South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has stepped up his calls on the UK and Scottish Government to make funding available for a Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, when the two Government’s reveal their budget plans later this year.
The Borderlands Initiative brings together the five cross-border local authorities of Carlisle City Council, Cumbria Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council to promote the economic growth and competitiveness of the area which straddles the Scotland-England border.
The local councils have worked together to develop a ‘Borderland’s Proposition’ – a set of formal proposals for projects they are seeking Government funding for. It covers areas such as broadband, transport links and support for key business sectors such as tourism, energy and the rural enterprises. The plans also include the provision of smooth access into further and higher education on both sides of the border with a ‘border blind’ approach to skills and educational funding. This will help grow the working population with a focus on retaining and attracting young and working age people by increasing the number of high value jobs.
The proposition is currently with UK and Scottish Government Ministers for consideration and Colin Smyth wants them both to make clear funds will be set aside over the next financial year for the deal.
The local MSP recently questioned Economy Secretary Keith Brown on the issue in the Scottish Parliament and he has now written to the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Scottish Government Finance Secretary Derek Mackay urging them to back the deal with funds when the UK Government publishes their budget on 22 November and the Scottish Government unveil their draft budget on 14 December.
Colin Smyth MSP said:
“The momentum behind the Borderlands is really building and the ball is now very much in the court of both the UK and Scottish Governments. It has been made clear by the five council’s what key economic projects they believe will kick start the local economy, such as improved transport links, ground breaking broadband and more support for key businesses in the region as well as an emphasis on skills. If backed, the overall value of the investment into the local economy from the deal could be over £500m and that could really help transform our economy. But that will take clear commitment from the UK and Scottish Governments. That’s why I’ve written to both the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Scottish Government Finance Secretary Derek Mackay urging them to make funding for the deal available when they unveil budgets over the next two months. Other parts of Scotland have benefited from so-called City Region Deals, so it’s now time for us to get our fair share here in the Borderlands.”