South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has urged the Scottish and UK Governments to turn their “warm words” about the Borderlands into “hard cash” and use their forthcoming budgets to fund a Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal.
The call was made by the local MSP following today’s (18 June) Borderlands Conference hosted by Dumfries and Galloway Council. Speakers at the event included the Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council Elaine Murray and Scottish Government Economy Secretary Keith Brown MSP, although Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell MP pulled out of the event at the last minute.
South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth said, “Having been involved in the Borderlands Initiative since it was established, I know how much effort it has been over the years to firstly bring all five councils from across the border together with a shared vision and list of key themes and possible projects and secondly to get both Government’s round the table to listen. It’s vital that the final list of projects are shaped locally by the community, businesses and councils, not in any way imposed by central Government. Whilst it stills seems a problem getting Ministers from both Governments in the room at the same time, once the final proposals are agreed, the Scottish and UK Governments must show real backing and match their warm words about the Borderlands with hard cash in their next budgets. It’s also important not to raise expectations. Any deal could mean investment of a few million pounds a year in the South of Scotland but spread out over a ten-year period not starting until 2020, but if the right projects are selected then it can help make a real difference to the local economy”
The Borderlands Initiative brings together the five cross-border local authorities in South Scotland and the North of England to promote economic growth and competitiveness of the area that straddles the Scotland-England border. The initiative was established following a report in 2013 entitled, ‘Borderlands: can the North East and Cumbria benefit from greater Scottish Autonomy?’ The Councils are developing a series of projects as part of a Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal for consideration by the Scottish and UK Governments and held a conference today (18 June) to discuss a draft list of possible projects and themes with local stakeholders including local businesses, further and higher education establishments, the third sector and local councillors and MSPs.