Consultations

1st September 2014

Written House of Commons
Scottish Affairs Committee Enquiry
Our Borderlands – Our Future

Submission by the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce

Background to this Submission

On 23rd July 2014, all members of the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce were circulated with regards to the submission of a collective reply to this report – the link to the document was attached. A draft submission was then drawn up and discussed at the Board meeting held on 5th August. In compilation of the final version, consideration was given to members’ comments, the submission from the Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce (with which we are broad agreement) and to relevant statements from the South of Scotland Alliance.

This submission is structured in line with the questions raised under “Terms of Reference” Para 34 on page 12 of the report.

a) Are the current structures working as effectively as they could for the benefit of the people of the south of Scotland?

If it is accepted that the Borders is in need of special development status, then the current structure is flawed. What structure there is in place seems to be working as efficiently as it can but there is only so much that can be delivered within that framework and budget.

b) How can the UK and Scottish Governments work together with local Authorities to deliver appropriate and effective policies to support economic development and growth in the south of Scotland?

The UK Government should, firstly, appreciate the economic potential of the Borders and secondly appreciate that it is by no means working to its full potential. This is an area of high unemployment, poor wages and leakage of young talent working within a compromised business infrastructure that inhibits competitiveness. The Borders sits between two huge conurbations to south and north and should be ideally situated to supply both, but infrastructure lets it down badly. The Highlands had the same problems with regards to business infrastructure especially in terms of communications and loss of young talent and they were offered special status to improve the situation. The Borders is in need of such assistance which should come direct from Treasury and NOT entirely through the Barnet Formula (in the event of a NO vote in the referendum) as this can be seen as an investment for the whole of the UK and not just Scotland.

c) In what ways might the Borderlands Initiative address some of the challenges faced by the south of Scotland? Could and should it provide a platform for a campaign similar to ‘Our Islands – Our Future’?

There are similarities but not sure that this Committee has the remit to call on more cross-border co-operation. The UK Government is not in favour of “Regional Development Agencies” as can be seen from their immediate closure of all RDAs in England. Consequently, the setting up of a new cross-border RDA to cover Scottish Borders/D&G along with Cumbria and Northumberland (say) is highly unlikely to receive UK Governmental support and/or would be very difficult to administer so other alternatives will have to be found.

This Chamber, along with our neighbours in Dumfries and Galloway, fully supports the work being undertaken by the South of Scotland Alliance.

d) How could the UK Government, working appropriately with devolved Government and local councils, assist in the development of the Borderlands Initative?

They could discuss the possible setting up of a Regional development Agency to cover D&G and the Borders similar to HIE and HIDB. This is likely to upset SE but there is a feeling that SE have pulled out of the Borders at a time when we needed them most. D&G and the Borders should be accepted as being an area of special needs.

e) How has the creation of a new and centralised Scottish Enterprise impacted upon enterprise and economic development in the south of Scotland? How could the structures and processes of Scottish Enterprise be reformed in order to remedy this?

It is difficult to see anything positive coming about through this re-structuring exercise – perhaps this is just a “visual” problem but that is what happens when you centralise. Centralisation just tends to be method of saving money.

f) What is the most appropriate structure for promoting enterprise and economic development in the south of Scotland? For example, could the remit of the South of Scotland Alliance be developed or enhanced? Is there scope for enhanced co-operation with relevant parts of the north of England – with the former Dumfriesshire and Carlisle, or Berwick and its hinterland both appearing to offer synergies – or is there scope for the establishment of a Borderlands Enterprise structure which would include local authority areas on both sides of the border?

Any commercial initiative covering all four areas would help but in what format that would work effectively? All businesses work within the “market” so it would take monetary/taxation/finance initiatives to improve cross border commerce directly. Where the Borders loses out is in its very poor business infrastructure in comparison with “competitor” regions, especially the cities north and south. Poor roads, rail, broadband – these are all public sector remits and we are being failed by the public sector. The Borderlands Enterprise idea is covered above – essential for D&G and Borders but highly unlikely to be delivered in the English side of the Border where RDA s are frowned upon.

1st September 2014

Written House of Commons

Scottish Affairs Committee Enquiry

Our Borderlands – Our Future

Submission by the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce

Background to this Submission

On 23rd July 2014, all members of the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce were circulated with regards to the submission of a collective reply to this report – the link to the document was attached. A draft submission was then drawn up and discussed at the Board meeting held on 5th August. In compilation of the final version, consideration was given to members’ comments, the submission from the Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce (with which we are broad agreement) and to relevant statements fro the South of Scotland Alliance.

