It is “vital for the future of the South of Scotland economy” that both the UK and Scottish Governments back the Borderlands Growth Deal in their forthcoming budget, according to Labour MSP Colin Smyth.
The local MSP made his comments as a report to this a meeting of Scottish Borders Council on 30 August will confirm that the five councils involved in developing the proposals aim to formally submit “an overview and strategic outline business case” to the two governments by the end of September. This would pave the way for the Scottish and UK Governments to set aside specific funding when they propose their budgets later this year- with the UK budget expected in November and the draft Scottish budget being published during December.
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 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.
South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth MSP said, “The momentum behind the Borderlands is building and it’s now up to the UK and Scottish Governments to step up to the mark and start to play their part. We’ve had plenty of warm words, but what we need is hard cash when it comes to the budgets later this year. Everyone knows the growth deal won’t be a panacea as the money will be spread out over ten years and divided between five councils.
However, ensuring that it delivers substantial investment is vital for the future of the South of Scotland economy. That means funding from Government but also the local councils making sure the deal is ambitious. Some other deals have been plagued by having lots of little pet projects that are nice to have but you would be hard pressed to work out what impact hey will have on economic growth. We need to ensure the Borderlands deal is substantial and transformative. There has been talk of a £250 m package over ten years but the recent Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Deal is worth £90.2m to an area with a population of 140,000 people- or around £644 per person. If we had the same deal per person in the Borderlands that would be worth £700m. Why should our area be treated differently from others or receive less funding? It’s time for a fair share here in the Borderlands.”