Other Press Releases

News release from Scottish Borders Council: Monday 27 October 2014

Business leaders and politicians visit Galashiels Transport Interchange to see progress and launch new website

The importance of integrated transport networks in the Borders has been highlighted today with a meeting of business leaders, Scottish Borders Council members and national politicians at the Galashiels Transport Interchange.

The Scottish Borders Business Forum’s new website was launched at the event, when those present also heard that the work on the interchange is on schedule and on budget.

Jack Clark, chairman of Scottish Borders Business Forum, said: “I am delighted to be able to visit the Transport Interchange today, which will provide 21st century integrated transport facilities for the Borders and will bring economic benefits for businesses and the communities they serve.

“With the return of the railway next September, this is a time of opportunity for the business community, and the Scottish Borders Business Forum is the united voice of the sector in the region.

“The forum represents more than 40 associations, including those involved in tourism, construction, farming, education and creative industries, and this enables the business industry to speak with one voice both within and outwith the region.

“Our main aim is to give critical mass to the diverse range of Borders businesses, enabling credible dialogue with decision-makers at a local, Scottish and UK level.

“However, in order to be effective, the forum depends on input from the business community.

“We would be delighted to welcome more Borders businesses to the forum, and they can now find out more about the forum and our aims and get in touch through our new website – www.sbbusinessforum.org – which we are launching today.”

In addition to passenger facilities, the interchange will provide dedicated business space in the heart of the town with excellent transport links.

On the ground floor there will be waiting facilities and café to make it a comfortable environment for users; an interactive tourist information point, real time information for trains and buses, and accessible shower and cycle lockers to promote cycling and walking to the transport hub. Overall the facilities will promote the use of sustainable transport and create a viable alternative to vehicle travel on the A7 to Edinburgh.

The £5.2million project is being delivered on site by the Scottish Borders Council’s development partner Hub South East Scotland and its appointed contractor Morrison Construction.

It is being financed by the Council and the European Regional Development Fund, which is providing £1.8m of funding, and is scheduled to open prior to the railway in September 2013.

Notes to Editors

SBC has provided a commitment to deliver a Transport Interchange in Galashiels for the opening of the Borders Railway in 2015. It will promote the improved connection between all means of sustainable transport to provide a sustainable alternative to the private car.

For more information on the Galashiels Transport Interchange, visit www.scotborders.gov.uk/transportinterchange

Hub South East Scotland

Hub South East Scotland Ltd was established in 2010 to provide development services throughout the Lothians and Borders. It was the first of five Hub companies to be set up across Scotland as part of a national initiative to develop cross agency community facilities which will support better joined-up public services.

Hub South East Scotland is a joint venture development partnership between public sector service providers (NHS, Councils, and Emergency Services), Scottish Government (through Scottish Futures Trust) and a private sector consortium. This 20 year partnership has an identified pipeline of £400m and is currently planning, funding, designing or constructing £190m of projects including schools and community health centres.

For more information, contact the Communications and Marketing team on 01835 826632 or communications@scotborders.gov.uk

16th October 2013
For Immediate Release

Continued optimism as Scotland’s unemployment rate falls 

Commenting on the recent fall in Scotland’s unemployment rate, Liz Cameron, Chief Executive, Scottish Chambers of Commerce commented:

“These recent figures show continued optimism for Scotland’s workforce as employment rose by 0.9% to 72.8% and unemployment fell by 0.2% to 7.3%, from the previous period.

This economic indicator provides a welcome sign that the economy is heading in the right direction and businesses across Scotland should be commended for their efforts in creating and sustaining jobs.

“These figures provide us with comfort, however we must not become complacent in our mission to revive Scotland’s economy. To achieve our ambition of substantially reducing the unemployment rate in Scotland, we need to improve the information and support provided to unemployed individuals. Stronger business led partnerships need to be formed, with businesses driving the information to ensure future skills provisions for Scotland’s economy are met.”


For immediate release


Commenting on the September 2013 inflation figures released today, Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:

“The September inflation figures are of particular importance to business, because it is this month’s RPI figure that the Government uses to calculate the annualised increase in business rates. The figures released today mean that business rates for Scottish firms will rise by the RPI of 3.2% next April.

“Current rates bills are based on the notional rental values of properties at the peak of the market in 2008 and have risen every year since the revaluation in 2010. It is a policy decision of the Scottish Government to continue to raise business rates, even though these notional rental values bear such little relation to current market realities.

“Over the next three years, the Scottish Government is expecting to raise an additional £400 million from Scottish businesses in rates. At a time we need to be encouraging businesses to invest to strengthen what is still a fragile recovery, it’s time to think again about increasing the rate of this tax on business year after year.