This submission is structured in line with the questions raised under “Terms of Reference” Para 34 on page 12 of the report.

a) Are the current structures working as effectively as they could for the benefit of the people of the south of Scotland?

If it is accepted that the Borders is in need of special development status, then the current structure is flawed. What structure there is in place seems to be working as efficiently as it can but there is only so much that can be delivered within that framework and budget.

b) How can the UK and Scottish Governments work together with local Authorities to deliver appropriate and effective policies to support economic development and growth in the south of Scotland?

The UK Government should, firstly, appreciate the economic potential of the Borders and secondly appreciate that it is by no means working to its full potential. This is an area of high unemployment, poor wages and leakage of young talent working within a compromised business infrastructure that inhibits competitiveness. The Borders sits between two huge conurbations to south and north and should be ideally situated to supply both, but infrastructure lets it down badly. The Highlands had the same problems with regards to business infrastructure especially in terms of communications and loss of young talent and they were offered special status to improve the situation. The Borders is in need of such assistance which should come direct from Treasury and NOT entirely through the Barnet Formula (in the event of a NO vote in the referendum) as this can be seen as an investment for the whole of the UK and not just Scotland.

c) In what ways might the Borderlands Initiative address some of the challenges faced by the south of Scotland? Could and should it provide a platform for a campaign similar to ‘Our Islands – Our Future’?

There are similarities but not sure that this Committee has the remit to call on more cross-border co-operation. The UK Government is not in favour of “Regional Development Agencies” as can be seen from their immediate closure of all RDAs in England. Consequently, the setting up of a new cross-border RDA to cover Scottish Borders/D&G along with Cumbria and Northumberland (say) is highly unlikely to receive UK Governmental support and/or would be very difficult to administer so other alternatives will have to be found.

This Chamber, along with our neighbours in Dumfries and Galloway, fully supports the work being undertaken by the South of Scotland Alliance.

d) How could the UK Government, working appropriately with devolved Government and local councils, assist in the development of the Borderlands Initative?

They could discuss the possible setting up of a Regional development Agency to cover D&G and the Borders similar to HIE and HIDB. This is likely to upset SE but there is a feeling that SE have pulled out of the Borders at a time when we needed them most. D&G and the Borders should be accepted as being an area of special needs.

e) How has the creation of a new and centralised Scottish Enterprise impacted upon enterprise and economic development in the south of Scotland? How could the structures and processes of Scottish Enterprise be reformed in order to remedy this?

It is difficult to see anything positive coming about through this re-structuring exercise – perhaps this is just a “visual” problem but that is what happens when you centralise. Centralisation just tends to be method of saving money.

f) What is the most appropriate structure for promoting enterprise and economic development in the south of Scotland? For example, could the remit of the South of Scotland Alliance be developed or enhanced? Is there scope for enhanced co-operation with relevant parts of the north of England – with the former Dumfriesshire and Carlisle, or Berwick and its hinterland both appearing to offer synergies – or is there scope for the establishment of a Borderlands Enterprise structure which would include local authority areas on both sides of the border?

Any commercial initiative covering all four areas would help but in what format that would work effectively? All businesses work within the “market” so it would take monetary/taxation/finance initiatives to improve cross border commerce directly. Where the Borders loses out is in its very poor business infrastructure in comparison with “competitor” regions, especially the cities north and south. Poor roads, rail, broadband – these are all public sector remits and we are being failed by the public sector. The Borderlands Enterprise idea is covered above – essential for D&G and Borders but highly unlikely to be delivered in the English side of the Border where RDA s are frowned upon.

g) How can the UK Government work most appropriately and effectively to promote enterprise and economic development in the south of Scotland?

This is a devolved matter but the UK Government could agree to the part funding of a South of Scotland Development Agency with remits including agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, fisheries, renewables and culture. NEW money should be made available from UK treasury for an initiative which would be of benefit to the whole UK economy

h) Should the question of devolution, not only from Holyrood to Local Authorities, but to local communities, be further explored?

Discounting the Community Councils which have been proven to be ineffective, lacking local support, generally unable to deal with the complex issues of development and also very open to intimidation by pressure groups, there may well be opportunities for the third sector as deliver mechanisms.

i) How could the UK Government work with both the Scottish Government and with its EU partners to assist in the development of constructing boundaries for the purposes of the allocation of structural funds? What would be of most benefit to the south of Scotland in this context?

