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Convenor’s Report for the Year

At the AGM held on 11th June 2015 at the Ednam House Hotel, Kelso, Chamber Convenor Jack Clark reported that through the excellent communications bulletins, members received an informative, weekly, update on all aspects of the Chamber’s business.

During the past twelve months the Chamber had broadened the base upon which it worked. One of the most significant roles played was that of Chair of The Borders Business Forum. This group has the full support of the SBC Economic Development Committee and had, throughout the year, expanded its horizons and was now recognized together with the Chamber of Commerce as one of the leading groups in the Borders Region taking up issues on behalf of any sector which contributed to the Borders Economy.

The Board’s quarterly meetings with the region’s elected representatives had also proved to be an extremely useful platform upon which to raise controversial issues which affected Chamber members. Two of the most important being town centre regeneration and business rateable values. Mr Clark emphasised that members should note that Directors of the Chamber all played an active part in endeavouring to ensure that these issues received the appropriate attention.

He added that another matter worth raising was that of the considerable number of meetings which were attended by Chamber’s Board members which went largely unreported but nevertheless did make a significant contribution to the Chamber’s activities.

In recent months the Chamber had held a series of open meetings with the General Election Candidates for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk constituency and those had proved to be both popular and informative.

One of the main activities of the Scottish Chamber Network was that of business mentoring. He reported that the Chamber had had issues with this scheme for a number of years but it was hoped that should the Scottish Chamber network be successful in its current tendering procedure, the Scottish Borders Chamber would, once again, be in the position to operate the scheme here in the Borders in the very near future.

Mr Clark added that the Borders Chamber would like to congratulate all those involved in the re-opening of the Borders Rail – the biggest boost to the Borders economy for many a year. It was up to us all to make sure that the benefits offered were embraced to the full so that plans could be pushed forward for the next development to the south.

The advent of the re-opening of the Borders Rail had also highlighted the current situation in the Borders with regards to the Tourism sector. Having lost the Borders Tourist Board some years ago, a current “void” in grass-roots tourism promotion and marketing in general was evident. Your Chamber had already taken this up with the Scottish Chamber network where it had received considerable support and was currently involved with others locally to find common ground in which we could all work together to re-energise the promotion of the Borders as a region, utilising the energy which was evident throughout the region. This was an on-going initiative.

Finally and more closely to home, though, he observed that the financial stability of the  Chamber was improving and that it had been decided to keep subscriptions unchanged. However, members should note that the Chamber has applied for VAT registration. The Chamber’s financial position was however due in no small way to the enthusiasm of membership, advertising contributions received from website adverts and Chamber events, especially the lunch meetings. This year the Chamber is to organise the Scottish Borders Business Awards due to be held in November. This, together with the very successful “Kelso Races” days, offered an added opportunity for members to entertain clients and friends in a cordial and business orientated environment.

He looked forward to a busy and rewarding 2015 and asked all members to become involved as with their input could the Chamber flourish.


Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting
11th June 2014 at the Roxburghe Hotel and Golf Course, Heiton.

Convener’s Report

Convener Jack Clark reported that the Chamber has been building on the increased activity instigated by his predecessor James Aitken, this past year which had seen a further expansion of the Chamber’s activities. Membership was now standing at 165 mainly due to the outstanding work undertaken by previous Membership Officer, Alan King. He then introduced, Duncan Swanston, the Chamber’s new Membership Officer to the meeting.

The Convener reported that activites during the year had included two referendum debates – a major one at the Borders College, Galashiels and a more “local” one held in Langholm. These meetings had included a cross section of our local political representatives who were also involved in regular meetings with your Board with the purpose of highlighting and discussing various issues which are raised by our members.

The Chamber now occupied the Chair of the Scottish Borders Business Forum for the next twelve months. This forum comprised representatives of Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses, Borders Exporters Group, the Borders Area Tourism Partnership and National Farmers Union. The sectors which were being targeting included those specifically emphasised by SBC and the Scottish Government but especially Agriculture and Tourism. To that end, he encouraged members to highlight issues in any sector affecting them in order that we may take these up on their behalf.

Through regular Members newsletters/bulletins members were kept up to date with on-going activities including the now regular “last Friday lunch meetings” which were held throughout the region and to which all members and guests were always welcome. Guest speakers had so far included Doddie Weir, John Lamont MSP, Richard Arkless (Business for Scotland), David Watt (Institute of Directors), Paula McDonald (VisitScotland) and fellow member John Cleland who is piloting a young drivers scheme. These and Board meeting were all held in members’ establishments such as Tontine Hotel, Peebles; Duns Castle; Buccleuch Arms Hotel, St Boswells; Burts Hotel, Townhouse and Kings Arms Hotels, all Melrose; Mansfield House Hotel, and Mansfield Park, Hawick; Heatherlie House Hotel, Selkirk; Cardrona Hotel; Roxburghe Hotel and Golf Course; Kingsknowes Hotel, Galashiels and Cross Keys Hotel, Kelso – we thank them all for the kind hospitality.

He added that another in initiative this year was a more social one, an occasion to meet other members and members from other Chambers referring to the very successful Day at the Races in May when 70 people were hosted by Kelso Races to a very entertaining day out.