“The Scottish Government have it within their power to take this action to make a real difference to businesses up and down Scotland. They should be using their powers positively – and they should do so quickly.



4 September 2013


The Scottish Government has today published its response to the views that Scottish Chambers of Commerce and others have input into their review of Business Rates in Scotland.  Commenting, Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:

“We welcome the positive response that the Scottish Government has made to our proposals for the reform of the business rates regime in Scotland.  It is clear that it has recognised some of the failings of the current system and we support the moves to try to address these before the next rating revaluation.

“In particular, we welcome the commitment to undertake a review of the appeals system and to assess the impact of recent changes to the Empty Property Relief scheme.  Commitments to other existing reliefs, including the Small Business Bonus Scheme, are welcome, as is the message that the Scottish Government will endeavour to provide clear advance notice of potential changes to bills for ratepayers.  We also welcome the consultation on the reintroduction of Transitional Relief prior to the 2017 revaluation, as the scrapping of this relief in 2010 caused misery for many ratepayers in the midst of the recession.

“However the Government has missed the opportunity to deliver greater consistency and efficiency in the rating regime across Scotland by failing to back our call for a single valuation register for Scotland, prepared by a single Scottish Assessor, in turn accountable to the Scottish Parliament.  For too long, rating Assessors have been viewed by many as a law unto themselves and this would have been a good opportunity to ensure that their actions were more clear and accountable.

“We have an open mind on proposals to grant local authorities new powers to create new localised rates reliefs.  This is a sensible proposal and could help address particular local issues but its success will take time to assess.”



February 20th 2013
Scottish Borders Council Press Release

Scottish Borders Council and business organisations including the Chamber of Commerce and Federation of Small Businesses, met with Borders businesses on Saturday 16 February to explore the idea of a creating a single voice for business to promote the interests of all.

Speaking to a packed chamber, Cllr Stuart Bell set out how an approach from the Borders Chamber and the FSB had encouraged him to help test out the idea of creating a strong, single voice for businesses representing every sector.

While there are a high number of business organisations operating in the Borders, the idea behind a Business Forum is to have a single voice on issues of common interest. That way, there can be a louder lobbying voice and a capacity to represent different sectoral areas.

The vote to form a Business Forum was unanimously supported by the 60+ representatives of businesses and business organisations present.

Contributors voiced the opinion that a single Business Forum voice would add both credibility and weight to all business interests, and while there remained a clear role for existing business organisations, a ‘corporate voice’ would capture greater attention.

Interests including the importance of good transport links, ICT, networking and taxation were just a few of those under discussion.

Representatives of the Borders Exporters Association, NFUS, Business Gateway and the Council – as well as dozens of small business and social enterprise leaders – agreed that the combination of geography and fragmented communities tended to stand in the way of creating a corporate business voice and this is something that needs to change.

A presentation on future development of Broadband in the Borders was provided by Duncan Nisbet from the Scottish Government’s Next Generation Broadband Step Change 2015 Project.

Cllr Stuart Bell offered a Council meeting facility and support to set up the Business Forum but stressed that he would not play an active part: “This Business Forum must absolutely be organised and reflect the interests of its business members, not of the Council. I welcome and applaud the initiative and am happy to help in any way I can to contribute to moving towards the next stage.”

James Aitken, Convenor of the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce, said “From the Borders Reivers rugby team to the Borders Railway, this region has often missed out by not having a single, clear business voice. I have agreed to help set up the initial Board of five people to establish the Forum and the Chamber will donate £2,000 to help with these costs”.

Graham Bell, Chairman of Scottish Borders Branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said ”‘We’ve long called for the creation of a Business Forum.  There is great merit in creating a collective voice for issues that Borders businesses have in common, whatever their size or sector, and having that voice will be very helpful to everyone”.

January 18th 2013
Article by Borders Rail featuring SBCC Convener, James Aitken

Your stories: James Aitken

We spoke to James Aitken from the Borders Chambers of Commerce.

What is your role? and what does the Chamber do?

I am the Convenor of the local business organisation.  Besides being a focus for networking in the Borders we also campaign on various issues of importance to our members.  The most of important of which in recent years has been he return of our railway.

Does the Chamber of Commerce welcome the new railway?

Yes.   It is the most important economic development in the Borders and Midlothian in my lifetime.

Which sectors of the Borders economy will benefit from the new railway line?

Tourism would be top of the list.  For example the new Abbotsford House visitor centre.  Also our famous rugby “sevens” tournaments and in particular the Melrose event.

Which towns and villages will benefit the most from the new railway?

