The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee has given it’s backing to calls by South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth for the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency to be subject to local accountability.

The Committee’s support for local accountability is contained in the Stage 1 report from the Committee on the South of Scotland Enterprise Bill.

The Committee has been considering the Bill, which aims to establish the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency specifically covering the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway. 

The Committee gave its full backing to the establishment of the new agency. However, as well as calling for more local accountability than is currently planned in the bill, the committee made a number of other key recommendations on the role the new agency should play including ensuring that the new Board running the agency properly reflects the interests, skills, expertise and experience relevant to the South of Scotland.

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth will now table a number of amendments to the bill including one setting a legal requirement for the new agency to consult locally over its Action Plan, performance and effectiveness.

Colin Smyth, who is the only MSP from the South of Scotland who sits on the Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee said, “This is an important Bill for the South of Scotland as the new Agency will have a key role to play in tackling the big economic challenges we face in the area. However, as only South Scotland MSP who sits on the Parliamentary committee scrutinising and amending the Bill, I am determined to ensure the agency is very much rooted in the South of Scotland. It needs to have the local membership, budget and powers required to deliver the real change the South of Scotland economy needs”.

“One of the weaknesses of the Bill as it stands is that the proposed Agency is entirely accountable to Government Ministers in Edinburgh. I’m pleased the Committee has backed my calls for that to change and for there to be proper local accountability. I will now table a number of amendments to the bill including one making it a legal requirement for the Agency to properly consult the local community and to put in place mechanisms for the Agency to be held to account by people in the South of Scotland not just report to the Government”.    

As part of the Committee’s evidence gathering for their report a formal Parliamentary Committee meeting was held in Dumfries on 14 January and a workshop in Galashiels on 23 January. 

The Committee’s report will now be considered by the Scottish Government who will respond before the first debate on the Bill which is set to take place in the Scottish Parliament before Easter.

If Parliament votes in favour of the bill, it will move to Stage 2. That is when the Committee will have the opportunity to vote on possible amendments to the bill including a number planned by Colin Smyth. Finally, the bill will return to the main Parliament Chamber for Stage 3 where MSPs will have the chance to make further amendments and vote on the final amended bill.

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