In conclusion, he added that Chamber Directors were striving to provide members with a platform upon which they could promote their business and also act as their voice in the Political sphere.

He then went on to report on the various “initiatives” that Board members were currently involved in which were not necessarily known to Chamber members, These included:

  • Bank of England Committee – This committee of Chamber members meets with Will Dowson, the Scottish Bank of England representative quarterly to give feedback on Borders commercial activity on a sectorial basis. This is highly valued by the Bank of England as last September the Chamber hosted a meeting with Chris Salmon, Executive Director, Banking and Chief Cashier of the Bank of England in Melrose.
  • Elected Representatives Meetings: This was a new initiative which had proven very popular with both the Board and elected representatives, Michael Moore MP, David Mundell MP, Christine Grahame MSP, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, John Lamont MSP and Jim Hume MSP. It was also held quarterly and all aspects of Borders business was discussed. It had already “spawned” a possible tourism project.
  • Tourism Project: It had been recognised that the regional marketing of the Borders to the tourism markets had diminished somewhat since the demise of the old Scottish Borders Tourist Board. This was particularly important with the opening of Borders Rail next year. MPs, MSPs and the Chamber Board discussed this at length at the first elected representatives meeting and it was agreed that the Chamber should act as a conduit to get the Area Tourism Partnership, Borders Rail and others with an interest in tourism to work together and to put into practice what Jim Mather taught us 2 years ago – collaboration! The first step had been the setting up of a Community Rail Partnership for the south of Scotland taking in the Borders rail area. The motion for setting one up was proposed by Borders Chamber and eagerly seconded by our colleagues in Mid and East Lothian Chamber. This is an on-going project.
  • Education/youth employment/career initiative: He reported that the Board had approached Borders Council Education Department late last year with a view to the Chamber helping final year scholars to decide what career paths they really wish to take. It was already known that one third of school leavers had either nothing to go to or were going to college to do something they really did not want to do, being encouraged by their well-meaning parents. The Board was keen to have access to these students in order to “mentor” them in groups, individually to discuss career paths and even help in finding job placements. The Education Dept hag agreed this initiative and we are just waiting for their go-ahead which will hopefully come soon.
  • Mentoring: A few years ago the Chamber had ceased operating the National mentoring scheme as their were disagreements in the way it was operating. These problems were now being faced head-on and it is hoped that we can once again launch a mentoring scheme for members this year.
  • Borders Business Awards: With the full agreement and support of the Scottish Borders Council, the Chamber agreed to take over the organisation and running of the annual Borders Business Awards. This would be a major new venture for the Chamber and members would be hearing much more about it over the coming months. A lot of work would have to be done by the sub group of Board Directors who would be overseeing it.
  • Graduate Recruitment Incentive/Growing Talent: The GRI scheme had been piloted last year by a small group of Scottish Chambers. This year the Borders Chamber had agreed to take part and initial results show that the Borders had managed to fulfil the budget of 3 graduate f/t jobs for the year. The scheme closed this year at the end of May.

Finally, his thanks went to his fellow directors for their enthusiastic participation especially to Craig Little who was stepping down from the Board after three years as Finance Director. He looked forward to welcoming Roseanne Bennett, also from Greaves West & Ayre as the new Finance Director in due course. His thanks also went to Alan King the Chamber’s previous membership officer now working with Business Gateway, under whose remit membership rose from 77 in 2012/13 to 164 in 2013/14 and to his successor Duncan Swanston. And last but by no means least, the membership, for their continued support.




Members’ Bulletin 3rd February 2014

1. Scottish Borders Business Forum meeting. The next meeting of the SBBF is to be held this Friday 7th February from 11am in the SBC HQ in Newtown St Boswells. The subject revolves around housing and construction challenges and opportunities in the Scottish Borders. More information is attached. I would recommend attending as there are two good speakers.

2. Borders Rail Business Survey: I have attached an email regarding this survey. I hope many members will be able to participate.

3. JRW Accountants: The latest JRW newsletter can be found at www.jrwca.com/news/tax_news/index.php

4. February 28th “Last Friday” lunch. This month’s lunch meeting will be held at the Heatherlie House Hotel, Selkirk and will feature as our guest speaker David Watt from the Institute of Directors who will be talking about Scotland’s and the UK’s Economy as well as Scotland’s future. As usual, the lunch costs £15 per head, £18 for visitors/non-members and please let me know if you wish to attend as I have to forewarn the hotel. 12.30 for 1pm-2pm sharp.

5. Finally, please do not forget the Referendum Debate on 20th February 7pm at the Borders College.

Members’ Bulletin 10th September 2013

To All Members

1. AGM: The Borders College Training Restaurant turned out to be an excellent choice of venue which I would have no reservation in recommending for small/medium corporate events. All of the catering was undertaken by the College catering students under the eye of Fiona Nicol. About 25 members attended and heard from outgoing Convener James Aitken on events during his second year in office. His speech can be found in full on http://www.borderschamber.com/?page_id=512. The Finance Directors’ Report showed a financial recovery from the previous year with both increasing membership and a lowering of operational costs. The Outgoing Convener then introduced the office bearers for the forthcoming year, the Incoming Convener being Jack Clark and Vice Convener Bruce Simpson. Craig Little is continuing in his role as Finance Director. It was gratifying that so many members, outwith the Board, were so willing to become more involved in Chamber activities and their offers would be pursued! An excellent buffet was enjoyed by all.