SBCC agrees with the need for D&G and Scottish Borders to form its own NUTS2 area. This makes complete sense as both rural areas are at present attached to larger urban areas and thus lose out. However, current minimum population requirements would mean that the Borders and D&G would have to be joined by all or some of our other neighbours such as Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Midlothian, West Lothian and East Lothian in order to obtain the minimum population requirement of 880,000.

j) What are the root causes of high levels of under employment in the south of Scotland? Are there any specific factors relating to the economic profile, or the demographics and geography of the region which explain this. What steps could be taken by both the UK and Scottish Governments to address these specific factors?

This is historic and generally goes back to the grand days of the textile industry. Apportioning blame is not for this submission.

Much of the above in this submission refers to the poor business infrastructure in the Borders (roads, rail, b’band, mobile coverage etc) which results in poor business performance against competitors. This is basic public sector work and we in the Borders have paid our taxes the same as everybody else. We don’t see the setting up of a “SSDA” as being the be-all-and-end-all but it is a start and if it is directed by Borders expertise and commercial/entrepreneurial input it could be a great success but it must be seen to be driven by regional needs and not political needs.

k) What steps could be taken by all levels of Government in both the immediate and longer term to address the low-wage economy of the south of Scotland?

This is purely down to economic activity – unless more public sector agencies can be moved from the central belt/Westminster to the Borders. Centralisation of Govt services is just as more relevant to Westminster Govt as it to Holyrood/Central belt.

The over-riding factor, though, is economic activity and the development of commerce in the Borders. There is no easy answer except for more immediate public sector jobs.

l) What initiatives could both the UK and Scottish Governments put in place to specifically tackle the high levels of youth unemployment in the region?

The SBCC is already targeting the one third of school leavers in the Borders who either have no job/training to go to or who are being “pushed” by well-meaning parents to do a College course about which they are not convinced.

The setting up of a University of the South of Scotland would go a long way to raising the profile of the area and of helping to reduce the leakage of young talent out of the area – a similar problem as faced by the Highlands and Islands but not so well recognised. In addition, youngsters see the lack of good broadband and poor mobile reception as being symptomatic of a backward, rural area. Much is already being done in the rollout of fibre broadband and G4 but this has taken years of hard lobbying to obtain – one has to ask the question “why so many barriers?”.

On a more positive vein, the Borders Rail scheme is going to be a major boost to our local economy for many reasons.

College course provision has to be balanced between what regional employers want and what the student want. If it is too “employers” biased then we lose our youngsters to other Regions where their course preferences are available.

One area where the Borders could be a leader is through the provision of Business Management and Manufacturing Engineering courses – MIT springs to mind. This a need in Scotland/UK as a whole and could be centred here in the Borders?

m) Are there steps that can be taken to stimulate local democracy and the development of community organisations to assist economic regeneration and social development?

As stated above, Community Councils as they are structured at present are NOT suitable bodies for economic development issues – social issues, perhaps. They are not democratic as many are structured with un-elected local people. As a result they do not necessarily have the expertise to deal with complex development issues and are easily intimidated. All Community Council mtgs should be held in private with the CC calling in evidence where required.

In areas where there are no elected Community Councils, the formation of privately run Local Development Companies should be encouraged.

This is a devolved matter but the UK Government could agree to the part funding of a South of Scotland Development Agency with remits including agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, fisheries, renewables and culture. NEW money should be made available from UK treasury for an initiative which would be of benefit to the whole UK economy

h) Should the question of devolution, not only from Holyrood to Local Authorities, but to local communities, be further explored?

Discounting the Community Councils which have been proven to be ineffective, lacking local support, generally unable to deal with the complex issues of development and also very open to intimidation by pressure groups, there may well be opportunities for the third sector as deliver mechanisms.

i) How could the UK Government work with both the Scottish Government and with its EU partners to assist in the development of constructing boundaries for the purposes of the allocation of structural funds? What would be of most benefit to the south of Scotland in this context?

SBCC agrees with the need for D&G and Scottish Borders to form its own NUTS2 area. This makes complete sense as both rural areas are at present attached to larger urban areas and thus lose out. However, current minimum population requirements would mean that the Borders and D&G would have to be joined by all or some of our other neighbours such as Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Midlothian, West Lothian and East Lothian in order to obtain the minimum population requirement of 880,000.

j) What are the root causes of high levels of under employment in the south of Scotland? Are there any specific factors relating to the economic profile, or the demographics and geography of the region which explain this. What steps could be taken by both the UK and Scottish Governments to address these specific factors?

This is historic and generally goes back to the grand days of the textile industry. Apportioning blame is not for this submission.