I suspect that the change to house prices will be a big difference in Midlothian.  People could start to commute regularly into Edinburgh from Stow, Lauder and Galashiels.  I am also sure it will be very good news for tourism throughout the Borders.

Will there be wider benefits to society in the Borders?

Absolutely.  The return of the railway is all about Scotland being linked into Scotland again. Not everyone has a car and the main bus link to Edinburgh is not ideal.

What are the downsides to the railway?

There is no downside.  This is all about the “normalisation” of the Borders as far as transport links are concerned.  Of course there will be some disruption but the investment is desperately needed and in my opinion is value for money.  

A Press Release on the Borders Rail Project by author David Spaven (6/11/2012)


At a ceremony in Newtongrange today, Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown confirmed that Network Rail have been contracted to build the new Borders Railway from Edinburgh to Tweedbank, and announced that the scheme design has been enhanced to allow tourist charter trains [1] to use the 31-mile line’s terminus at Tweedbank. The line will be the longest rail re-opening project in modern British history [2], and the longest railway to be built in Scotland since the Fort William-Mallaig line in 1901.

Re-opening will be the culmination of a campaign which began in the mid-1990s, as described in the recently published book Waverley Route: the life, death and rebirth of the Borders Railway [3] by Edinburgh author David Spaven [4], who said:

“This is a great day for the Borders and Midlothian . The closure of the railway through the Borders in 1969 was a grave regional injustice, and probably the worst of all the notorious ‘Beeching cuts’. It left Galashiels and Hawick further from the rail network than any other towns of their size in Britain .

“The new railway will utterly transform the quality of public transport from the western end of the Central Borders to Edinburgh . When the line re-opens to Tweedbank, trains will directly serve three new stations in the Borders and four in Midlothian – and a purpose-built bus-rail interchange at Galashiels and park-and-ride facilities at Tweedbank will ensure that the benefits of the new line extend to a wide swathe of the Central Borders, including Hawick, Selkirk and Melrose .

“Great credit should go to the Scottish Government for listening to the Campaign for Borders Rail which argued long and hard for the planned Tweedbank terminus to be redesigned and extended to accommodate tourist charter trains, which are typically up to 12 coaches long. The Transport Minister’s announcement today confirmed [5] that the Government now recognises the importance of the tourist charter market for the Borders economy, bringing in new visitor spend to attractions such as Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford, Melrose and the Borders abbeys. This railway is now set to rejuvenate the Borders”


[1] Tourist charter trains typically:

(a)     offer day or weekend trips between locations which are not linked by scheduled train services,

(b)     start in cities or large towns and serve destinations with tourist / historic / sightseeing interest, and,

(c)     utilise ‘classic’ rolling stock with large picture windows – hauled by diesel locomotives of interest to railway enthusiasts, or by steam locomotives – in trains of up to 500 passengers in 10-12 coaches.

The Campaign for Borders Rail and the Waverley Route Trust (WRT) have been making the case for charter potential on the Borders Railway since the early 2000s, and undertook extensive research in 2009-10 which confirmed market interest – but also highlighted the failure to design the platform tracks at the Tweedbank terminus to be of sufficient length to accommodate viable charter trains of 10-12 coaches, plus locomotives at the front and rear of the train (two being required as there will be no ‘rounding loop’ at the station).

In 2009 there were more than 80 charter train arrivals at Scottish destinations (excluding football / rugby specials and the Royal Scotsman luxury land cruise). The single most popular destination was Edinburgh , and two thirds of the charters came from English towns and cities, bringing entirely new spend to the destination locations. The CBR / WRT research concluded – conservatively – that around £500,000 of new spend could be attracted into the Borders economy every year by charter train traffic and the Royal Scotsman. The local economic benefits of special trains are particularly well understood in Fort William and Mallaig, where the steam-hauled Jacobite has been an outstanding success.

[2] With 31 miles of new route construction, the Borders Railway will be the longest rail re-opening project in modern British history – two miles longer than the Robin Hood Line, opened in phases from Nottingham to Mansfield and Worksop in the 1990s.

[3] Waverley Route: the life, death and rebirth of the Borders Railway, was published by Argyll Publishing in August 2012. It traces the demise of the railway from the 1963 Beeching Report through the long campaign for re-opening to the planned start of train services from Edinburgh to Tweedbank in 2015. See: http://www.argyllpublishing.co.uk/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=124&Itemid=3&vmcchk=1&Itemid=3

[4] David Spaven, who is an author, rail consultant and campaigner, has spent his working life in and around the railway industry – and is available for comment on 0131 447 7764 / 07917 877399 / email david@deltix.co.uk.


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