2. Forthcoming Meetings:

A. This Saturday, September 14th. 9am – 11am – Borders Business Forum, Transport debate. SBC HQ St Boswells. The event, to be chaired by Graham Bell from the Federation of Small Businesses, brings an opportunity for both individuals and organisations to find out what the Scottish Government’s transport plans are in the Borders and to question panellists about them. Speakers include; Robert Young, Scottish Borders Council; Peter Lloyd, Transport Scotland, Rail Policy Executive; Philip Flanders, Road Haulage Association; and Network Rail.

B. Monday, September 16th 5.45 for 6pm start – 7pm – Bank of England Committee. An opportunity to meet and listen to Chris Salmon who will give a private briefing on the current economic outlook and the recent changes to the Bank of England’s responsibilities. Members only. RSVP to me asap please – some members already have. Venue is the Town House Hotel, Melrose.

C. Friday 27th September. Last Friday in the Month mtg at Buccleuch Arms – any time between 4pm and 6pm for social chats and a drink; there will be a float in the till. Time also to meet with Rachel Scott, Utilitywise. See Case Study at http://www.borderschamber.com/?page_id=805 and save on energy bills.

D. We have had meeting with Job Centre Plus about Employment Schemes and at the time of writing this bulletin I am awaiting confirmation of a network meeting for you to be informed of the schemes available. This meeting is likely to be during an afternoon and there is a lot of information to give you. I may also be able to give members more information on the Graduate Recruitment Scheme by then.

3. Latest JRW September Newsletter is available to members on their website www.jrwca.com

4. Air Passenger Tax petition. Scottish Chamber has circulated details of a petition against the current rate of APT. Info is attached to this email for your information.

5. Peninsula Business Services. Peninsula are one of our Membership Benefits suppliers in the field of Health & Safety and Employment Law. They have a special offer which is attached for your information.

6. Davidson Chalmers Better Business Seminars. Chamber member Davidson Chalmers has announced their Autumn/Winter Seminar programme. Many of these seminars are held in Galashiels and to see the full list log on to http://www.davidsonchalmers.com/seminars/

That is all for now. Thanks.

Annual General Meeting
4th September 2013

Chairman’s Speech

Good afternoon everyone.

Welcome to the 2013 AGM of the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce.

Firstly, by way of introduction to those who do not know me, my name is James Aitken and I am the Convener of the Chamber.   I will make further introductions as we go along.

Before I begin do we have any apologies?

The order of events is fairly straightforward.  I will firstly seek approval of the minute of last year’s AGM.

I will then outline some of what has been happening in the Chamber over the past year.  You will no doubt be relieved to hear I only intend to speak for 20 minutes or so.

I will then ask Craig Little, the Chamber’s Treasurer, to give a review of our finances.  I understand that Craig has brought a number of copies of our accounts for anyone who would like a copy.  Craig will then answer any questions you have.

Then I will ask the other directors and in particular our new Convener and vice- Convener if they would also like to say a few words.

I will then invite questions from the floor.

We should be finished the formal part of the AGM by around 1pm.  I hope that many of you will be able to stay for the buffet lunch.

Firstly to the minute of last year’s AGM.  Does everyone have a copy with them or has seen a copy of the minute?  Are there any questions? Do we have a proposer and a seconder? Thank you.

The location for my final speech on behalf of the Chamber is an apt one.  I grew up in Langlee which overlooks the College and University campus.  My rugby club is just a few yards from here.

I also know from personal experience how important the College is to the Borders and the wider business community.  I left school before my 16th birthday to start an electrical apprenticeship.  I attended the old Borders College on the Melrose Road to study for my City and Guilds.  When it finally became clear how poor an electrician I was, and that I wanted to go to university, a number of people at the College helped me when I was teaching myself the Highers I needed to get into University. 

[With this in mind, this is also a good opportunity to introduce Susan Rennie, Employer Engagement coordinator at Borders College.]

So to the Chamber and the past year.

“As the leading business membership organisation in the Scottish Borders the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce is committed to representing the interests of the business community in the Scottish Borders.”  I am sure that many of you will have seen this phrase used in our press releases and in other Chamber publications and speeches.  This statement is what the Chamber should be judged against.

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.

This has a great deal to do with the work done by Bruce Simpson, Andrew Collier and Alan King.  Bruce took over our communications role from Harry McGrath just over a year ago, Andrew has dealt with the press on our behalf and Alan King deals with membership.  These are paid positions and done on a month to month freelance basis.

The work done on these fronts has directly contributed to our growing membership which has meant an improved financial position.

Each role is crucial and complimentary.  It may seem obvious but we actually need to meet with our members and listen to what they are saying.  That is something we have simply not done enough of in the past and still need to improve further on.  That is one of the main reasons we created Alan’s role.

Alan, Bruce and Gordon Innes are also working very hard on updating our “member benefits” package just now.