Much of the above in this submission refers to the poor business infrastructure in the Borders (roads, rail, b’band, mobile coverage etc) which results in poor business performance against competitors. This is basic public sector work and we in the Borders have paid our taxes the same as everybody else. We don’t see the setting up of a “SSDA” as being the be-all-and-end-all but it is a start and if it is directed by Borders expertise and commercial/entrepreneurial input it could be a great success but it must be seen to be driven by regional needs and not political needs.

k) What steps could be taken by all levels of Government in both the immediate and longer term to address the low-wage economy of the south of Scotland?

This is purely down to economic activity – unless more public sector agencies can be moved from the central belt/Westminster to the Borders. Centralisation of Govt services is just as more relevant to Westminster Govt as it to Holyrood/Central belt.

The over-riding factor, though, is economic activity and the development of commerce in the Borders. There is no easy answer except for more immediate public sector jobs.

l) What initiatives could both the UK and Scottish Governments put in place to specifically tackle the high levels of youth unemployment in the region?

The SBCC is already targeting the one third of school leavers in the Borders who either have no job/training to go to or who are being “pushed” by well-meaning parents to do a College course about which they are not convinced.

The setting up of a University of the South of Scotland would go a long way to raising the profile of the area and of helping to reduce the leakage of young talent out of the area – a similar problem as faced by the Highlands and Islands but not so well recognised. In addition, youngsters see the lack of good broadband and poor mobile reception as being symptomatic of a backward, rural area. Much is already being done in the rollout of fibre broadband and G4 but this has taken years of hard lobbying to obtain – one has to ask the question “why so many barriers?”.

On a more positive vein, the Borders Rail scheme is going to be a major boost to our local economy for many reasons.

College course provision has to be balanced between what regional employers want and what the student want. If it is too “employers” biased then we lose our youngsters to other Regions where their course preferences are available.

One area where the Borders could be a leader is through the provision of Business Management and Manufacturing Engineering courses – MIT springs to mind. This a need in Scotland/UK as a whole and could be centred here in the Borders?

m) Are there steps that can be taken to stimulate local democracy and the development of community organisations to assist economic regeneration and social development?

As stated above, Community Councils as they are structured at present are NOT suitable bodies for economic development issues – social issues, perhaps. They are not democratic as many are structured with un-elected local people. As a result they do not necessarily have the expertise to deal with complex development issues and are easily intimidated. All Community Council mtgs should be held in private with the CC calling in evidence where required.

In areas where there are no elected Community Councils, the formation of privately run Local Development Companies should be encouraged.

 

28th April 2013

Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce Response to the Ofcom Consultation on Channel 3 and Channel 5 LicencesFinal – Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce – Ofcom TV response copy (1)

 

20th April 2013

Email to Christine Grahame MSP and Paul Wheelhouse MSP on ITV coverage in the Borders.

Dear Christine and Paul

I was wondering if you are aware that Samatha Kinghorn from Gordon and who attends Earlston High School won a Young Scot award last night. The highlights programme is on STV on Sunday night. Ironically we in the South of Scotland can only watch this on-line. That option is not though available to everyone. A similar issue arises with other STV programmes such as STV Rugby and Scotland Tonight.

I am wondering if this is an issue you intend to raise in the Scottish Parliament in the near future. I have also copied in Joan McAlpine as I understand that they have also raised this issue in the past.

A question has also been raised regarding Scottish Government adverts such as those concerning health issues. Do you know if they are always shown on ITV Border as well as STV?

Kind regards

James Aitken
Convener Scottish Border Chamber of Commerce

22nd April 2013
Subject: The Future of Postal Services for Small Businesses – a paper by Royal Mail

This can be viwed here – small businesses article.

Subject: Survey of Businesses into the Economic Contribution of the Onshore Wind Sector in the Scottish Borders
For: BiGGAR Economics and SBC
6th November 2012

The Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce has agreed to distribute the following survey to members on behalf of BiGGAR Economics, which has been appointed by Scottish Borders Council to carry out research into the economic contribution of the onshore wind sector.  This is part of a wider study that will also cover public perception and the implications of further development on the landscape.

The study will consider existing and future impacts from onshore wind energy for Scottish Borders businesses.  The study will also make recommendations on actions that can be taken to maximise positive economic impacts on businesses on the Scottish Borders and to mitigate any negative impacts.  Therefore it is important that the study gathers evidence from companies that have been or could be impacted by the onshore wind sector, which could include farmers, tourism businesses and suppliers to the sector (existing or potential).

BiGGAR Economics and Scottish Borders Council would greatly appreciate it if you could spare some time to fill in the following brief survey, which should take 5 to 10 minutes to complete.  To take the survey, please follow this link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BordersWindBusinessSurveySBCC

 

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