South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has welcomed a commitment by the Scottish Government to consider the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, as part of the development of this year’s budget.
The commitment was given by Cabinet Secretary for Finance Derek Mackay last week during Finance Questions in the Scottish Parliament when questioned by South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Colin Smyth asked the Finance Secretary, “Having been involved in the borderlands initiative since its inception in my previous role as chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s economy committee, I am pleased that the Scottish Government and UK Government are now taking an interest in the borderlands. By now, the finance secretary will have received proposals from the five borderlands councils for that growth deal. Will he give a commitment that the proposals will be considered for funding as part of the development of his draft budget this December? Will he urge the UK Government to ensure that it considers the proposals as part of its November budget so that we can see real investment in the borderlands sooner rather than later?
In response, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said, “We are engaged in discussions. We want them to progress. We are being positive and constructive, and we hope that the discussions will lead to appropriate investment and co-operation in the area. That might well not feature as early as partners would like, but we have to arrive at the deal to be able to know what economic contribution there might be. Of course I would consider it in this year’s budget if a deal could be concluded in time, but that is for all parties to agree. I hope that it can be progressed in a satisfactory fashion”.
Speaking after the exchange, Colin Smyth added, “Whilst there still isn’t a commitment from the Scottish Government of hard cash for the Borderlands Growth Deal, it is the first time a Government Minister has said they will consider the proposals as part of this year’s budget development process. We now need all partners from the councils to the UK and Scottish Government to sit down and thrash out a deal. If backed, the overall value of the investment into the local economy could be over £500m and that could really help transform our economy. Other parts of Scotland have benefited from so-called City Region Deals, so it’s now time for the Borderlands to get our fair share.”
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 when the UK Government publishes their budget on 22 November and the Scottish Government unveil their draft budget on 14 December.