Then there is the amount of positive and regular publicity generated for the Chamber by Andrew and Bruce.  Barely a week has gone by during the last year without the Chamber being mentioned in our local press.  A number of members have given this as their main reason for joining or re-joining when they have met with Alan.  I and a number of other directors have also given a number of TV interviews.   This has given the Chamber a much higher profile than in past years.

I would also like to thank Andrew and Bruce for all the work they did concerning the Ofcom consultation.  It clearly had an impact.  One reason for its impact was that it was part of a wider campaign.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank David Parker, leader of Scottish Borders Council and the Dumfries and Galloway Chamber for their help with this campaign.

It is likely we will soon see improved local news coverage and the showing of a number of programmes from STV.  It is not good for our businesses that the rest of Scotland do not see or hear enough about the great things that happen here in the Borders.  It is also ridiculous that the South of Scotland does not receive programmes such as STV Rugby, Scotland Tonight and the Young Scot Awards.  We could not even watch one of our local MPs debate with the deputy First Minster recently.  The response that you can view Scotland Tonight and other programmes online or on the “STV Player” is simply patronising.

One thing that has become obvious to me over the last two years is that dealing with the press and generating publicity for the Chamber is a job for a professional.  That of course has a cost implication and must be kept under review.  There are though huge benefits to the Chamber both in terms of increasing our membership and how we lobby our elected representatives and various other agencies and quangos.

Social media is also something that the Chamber is embracing.  Thanks in particular to Bruce.   Our new improved website is also just about to be launched.

Now to events.  This is something that the board keeps under review.  We are keen to do more joint events with other local business organisations and that is something the board is working on just now.  Our recent joint lunch with the FSB went very well.   We are also looking at possible joint initiatives with other business organisations such as the Exporters Club.   The benefits of this approach are obvious.

The Chamber has also held a number of very successful events this year.  A huge improvement on the previous year.  Bruce is already promoting our winter events programme.  One thing we have taken on board is that our members would also appreciate more of a chance to meet other members in a more relaxed setting.  “Informal networking on the last Friday of the month” now forms part of the events programme.  Again, as with our media coverage, our events play an important role in our ability to lobby our elected representatives.

Now to our finances.  Craig will outline this in more detail in a few minutes but we are in a much stronger position than we were a couple of years ago.  The Chamber also does not receive any public money.  A situation I personally hope continues.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank Craig for all the work he has done over the past two years regarding our finances.  As already mentioned, the work done by Bruce, Andrew and Alan does have a cost implication and must be kept under review but for the moment appears to be working well.

Now to the lobbying of our elected representatives which I have mentioned a couple of times already.  This is one of the primary tasks of the Chamber and has been one of the Chamber’s priorities over the last two years.  We are very lucky in the Borders that three of our elected representatives hold ministerial positions.  The Chamber has spent a great deal of time putting forward our views on an extremely wide range of topics to our local councillors, MSPs, MPs and MEPs.  That has included the importance of the partial return of our railway, business rates, the Ofcom consultation, the need for an abattoir in the Borders, the upgrading of the A1 and the urgency of improving other main roads, arguing for windfarm development where appropriate, various tourism issues, the strange workings of the so called ‘meat levy’, asking politicians to hold “business surgeries”, various banking issues and the importance of urgently improving our broadband and mobile phone services.

Our politicians want to engage with us.  Let’s not disappoint them.

It was also great to see the Scottish cabinet visit us recently.  It was also great to see the huge amount of positive coverage it gained for the Borders throughout Scotland notwithstanding the lateness of the invitations.

I am also delighted that our relationship with Scottish Borders Council has improved markedly and in particular I would like to thank Councillor Stuart Bell for our participation on the Council’s Economic Development Group and to Samantha Smith for all her help, support and advice in relation to the Scottish Borders Business Forum.  More on that initiative in a minute.  The Chamber was also involved in the discussions surrounding Scottish Borders Council’s “Scottish Borders Loan Fund”.   This is the kind of initiative the Chamber welcomes.

The Chamber not only has to engage with our politicians but a number of agencies and quangos.  I have often been asked what I think about bodies such as Visit Scotland and Scottish Enterprise.  My view is fairly straightforward.  I do not automatically believe that the Borders needs its own organisation for every sector, agency or quango or that the way we did things in the past was automatically better.  That said, organisations such as these – and this Chamber as well – must act transparently and make a huge effort to meet and talk to their respective stakeholders.  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.

As for our relationship with Scottish Chambers I must admit to being in two minds about this.  That though is a matter for my successor and the board.  I would though like to thank Ged Cowans, our vice-Convener, who is also standing down for all the work he has done representing our Chamber at numerous Scottish Chamber events.

On a personal note I am delighted that my idea of bringing the various business organisations together to discuss and debate the bigger issues affecting our businesses here in the Borders has been successful.  The new body is to be called the Scottish Borders Business Forum and its first event deals with a number of local transport issues and is being held on the 14th of September.  That is a Saturday morning and is at Scottish Borders Council HQ starting at 9am.  It should last about two hours.

The meeting will have speakers from Transport Scotland, Scottish Borders Council, Network Rail and the Road Haulage Association.

