South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has warned that the arrangements for a new South of Scotland Interim Economic Partnership has the Scottish Government’s “obsession with central control written all over them” after local stakeholders were denied any say over the appointment of the partnership’s Chairperson. 

The interim partnership is being established as a result of the two-year delay by the Scottish Government in establishing a proper South of Scotland Enterprise Agency. However, with no budget, no powers, no funding and no local say over the appointment of members, there are fears that the interim partnership will simply be a talking shop, controlled by the Scottish Government. 

The new Chair of the South of Scotland Interim partnership will represent the South of Scotland on a new Strategic Board being set up by the Scottish Government to co-ordinate the activities of Scotland’s skills and enterprise agencies, despite local stakeholders having no say over the appointment. In response to a Parliamentary questions in September from Colin Smyth, the Government made clear the Government will determine the membership of the partnership, rather than local stakeholders, with the Chair appointed today (14 November).  

Next week Dumfries and Galloway Council’s, Economy, Environmental and Infrastructure Committee will also be presented with a report simply asking them to note the new arrangements- but members of the Committee have no say on those arrangements.

Colin Smyth said:

“The delay of two years by the Scottish Government before they establish a proper South of Scotland Enterprise Agency is bad enough, but it is deeply disappointing that the interim arrangements have the Government’s obsession with central control written all over them.  There has been no local say in the appointment of the Chair of the partnership who will have a powerful role as a member of the national Strategic Board. Their job will be to represent the South of Scotland not the Government, yet the Government have not only imposed that Chair but also made clear they intend to impose the whole membership of the new partnership. How can local businesses and other stakeholders be confident that the partnership will fight for the South of Scotland, if they are simply handpicked by Government Ministers who frankly have the power to boot anyone out if they ask the Government any tough questions?  It should be local stakeholders in the South of Scotland who decide the membership and Chair not central Government. The new interim partnership also has no powers and not a penny from the Government to spend on supporting businesses. This is certainly not what those of us who have fought for a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency campaigned for and there is in real danger that it simply becomes a talking shop run by the Government instead of being locally run and locally accountable.”  

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