South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has told the Scottish Parliament that if the Scottish Government adopt a proposal from Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Border’s Councils for a new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency it could be up and running in a matter of months.
The local MSP was speaking in Parliament during a Government statement on the Enterprise and Skills review. The first phase of the review had recommended at the end of last year the establishment of a new South of Scotland “vehicle” similar to the Highlands and Islands Enterprise Agency to support the economy in the area. Since then Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council have been working together to develop a plan, the outline of which has been submitted to the Scottish Government.
Despite this, the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy Keith Brown Minister failed to mention the South of Scotland during his Parliamentary statement on the review last week prompting Colin Smyth to say to the Cabinet Secretary during the debate, ” The cabinet secretary will not be surprised that I am disappointed that he did not cover the south of Scotland in his statement. Will he accept the proposal that the new south of Scotland enterprise body-which was proposed during phase 1 of the review-be based on a boundary of the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway?”
“When can we expect the new body to be up and running, given that the cabinet secretary has received a proposal from the local authorities for a body that could be established in just a matter of months?
“Can the cabinet secretary give a commitment that the governance arrangements for the new body will mean that decisions will be made in the south of Scotland for the south of Scotland? It would be disappointing if, like the Highlands and Islands, we needed a vote in Parliament to achieve that”.
In response Keith Brown said, “Discussions about the boundaries are a key part of the current phase of work. I agree with Colin Smyth that there appears to be an emerging consensus that the body should be based on Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders, but there are other perspectives. It is very important that we take the temperature of the new councils once they have been elected to see whether they agree.
On when decisions about the new vehicle will be taken, phase 2 of the review began on 1 November, and we said that it would take six months. The final phase 2 decisions are likely to set out a programme of work that we will undertake.
“I have covered the functions and powers of the board in previous responses. My intention is that they should be similar to those that Highlands and Islands Enterprise exercises.
“I think that that answers the questions, but if Colin Smyth wants to get back to me on anything that is unclear, I will be happy to deal with that.”.
Commenting on the exchange Colin Smyth added, “The Government at least appears to be accepting our proposal that the Enterprise Agency should be based on a boundary of Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders and it should have similar powers to the Highlands and Islands Enterprise Agency. However, it is frustrating that we still do not have a clear timetable as to when the new agency will be up and running. We have given the Scottish Government a plan. They need to get on and implement it”.
Details of the proposal from Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council can be read here:http://www.dumgal.gov.uk/pressreleases?item=1577
The full exchange between Colin Smyth and the Cabinet Secreyray can be read here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10874&i=99545&c=1988792&s