I was also pleased that the Chamber agreed to donate the sum of £2,000 to this project.  The only business organisation so far to make such a contribution.  That will be used to make available online a list of all the business organisations in the Borders along with their contact details and also what events they have planned.  This is not rocket science and is long overdue.

As for Directors, a number of new Directors have recently been appointed:

Raymond Kerr, Nick Green and Paul Heyhoe.  Four directors resigned during the year:  Alan Dickson, Maggie Stanfield, Andrew Collier and Chad Dawtry.  Thanks to all of them for all they have done for the Chamber.

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.  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.

The Chamber is also creating an association of former Directors of the Chamber.  The advantages to the Chamber of making use of the knowledge and experience of our former Directors are obvious.

A few final thoughts.  There are a huge number of great things going on here in the Borders.

Eyemouth Harbour can now receive cruise ships, our first crematorium is now in operation, the Borders Book Festival, the Border Union Show, the new 3G sports arena, plans are now in place for a purpose-built mountain bike chairlift at Innerleithen, our common ridings and festivals, our “Sevens” tournaments, our first palliative care unit and a site has been found for the Bill McLaren museum.   Let’s also not forget the newly refurbished Abbotsford House.  I am sure everyone here today could add many others to this list.

One reason I mentioned these things again concerns a letter I had published in the Southern Reporter a few months ago which received a great deal of comment.  I must admit I was getting sick and tired of the negativity surrounding the Borders that seem to dominate the letters pages of our local papers.  I simply wanted to point out some of the great things happening here in the Borders.

I also mentioned the negativity towards the return of the railway, which has been disgraceful, and I hope at last is at an end.  It gave a great deal of ammunition to those in other parts of Scotland who wanted the money spent on their patch.  We were accused of being divided and insular.  With this in mind, I would again ask those local politicians who even now seem reluctant to support the project to put the Borders first and get behind the campaign to take the railway to Melrose, Hawick and hopefully Carlisle.  This is a fantastic opportunity for the business community in the Borders and something the Chamber fully supports.

One of the reasons we lost our railway is that we were divided.  Let’s never let that happen again.  Hopefully the Scottish Borders Business Forum will give us the single business voice that we have not had up till now.

It is though not just about the railway.  The quality of our communication infrastructure is absolutely vital if business in the Borders is to remain competitive let alone expand.   The main roads that cross the Borders are simply not good enough.  This is a matter mainly for the Scottish Government and BEAR Scotland but also for Scottish Borders Council.  Regarding BEAR Scotland.  The amount of time it took them to resolve the landslip problem on the A68 between Earlston and Lauder was simply not good enough.  When we contacted them about this it was difficult to even persuade them to put signs up saying what the problem was.  When we contacted Scottish Borders Council to try and put pressure on BEAR Scotland about this their response was pretty much, “nothing to do with us”.  If our politicians and organisations such as BEAR Scotland do not understand the importance of roads such as the A68 to business here in the Borders this will make it much more difficult to retain or even entice more businesses to the Borders.  It is that simple.

So what do we want?  Of course we want to see the A1 dualled all the way to the Border.  We know that the other main roads into and out of the Borders are not going to be dualled.  That is why we are arguing for two or three more passing lanes on the A7 and A68 as a matter of urgency.  The Chamber will also be arguing very strongly for much improved broadband and mobile phone services for the Borders.


A few final words.

I am pleased to report that the Chamber remains in very good hands.  That brings me nicely to Jack Clark and Bruce Simpson.  Jack Clark is my successor as Convener and Bruce Simpson succeeds Ged Cowans as vice-Convener.  Both Jack and Bruce have done a power of work for the Chamber over the last few years. We will hear from both of them in a few minutes.

I would like to thank my fellow directors, both past and present, for all their support over the last two years.  Our board of directors are unpaid unless they also take on one of our paid roles and rarely even claim expenses.  A great deal of the work they do goes unreported.

Lastly, and by no means least, I would like to thank our members for their continued support of the Chamber.

I will finish where I began.  “As the leading business membership organisation in the Scottish Borders the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce is committed to representing the interests of the business community in the Scottish Borders.”

It has been an absolute pleasure and honour to represent the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce for the last two years.  Thank you.


Board Meeting

Convener’s Review of the Year

This is my second and final “review of the year” as my term as Convener comes to an end at the Chamber’s AGM in September.
As the leading business membership organisation in the Scottish Borders the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce is committed to representing the interests of the business community in the Scottish Borders. This statement is what the Chamber should be judged against.

If one word sums up the position of the Chamber this year, as opposed to last year, it is ‘stable’. Our financial position is in a much healthier position and our membership continues to grow. This is largely due to the excellent work done by Craig Little, Alan King and Gordon Innes. It is worth noting that we receive no external funding.
Part of the reason for our increasing membership is the amount of positive and regular publicity generated for the Chamber by Andy Collier and Bruce Simpson. In particular I would like to thank them for all the work they did concerning the Ofcom consultation. Andy and Bruce have done a fantastic job for the Chamber over the past year. Andy has though unfortunately had to stand down as a director of the Chamber due to work commitments.

