On Tuesday 6th December Scottish Business in the Community will be joining with the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce for an initial meeting at the Town House Hotel, Melrose to which all interested parties are cordially invited.

November 23rd 2012 (Friday)
Organisation: SBCC
Event: Members pre-Christmas informal social meeting

Venue: Salmon Suite, Buccleuch Arms Hotel, St Boswells
Time: 1pm to 2.30pm

Informal buffet lunch and pre Christmas drinks to which all members are invited together with invited guests.

November 8th 2012 (Thursday)
Organisation: SBCC
Venue: Cross Keys Hotel, Kelso
Time: 7 for 7.30
Guest Speaker: Alyn Smith MEP

Alyn Smith  MEP will be the guest speaker and his topic will be “Scotland’s food producers – bedrock of our economy”. This event will be of particular interest to the Borders agricultural and farming community but by no means exclusively.

Alyn was born in Glasgow in 1973 and grew up in Scotland and Saudi Arabia.

He returned to Scotland in 1986, and later studied Law and European Law at Leeds University and spent a year studying on the Erasmus Programme at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. He graduated from Nottingham Law School in 1996 and gained a Master’s degree in European Studies from the College of Europe in Natolin. He also, for one year, taught English in India and worked with Scotland Europa in Brussels. He later moved to London where he qualified as a lawyer with commercial law firm Clifford Chance.

Having worked with the SNP for a number of years, he was elected as an MEP for the first time at the 2004 European Parliament election and was re-elected in 2009. He is Scotland’s youngest MEP and is Honorary President of both the youth wings of the SNP, the Young Scots for Independence and the Federation of Student Nationalists, as well as a member of the SNP’s National Executive Committee.

In the European Parliament he is a full member of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and won the coveted Scottish Farmer Magazine award for “Outstanding Contribution to Scottish Agriculture” at the Highland Show in 2009.

He is therefore a man with many achiements even at such a young age and his talk is bound to be both informative and entertaining.

The meeting commences at 7 for 7.30 and is free for members. Non-members will be charged £10 and are very welcome.

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