One thing that has become obvious to me over the last two years is that dealing with the press and generating publicity for the Chamber is a job for a professional. The same applies to increasing Chamber membership. A professional approach must be taken. That though has financial implications. How the Chamber deals with publicity and membership matters are just some of the issues that the board is debating just now. Another matter being looked at by the board is why the Chamber has relatively few female directors.

On a personal note I am delighted that my idea of bringing the various business organisations together to discuss and debate the bigger issues affecting our businesses has been successful. The new body is to be called the Scottish Borders Business Forum and its first event on transport issues is being held in September. I was also pleased that the Chamber agreed to donate the sum of £2,000 to this project. The Chamber is also committed to working as closely as possible with other business organisations outwith these larger set piece events.

One of the primary tasks of the Chamber is lobbying our elected representatives on behalf of our members. We are very lucky in the Borders that three of our elected representatives hold ministerial positions. The Chamber has spent a great deal of time over the last few years meeting with and putting forward our views on an extremely wide range of topics that include the importance of the partial return of our railway, business rates, the A1 and broadband coverage. I am also delighted that our relationship with Scottish Borders Council has improved markedly and in particular I would like to thank Councillor Stuart Bell for our participation in the Council’s Economic Development Group and to Samantha Smith for all her help, support and advice. I would also like to thank Ged Cowans for all the work he has done representing our Chamber at numerous Scottish Chamber events.

Lastly I would like to thank my fellow directors, both past and present, for all their support over the last two years. Our board of directors are unpaid and rarely even claim expenses. A great deal of the work they do goes unreported. I am pleased to report that the Chamber remains in very good hands.

Yours sincerely
James Aitken
Convener Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce


To All Members

1. Firstly a welcome to all our new members since the last 23rd March:

Waverley Housing, Hawick
The Photo King, Selkirk
The Networking Co. (Scotland) Ltd, Selkirk
Aventia Marquees, Ltd, Melrose
Heard Hamilton Financial Services LLP, Selkirk
John Telfer Ltd, Hawick
Xela Scaffolding Ltd, Selkirk
Cameron facilities/Dan-Wood, Galashiels
The Paper Chain, Galashiels
The Swan, Earlston
Rhymers Tower, Earlston
Sovereign Financial Services, Galashiels
Patricia Thom & Co., Kelso
Promotif, Kelso
Chintz, Hawick

Many members have recently offered special deals for fellow members – these will be circulated to all members in the near future. As you can see from previous Bulletins, our membership drive is bearing fruit so special thanks to Alan King for his services in this respect. I will be re-circulating recent/past Bulletins to new members in order for them to catch up on Chamber activities.

2. Next Network Meeting – “Paul Wheelhouse in Conversation” will be a lunchtime event 12.30 for 1pm at Mansfield Park, Hawick on Friday March 26th. All are very welcome to attend. Tea/coffee/biscuits etc will be available and the bar will be open. Please drop me an email if you are coming along and thanks to all those who have already done so.

3. West Lothian Chamber Open Golf Members’ package. West Lothian Chamber have put together a special deal for Chamber members to attend final practice day of the Open Golf Championship on Wednesday 17 July 2013. Details of this package is attached.

4. JRW Newsletter – latest (April) edition can be viewed by Chamber members on their website www.jrwca.com

5. Scottish Chamber Skills Pulse Survey – many members took the time to take part in this survey in January. Many thanks – a copy of the final report is attached for your information.



To All Members

A number of items that may be of interest to you:

1. Network Event – lunchtime, Friday, 26th April 2013. This meeting has Paul Wheelhouse MSP as guest speaker at Mansfield Park, home of Hawick RFC. 12.30am for 1pm start. Entitled “Paul Wheelhouse in Conversation”, this will be a very informal lunchtime event when topics covered are likely to be numerous.

As usual, all are welcome but please let me know if you intend to come along so I can organise catering accordingly.

2. Scottish Chamber Quarterly Business Survey – Qtr 1 1013. Attached.

Scottish Chambers of Commerce have released their Business Survey results for the first quarter of 2013.  The survey, conducted in conjunction with the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute, reports an encouraging start to the year in the manufacturing sector, with some positive signs in construction and, to a lesser extent, tourism.  However low demand remains a major constraint to increased activity in most sectors and the barrier to a return to trend growth.

3. Latest Stark Main & Co Newsletter can be found at https://www.starkmain.co.uk/admin/mailshots/render_mailshot_template_and_content/22439/0
4. Digital 2013. We have been offered a 50% discount for any chamber member wishing to attend Digital 2013 (SECC on 25th April). You can go to www.digitalconnections.org.uk for more details. If you do want to attend, please contact Joan Serafini at –  joan@equatorevents.com   – and she will send you the appropriate discount code which will allow you to register.

5. Royal Society of Edinburgh Digital Participation Consulation Event. The Royal Society of Edinburgh is keen to receive feedback from a range of local SME businesses across the Scottish Borders around their use of the internet and digital technologies to conduct their work. This event is being held at the Heart of Hawick on 25th April. Further details can be found at http://digiscot.net/ .

6. Finally, please keep your eyes on http://www.borderschamber.com/?page_id=65 where a large number of events and training opportunities are to be found. This is constantly updated.


To All Members

1. New Members. Firstly a welcome to our new members:

Marmions Brasserie, Melrose.
PA Bishop & Co. Accountant, Selkirk.
The Glen Hotel, Selkirk.
Kings Hotel, Melrose.

I will soon be adding all members to the website together with member2member special offers.

2. The next network meeting is only a few days away on Wednesday 27th March at 7 for 7.30 start. Venue is the Ettrick Riverside, Selkirk the offices of Borders Business Gateway. We now have the date of the referendum so this meeting comes at a very appropriate time. Graeme Blackett is an expert in his field and the subject of “Economics of Constitutional Charge” is likely to be interesting.

3. Budget Reports. I have uploaded a Budget summary from members JRW onto the website. I will also send to you by separate email a further summary produced by Stark Main & Co Ltd.

4. Referendum Date – Scottish Chambers Press Release:

Commenting on the announcement that the referendum on Scottish independence will take place on Thursday 18 September 2014, Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:

“The announcement of the date for the referendum delivers greater clarity in terms of the timetable for the decision making process.  For business, even more clarity will be required over the next 18 months about the business environment and fostering economic growth in Scotland.  Our message to the politicians on both sides of the debate is that the Scottish economy must be at the centre of their considerations going forward.

“Scottish Chambers of Commerce are working with businesses across Scotland to identify the issues that require to be addressed by politicians across the political spectrum in key areas such as skills and the workforce, connectivity, support for Scotland’s businesses, our business operating environment and growing Scotland’s flagship industries.

“Whatever the outcome of this referendum, the key challenges facing Scottish businesses will remain.  The date is now set and the politicians need to bring forward their plans to support Scottish businesses through and beyond 2014.”


To All Members

1. Membership

Firstly, a welcome to all of our new members:

Scotia Chiropractic, St Boswells
Mobility Assist (Scotland) Ltd/Five Star Taxis (Scotland) Ltd, Galashiels
Munros of Jedburgh Ltd, Jedburgh
Invision Signs, Galashiels
Gall Robertson CA/Stewart Technology Ltd, Galashiels
RF Blackhall & Partners, Innerleithen
Brydons Bakery Restaurant Ltd, Hawick
ExpressMotor Factors & Accessories, Hawick
Ferguson Planning Consultants, Melrose
Jim Hay Estate Agents, Hawick
Hawick Autocare Ltd, Hawick
Heatherlie House Hotel, Selkirk
The Kingsknowes Hotel, Galashiels
Clovenfords Hotel, Cloverfords

….and hopefully many more to follow.

Secondly, all existing members were emailed an application form to renew their membership for 2013/14 last week. Ordinarily, the completion of an application form for existing members would not be necessary but for this year I need the information for many reasons including website content and other promotional activities. In future years I would hope only new members would have to complete the form as the information for existing members would already be on file. Please bear with me on that one – hopefully it is a one-off this year!

2. Twitter

For those of you in the Twittersphere, the Chamber’s account is @ScotBordersCC. If you are not following us, please do so as we can then follow you and retweet accordingly. For those who are sceptical about Twitter as I used to be (now I have 5 accounts, mostly business) believe me, it does work. Keep your eye on the Chamber’s Events Page http://www.borderschamber.com/?page_id=65 as there are often courses on Social Media held by Borders Business Gateway FOC.

3. Affinity Deals

Over the next few weeks a number of new Affinity Deals will come on-stream. You will be notified accordingly.

4. Next Network Meeting

Following on from our very successful and well attended meeting at Cardrona with the Cabinet secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead MSP, our next meeting, on Wednesday 27th March, addresses one of the hottest topics in Scotland at present – the potential cost of  independence.

Our guest speaker on the “Economics of Constitutional Change” will be one of the leading and most respected authorities on this subject –  Graeme Blackett, Director of BiGGAR Economics and also of Reform Scotland.

In his own words, “In the lead up to the Independence Referendum in 2014, the state of the Scottish economy and its prospects for the future will be at the centre of the debate.  My talk will set out the main economic issues and the implications for business.”

The recent GERS report is also likely to be on the agenda.

The timing of this meeting  at Ettrick Riverside, Selkirk is 7 for 7.30pm start. Plenty of car parking is available and tea, coffee, biscuits etc will be on hand. There is no charge for what promises to be a very instructive and appropriate meeting given that the referendum is taking place in autumn next year..
As usual, in order to advise the venue of catering requirements, I would be grateful if you could email me if you are wishing to attend.


To All Members and Colleagues
Network Meetings and Debates (for your diaries):

March 27th, (Wednesday)
Venue: Ettrick Riverside, Selkirk
Time: 7 for 7.30pm
Guest Speaker: Graeme Blackett, BiGGAR Economics, Director of Reform Scotland.

Subject: “The Economics of Constitutional Change” – as we move towards the 2014 referendum, a leading economist looks at the financing of an independent Scotland. What are the advantages and perils of a Yes vote. Graeme will also be making reference to GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) in other words public sector finances.

Bookings: Now open. Free of Charge. Please let me know if you would like to book your place. Of interest not only to Chamber members but also to students of politics and economics along with Trade Unions, political parties, businesses and the public and third sectors.

April 26th, (Friday)
Venue: Mansfield Park, Hawick (TBC)
Time 12.30 for 1pm
Guest Speaker: Paul Wheelhouse MSP
Subject: “Paul Wheelhouse in Conversation”

An informal lunchtime talk with the MSP for the South of Scotland and Scottish Government Minister for the Environment and Climate Change who is seen as one of Holyrood’s rising stars. He will be in conversation with Andrew Collier, a leading political journalist and also a Director of SBCC. With plenty of opportunity to ask questions.

May 30th (Thursday)
Venue: The Lodge, Carfraemill
Time 7 for 7.30
Guest Speakers: TBC
Subject: The Organisation and Marketing of Tourism in the Borders

The promotion of tourism is one of the fiercest subjects of debate in the Scottish Borders. We bring the main players together for what promises to be a passionate but hopefully useful and constructive debate about the opportunities presented by one of our most important industries, and how we can best market them. If you’re in business in the Borders, then tourism probably affects you – we want to hear your thoughts.

March 5th 2013

To All Members and Colleagues

Following on from our very successful and well attended meeting at Cardrona with Richard Lochhead MSP, our next meeting, on Wednesday 27th March, addresses a more specific subject, the “Economics of Constitutional Change”.

Our guest speaker at Ettrick Riverside, Selkirk will be Graeme Blackett, Director of BiGGAR Economics and also of Reform Scotland. In his own words, “In the lead up to the Independence Referendum in 2014, the state of the Scottish economy and its prospects for the future will be at the centre of the debate.  My talk will set out the main economic issues in the constitutional debate and the implications for business.”

The timing of this meeting is 7 for 7.30pm start. Plenty of car parking is available and tea, coffee, biscuits etc will be on hand. There is no charge for what promises to be a very instructive and appropriate meeting given that the referendum is only 20 months away.

As usual, in order to advise the venue of catering requirements, I would be grateful if you could email me if you are wishing to attend.

February 12th 2013

To All Members

Ever noticed that things always seem to gather pace when you are away and unavailable? Consequently, a lot has happened over the past two weeks when I have been away on holiday. I will be as brief as I can.

1. Borders Business Forum – Initial meeting, of which the Chamber is a prime mover, comes in the form of a “Breakfast Meeting” at SBC Council HQ commencing at 9.30 on this coming Saturday, 16th February. All very welcome. Please let either me know or contact Bartje Mcgee on 01835 824000 ext 8224.

Agenda on our website http://www.borderschamber.com/?page_id=65

2. February Network Meeting. Next Wednesday, 20th February sees the Chamber hosting an evening with Richard Lochhead MSP, Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment.  Venue Cardrona Hotel, Peebles 7 for 7.30pm start. Please let me know if you are intending to come along – for catering arrangements. 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.

3. March Network MeetingChange of date here. Now 27th March featuring Graeme Blackett BiGGAR Economics on the subject of “Economics of Constitutional Change”. Venue is the County Hotel and Restaurant, Selkirk 7 for 7.30pm. Again, please let me know if you will be coming along.

4. April Network Meeting – We are pleased to have secured Paul Wheelhouse MSP on Friday 26th April, probably in Hawick but still to be confirmed as with timing.

5. Tourism Meeting – still trying to confirm both time and venue but this will take place!

6. Borders Media Event – The Chamber will be holding a major conference in the summer on the future of TV and the media in the South of Scotland. A debate on whether Berwick should be in Scotland or England is also planned for August.

7. Scottish Chambers of Commerce’s Annual Dinner will take place on Wednesday 25th September 2013, at the Hilton Hotel, Glasgow.  The evening commences with a drinks reception at 7.00pm, followed by dinner.  During the evening you will be inspired by their selection of speakers and captivated by the entertainment.  The event will be brought to a close at 11.30pm after which time, guests can continue to network in the bar area.  Please complete and return the attached event booking form, to secure your booking.

8. West Lothian Chamber are hosting the next joint Chambers lunch on 28th February and would be delighted if SBCC members would be able to join them. These lunches with guests from the 3 Chambers have always been well attended and had very good feedback. If any of your members would like to come along  it would be at the Chamber Member rate of £25.00 Incl VAT. (details below)

BMW Joint Chambers Lunch
Thursday, February 28, 2013 – 12:00 to 14:00
Macdonald Houstoun House Hotel, Uphall, EH52 6JS

This joint networking lunch with Chambers from the Scottish Borders, West Lothian and Midlothian & East Lothian offers an excellent opportunity to extend your contact base over East Central Scotland.

Network over a relaxing 2-course lunch in the surroundings of the Macdonald Houstoun House Hotel, Uphall.

Remember to take plenty of business cards

Cost – Members: £25.00+ VAT, Non-members: £35.00+ VAT

To book contact Aileen on 01506 414 808 or email aileen.ross@wlchamber.com

To book and pay online click here

9. Request from a former Borders man now residing in the Netherlands. Self explanatory, offering assistance to those companies interested in operating there.

See http://www.borderschamber.com/?page_id=399

Sorry for the length of this but much has happened over the last two weeks as you have probably gathered from Press Releases, interviews and Ceefax pages (Page 1605)!


Bruce Simpson
Communications Director

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